(Video above: “The Gary Vee Show” gives a more in-depth look at Gary Vaynerchuk’s time in Birmingham at SlossTech, starting at the 2:50 mark)
Gary Vaynerchuk is a bonafide internet success story. In the early 2000s, he turned his father’s local liquor store into a $50 million-per-year web-based, wine-selling juggernaut. In 2009 he launched a social media-focused ad agency that now provides strategy services to some of the world’s largest corporations. And in the last couple of years he has become a YouTube and Facebook sensation, with his entrepreneur-focused videos routinely racking up millions of views.
Vaynerchuk, commonly referred to as “Gary Vee,” recently came to Birmingham to be the headline speaker at the inaugural Sloss Tech festival. In a brief interview after his remarks, Vaynerchuk told Iron Tribe Fitness President Jim Cavale what it is going to take to put Birmingham — and the state of Alabama more broadly — “on the map” as a player in the national tech scene, which is dominated by more established technology hubs like Silicon Valley and Austin, Texas.
I get to travel all over the country in markets that are not New York and L.A., and everybody’s asking me, like, “How do we put Birmingham on the map? How do we put Chattanooga on the map? How do we put Omaha on the map?” And my answer is, “Have a win.” You could do every party, every event — this was an incredible event — but to really have the entrepreneurs in this city rise up and take it to the next level, they need to see somebody that looks like them. When you look at Silicon Valley and (Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg), or Snapchat and (founder Evan Spiegel) in L.A., that doesn’t feel like Birmingham. They need to see (someone) execute, build it from here (and take it) to the next level, then it feels real. So everybody in this community needs to help each other. Because if one player wins in this market, all of you are going to be impacted.
Vaynerchuk also discussed education, often a sore spot in Alabama where public educations ranks near the bottom in many metrics. He said many kids who are poor students or stuck in poor schools already posses the intangible skills needed to be successful, whether they realize it or not.
It’s 2016, it’s 2017. Your grandparents didn’t have this thing called the internet and they were in trouble because education was the way out. Education is not the way out anymore; it’s one of the ways out. But this internet thing, it’s changing lives. There are kids on Instagram right now from inner cities making hundreds of thousands of dollars a year flipping sneakers. They didn’t go to college to learn how to flip a LeBron or an old MJ shoe.
Listen, I was a D and F student. I went to a bull crap college. I learned my stuff on the streets. I was flipping baseball cards. The same thing that allows you to play cee-lo well, or Hearts, or sling CDs out of the back of your car, that’s the same thing that builds million-dollar businesses. You just have to realize that.
Cavale agreed with Vaynerchuk, adding that would be entrepreneurs have to “take your skills, if you’re a hustler, if you have grit, and translate them into success.”
But Vaynerchuk interjected with one important caveat.
If you are patient. If you’re patient. You know what your problem is? You want it now. And nothing good happens now. So put in work and go into a coma for a decade, and then pop out with something. Everybody wants stuff now. That’s the problem.