Richard Newton: Part 1 of an interview by Bob Morris

Newton, Richard

In his own words….

I’m an entrepreneur who writes.

I’ve written three books.

The End of Nice: How to be human in a world run by robots: This is a manifesto for human creativity in the age of machines, big data and automation.

I wrote Stop Talking, Start Doing: A Kick in the Pants in Six Parts with my co-author Shaa Wasmund: This was a best-selling business book in the UK and has been published in 15 languages.

And I’ve written The Little Book of Thinking Big: Aim Higher and Go Further Than You Ever Thought Possible, published by Capstone/A Wiley Brand. It hit the Sunday Times #1 spot for business bestsellers.

For almost ten years I wrote about business for The Sunday Telegraph, The Mail on Sunday and others. Then I switched sides to walk the talk and run my own business.

A few years ago I co-founded a company called OP3Nvoice (now called which was described by Giga-Om as the emerging Google of video and audio. We moved the HQ to Austin, Texas, after going through the Techstars program in London.

Before that I co-founded Screendragon, a software company that supplies brand management and project management systems for many of the world’s largest consumer brands and ad agencies. It was hell and it was exciting. Sometimes simultaneously.

In 2014 I shifted back to writing. I write on technology companies, start up culture, and innovation for The Financial Times, Guardian, British Airways Business Life, and Virgin Entrepreneur blogs, my own blogs and elsewhere.

Here is an excerpt from Part 1 of my interview of Rich.

* * *

Morris: Before discussing The Little Book of Thinking Big, a few general questions. First, who has had the greatest influence on your personal growth? How so?

Newton: Too many to mention but here’s one. I made friends with a guy called Jonathan Marks in Indonesia in 1987 when I was travelling. A year later I was meandering my way back from the Southern hemisphere to the UK and ended up in San Francisco and I looked him up. He was the first person I knew with a Macintosh computer and he was using it run a business trading in live recordings of the Grateful Dead, Tie Die Grateful Dead T-shirts, key rings and other fan stuff. He was doing all this from his home on the corner of Haight and Ashbury.

Nearly thirty years later this still seems like a cool and high tech way to live and to blend passion, technology and work. I stayed with him and his girlfriend for a bit and then, when I caught the Greyhound bus to New York he gave me a copy of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S Thompson and On The Road by Jack Kerouac…Which I read “on the road.” Kind of. I think all this lit a slow burning fuse to be a tech entrepreneur and become a writer.

Morris: The greatest impact on your professional development? How so?

Newton: No single person but I would say it is all the “chancers” I have met in life. You see, for me, playing by the rules and trying to proceed incrementally in my career and travelling only step by measured step is easy to do. It’s what I would call “nice” behaviour – fitting in and conforming, minimising risk and playing by the rules. But along the way I have been fortunate enough to keep meeting friends and acquaintances who are less ponderous than me. They just get on with things and while many of them have failed many times they have swung the bat a lot and that’s always an inspiration to leap out of the comfort zone.

Morris: Years ago, was there a turning point (if not an epiphany) that set you on the career course you continue to follow? Please explain.

Newton: One of these friends I referred to above had persuaded Coca-Cola that he could make a TV commercial for them. He had never made a TV commercial so this was pure hustle. I was a journalist at the time and we collaborated to write some ideas. The ideas which we thought were the worst, the client thought were the best (valuable learning!) and then we were given a budget and had to make a TV commercial. Unlike my friend who had some video production experience I had none. But I took some time off work and we worked out how to make a TV ad and begged and borrowed favours (actors, music, crews, camera, studios, make up, costumes etc) and hustled and got the ad out on time, on budget and it spent a long time on terrestrial TV. Through that I realised you could hustle anything and learn on the job and get help in the areas where you most needed it.

* * *

To read all of Part 1 of my interview of Rich, please click here.

Rich cordially invites you to check out the resources at these websites:

His website link

Wait But Why link

Brain Pickings link

xkcd link

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