SpearTalks: Amit Gupta

Posted on October 19, 2007 Under Life

Amit Gupta is an entrepreneur. If you read Rolling Stone, The Wall Street Journal, Wired, or any other combination of America’s best publications, your eyes have probably skimmed the same pages that some of Amit’s more popular projects have graced. Photojojo, the friendliest photography* newsletter around, and Jelly, the co-working sessions that help creative types get even more creative, are perhaps the most popular examples of Amit’s endeavors (and definitely the most written about).

Popularity aside, the best thing about Amit’s brand of entrepreneurialism is not how it tends to win fast friends — or even how it seems to win media attention as soon as each new project has a homepage. The best thing about Amit’s entrepreneurialism is that it actually solves problems. While this has always been purpose of the profession, one would find it hard to debate that- more often than not- the “problems” solved by such ventures are ones that people didn’t know they had in the first place, making the motives of said ventures too obviously financial. I'd venture to guess that I stand with thousands of others when I say that Amit does what should be done with a talent for entrepreneurialism: He helps people. Whether it's having fun, making money, or gifting their Facebook friends with a digital form of Chlamydia, Amit's ideas help people do what they like to do better, and that's exactly why we love him.

Joshspear.com: What do you find so exciting about entrepreneurialism?

Amit Gupta: I’ve had internships and I’ve volunteered, but I’ve never had a full-time day job. Spending your time coming up with ideas, finding interesting people to work with, and making things happen… what could be more fun and exciting than that?

JS: Tell us about Jelly…

Jelly’s something my former roommate Luke Crawford came up with about a year ago — we were both separately working from home and though it was great to be able to create our own schedules, we missed the free-form brainstorming, idea sharing, and casual networking that goes on in an office (not so much the office politics.) So one day we decided to invite a friend to come over and work with us on the kitchen table. We ended up having great conversations, came up with new ideas, and felt refreshed. It was great! So we did it again, and again, and eventually threw the doors open to everyone and called it Jelly. And it was awesome.

Since then, I’ve been holding sessions every two weeks or so at my apartment in midtown. We get web designers and programmers, industrial designers, writers, journalists, and entrepreneurs of all sorts. The mix of backgrounds leads to a ton of interesting cross-pollination, and makes it a great creative environment whether you work for yourself or for a large company. People have formed friendships and partnerships, and found gigs through it; and a couple of months ago we branched out to some new locations in Brooklyn and Manhattan. It’s free for anyone to come, but we regularly fill up to capacity now.

We’ve also been lucky to get some great press for it (NY Post, Wired, NPR recently, and the TODAY show will be filming us soon) and people are starting to start their own Jellies — in Atlanta, Austin, Delhi, Denver, D.C., etc. I hope to help start one in San Francisco when I move in a couple weeks. :)

JS: We like Photojojo, and we’re glad you started it. How did the idea for this site come around/blossom/finally come to be?

AG: I’m really interested in the DIY revolution right now- how our generation is rejecting the notion of endless consumption of mass-produced plastic and starting to value creation and customization. At some point, we forgot that we really could make stuff ourselves, and now, we’re starting to rediscover it.

At the same time, everyone’s gotten a digital camera or a camera phone or both in the last five years, and we’re all taking more photos than we know what to do with. Photography has always been the most democratic art form, and with great equipment being super cheap now, anyone really can take astonishing shots. But when you take thousands of shots a year, what do you do with all of them? That’s what we’re here for.

We figured there were enough magazines and websites and blogs devoted to reviewing cameras and lenses, so we wanted to make one about how to have fun with photography. People seem to like it.

JS: My sources tell me you are very incredibly aware and connected within the current set of young successful business people- does this mean you can share some names watch out for, and why?

AG: Oh man, I’m undoubtedly gonna leave people out. I think what my pal Dave Morin is doing with the Facebook platform is changing the geography of the Internet. And Tara and Chris at Citizen Agency are creating a whole new language of marketing and online community that’s going to be huge. And I’m very curious to see what Zach Klein [ex-College Humor] does next.

JS: Starting new companies is a stressful, time-consuming, and very personal venture. What do you need, characteristically and otherwise, to make it work?

AG: A drive to make things happen, the ability to convince people you’re onto something, and amazing people to work with. Naivete also helps- if you knew everything, you’d never do anything. (Also finding a great partner- something I’ve struggled with and probably should devote more time to finding!)

JS: What good books, magazines, and blogs/sites are you reading right now?

AG: Blogs/Sites: Flickr, Facebook, Kottke, Seth Godin’s blog, and Buzzfeed.
Books: Kavalier and Clay.
Magazines: none.
Newsletters: GetTrio, BrooklynBased, and Thrillist.

P.S. I love JakeandAmir.com I barely know those guys, but they’re hilarious and I hope they take it big.

JS: What’s next? Working on any exciting projects?

AG: At Photojojo, we’re working on some really cool stuff using the Flickr and Facebook APIs to intelligently ease the creation of printed photo products. And there are some ideas around a book, a magazine, and a larger online store presence we’re exploring with partners. We’ve gathered an awesomely passionate, talented community of photographers in the past year, now we’re going to build some astounding products and services for them.

There’s a food newsletter project that’s been baking in the background that taps into the same demographic — young, urban folks who wish they cooked more.

Oh yeah, and five of us built a new site at Jelly last week called CommandShift3.com that we were up ’till 4am last night putting together. It’s like Hot or Not, but for web design, and it’ll be super fun. It will be in public beta in a day or two.

JS: This STD Facebook App — are you going to make it happen?

AG: No. Maybe?

*Speaking of photography, Mr. Gupta is also an amazingly talented photographer. Check out his Flickr page and Photoblog!