I wasn’t planning to have an about us page. 

Because I used to think a website should not talk about itself.

I changed my mind, and I hope you can understand why.

James B. Won


Watch Different

When I received the premiere invitation for No Safe Spaces, I was busy finalising the application for this site to YCombinator 2020, an incubator for startups in California.

We are creating a micro-appreciation service. The goal is to encourage better content creation. Although we had high hopes, we didn’t get in.

‘We know the acceptance rate is low, right?’ I tried to cheer up the team.

‘It seems they have received an overwhelming amount of applications this year.’ Michael replied.

‘We got the notice too late. We only had 2 weeks.’ Daniel replied.

‘Yes. But I think we’ve learned something from the process.’ Michael followed. ‘We might have a better chance the next time if we can land a successful trial run.’

‘I think so too. Our database is big enough for a good trial run.’ I nodded, ‘Since I don’t need to go to Mountain View this time, maybe I will visit some friends in Seattle instead.’

‘Don’t forget to think about the name. I am fine with either 10c or plum, if you want a trial run quick, pick one before you come back.’ Daniel reminded me.

‘Alright, all roads lead to that.’ I replied.

It is my first trip to the states.

I have never thought that LA will be the first city I visit. I always think it would be New York or San Francisco.

Now I am on Hollywood Boulevard, looking for a hotel in which I can meet Mr. Prager, a man I admire.

On my way to the meetup, I try to remember the first video I saw Mr. Prager in. I couldn’t recall it but only my first impression. Mr. Prager is both happy & authentic, a rare combination. 

The meetup comes.

Mr. Prager is the tallest in the room. When I walk in, he is leaning forward to greet the couple who went in before me. He is as authentic as what I see in videos. While still drawing comparisons between memory and reality, his right hand is reaching towards me.

It is a quick handshake, and I am pretty nervous, pretty typical of me. 

It is a great gathering. Everybody enjoys talking with Mr. Prager. When the sandwich time comes, nobody pays much attention.

When Mr. Prager knows that I watch his fireside chat, he invites me to see his next production, which happens to be the next day. I am thrilled because I always want to rub co-star Otto’s tummy. I bet he will enjoy the rubbing while act as if I wasn’t there. I shall rearrange my trip tonight.

After the private meetup, we attend the red carpet. 

I see some other leading voices there. Mr. Ben Shapiro, Mr. Larry Elder, Mr. Dave Rubin, and others. They are all busy talking to the media, and I am glad that I manage to take a snapshot with Mr. Shapiro.

I also see Mr. Andrew Klavan, a man whose work I also admire very much. His book, the great good thing, helped me reconcile with the memories I had of my father.

It’s time for the main course, No Safe Spaces, and it is as delicious as I have expected.

When the credits start to roll, the whole cinema claps hard. My mate turns to me and says: “This documentary should be mandatory for every high school.”

His comment makes my trip. It seems the film is going to do great, and I’ve spent my money well.

When the credits stop, the host invites the team onto the stage.

I remember Mr. Prager says, ‘It’s a great film, and I happen to be in it, not because I am in it.’

‘What a way to say something good about the work you are in.’ I say to myself, ‘It shows the genuine appreciation he has for the team.’

After the show, I go straight back to the hotel and rearrange the trip.

I am not that into dogs, but Otto excites me.

Shows with serious topics are usually tense to watch. It sometimes turns people off. That’s the main reason why Michael wants to stay away from promoting those shows on our platform, especially at launch.

‘We can start with the shows gamers like. We can talk to channels that already have a Patreon page. They are the low hanging fruit.’ This is what Michael wanted.

As a gamer, I know it is a sound approach.

When free-2-play games came into the market, one way of making money is to sell in-game ads. It failed because watching ads takes the experience out of the game.

A Korean gaming company later took a different approach. It allows players to buy virtual goods for the characters inside the game. Most of the transactions are very small, and casual gamers love it.

Since the inception of micro-transactions, not only the pay-2-play gaming market hasn’t shrunk, the total gaming market has grown more than doubled. In some countries like China, micro-transactions now contribute more than 90% of the gaming revenue.

I believe the micro-transaction concept can also work for the free-2-watch video market. It’s a matter of how to embed it.

Jet lag is a weird thing. Everything seems in slow motion but time. Before I know it, it’s time to meet Otto.

Thanks to the driver’s impatience of the traffic, I arrive at Mr. Prager’s on time.

The door to the house is tad open.

‘Anyone home?’ I push open the door a little.

‘You must be James, I am Megan.’ A young lady shows me in. ‘I am the producer of the fireside chat.’

‘She is quite young. I never would have guessed.’ I thought, ‘Is she the reason the show resonates with the younger generations? How did Mr. Prager find her?’

Soon after, Otto comes to greet me. As expected, it’s more like a get-out-of-my-way type of greeting.

Snoopy is a hidden surprise, and he is every bit as adorable as Otto. Once I start rubbing him, I couldn’t stop, and he wouldn’t let me either. It feels like we have been forced apart for many years. It’s surreal.

A few moments later, Mr. Prager starts the fireside chat. 

I realize that his study hosts the show is smaller but cosier than I’ve expected. 

The production process is also different from what I have imagined. When I saw the bullet points on each video, I always assumed it is the show script. Now I know they are the takeaways of the show and added during post-production. I guess it’s for the convenience of the viewers.

‘Maybe this is why more young people are tuning into shows like this. Maybe they have seen too many exaggerations on the internet. They value authenticity now?’ I say to myself.

Then I remember what got me to follow Mr. Prager. It was after I heard him say he prefers clarity over agreement. I thought to myself that should be the gold standard for all opinion shows.

That concludes my visit to LA.

My next stop is Seattle, a city with a population smaller than Sydney. It is the home of companies like Microsoft, Amazon, Boeing, Cosco, Starbucks, and Groupon, which reminds me of the dark days when competing with them.

A week goes by pretty fast, and I am back at home.

‘American sounds like a fascinating place.’ Michael smiles after listening to my observations.

‘Yes, it is.’

‘I have also thought about the project name on my way back. I think we should use the name 10c.tube.’ I tell Daniel.

‘It sends out a direct message that our service is affordable and is for everyone.’ I start to explain.

‘Since money is spiritual, it creates spiritual bonds between the content creators and the viewers.’

‘When I was watching Mr. Prager making the fireside chat. I remember when having a conversation, he is more interested in clarifying where the differences are than reaching an agreement.’

‘This reminded me of what can make people listen to the other side. It’s when they realize the side has a genuine argument. And that is our answer to a polarised culture.’ My mouth is getting drier.

‘When people reward videos for their authenticity, it makes it easier for people to pay attention to the opposite side. It creates healthy competitions that can unite people.’

‘By the way, I saw a lot of conservative hosts at the premiere. Maybe we can buy ad spaces on their podcasts. It should give us a pretty high conversion rate.’

‘If it does not, then our model has some serious flaws.’ I added.

‘You are not turning us into a conservative platform, are you?’ Michael laughs.

‘Of cause not, genuineness is not exclusive to conservatives.’ I reply. 

‘It sounds like a plan, the best so far.’ Daniel gives his thought after a while.

‘Michael, your uncle is a consultant at Lenovo investment group, right?’ I remember something, ‘Is it possible for Lenovo to have a look at our project? Maybe they can invest a little in our marketing fund?’

‘To buy ads on podcasts?’ Michael replies, ‘I can try. I will be seeing him during the Chinese new year.’

‘That’s great.’ I replied with a smile.

Then I decide to delay the launch of the project so we can get some feedback from Michael.

 ‘I just talked to my uncle.’ Michael called from Shanghai.

‘My uncle said Lenovo doesn’t invest in angel rounds. They can have a look when our site has some numbers, but not at this stage.’ Michael sounds defeated.

‘I know you have prepared quite a lot for this. Rejection always hurts. Don’t fret too much, Michael. We will figure something out.’ I try to hide my disappointment. ‘Enjoy the rest of your stay. We will talk when you come back.’

‘Maybe we just have to start our project with no advertising.’ I thought to myself. ‘But the conversion rate will be a lot lower if we don’t.’

This morning, while brushing my teeth, a coronavirus update from a Chinese podcast gets my attention. It says that one of the eight doctors and nurses who first exposed the existence of the coronavirus in China has just died. The cause of death is the coronavirus.

It goes on to say that after these eight doctors and nurses told the truth about the existence of the virus and its contagious nature on social media, The Chinese Communist Party arrested them, charged them with spreading conspiracies, forced them to admit that they’ve created false reports to incite public panic, humiliated them on the media, and put them to work on the frontline as punishments.

Now one of the eight has died. He is an ophthalmologist, his wife is pregnant, and now also infected.

Stories like this happen in China every day. To change that, we need more people to speak out. But it is not easy for a culture where the only thing speaking out might bring you is trouble.

I used to think that finding the right slogan is the key to the success of the project. Looking back on the trip again, now I see that finding the authentic content creators is the key. We need to find them and grow with them.

Chapter One

(to be continued)