Gizmodo and Wirecutter are two popular unbiased sites that provide guides to consumer products and recommendations, and are resources for technologists and gadget-enthusiasts. University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa students, faculty and staff, and members of the public, learned about how these sites became major players in the industry directly from Brian Lam, former Gizmodo editor and Wirecutter founder.
Through a discussion with Cindy Wu, co-founder of Jelly, a startup in Honolulu building equitable platforms for scientists; and technologist Zachary Kim, co-founder of Float, a company helping fast-growing consumer brands transform inventory into upfront capital without debt, Lam discussed his upbringing, influences and experiences as a journalist and entrepreneur. He also took questions from event attendees.
“It was a lesson on focus, just being so focused because everyone in media is trying to hit the whole spectrum, from tweets to features to videos. They’re trying to do so much stuff and usually it all looks the same. But we were just like ‘we’re going to be the best at this one, very highly commercializable thing,’” Lam said.
Christopher Scott-Gray, a finance and marketing student who attended the talk, said, “The event was very insightful and it opened up my mind to seeing things in a different light. Even though I came to hear Brian’s story, it was a bonus to hear the conversation between three entrepreneurs.”
More about Lam
Lam became editorial director of Gizmodo in 2008. His apartment in San Francisco served as Gizmodo’s headquarters. He left Gizmodo in 2011, by which time Gizmodo was receiving more than 220 million page views per month. In 2011, Lam started The Wirecutter (now known as Wirecutter), a blog that gave buying recommendations for gadgets.
Founding Wirecutter allowed Lam the time to pursue personal interests with The Scuttlefish, a blog he curated with friends, posting stories about ocean and aquatic pursuits. In 2013, he started The Sweethome, a similar recommendation website for household goods. By 2015, Wirecutter generated $150 million in e-commerce sales, and the sites had drawn attention for their influential business model of using affiliate links to earn a fraction of the resulting sale. In 2016, Wirecutter and The Sweethome were acquired by The New York Times Company for more than $30 million.
About the Talk Story series
“Talk Story with Brian Lam” was part of a series of Talk Story events, which are designed to attract students from all disciplines of study who have interest in entrepreneurship and innovation. Each event is held in a unique collaborative workspace at the Shidler College, and encourages students to meet and connect with people from different corners of campus who may share similar interests and passions. The events expose students to current entrepreneurs and innovators with the goal of inspiring them to take action on their own ideas. For more information, visit PACE’s website or contact PACE staff at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This event is an example of UH Mānoa’s goal of Excellence in Research: Advancing the Research and Creative Work Enterprise (PDF), one of four goals identified in the 2015–25 Strategic Plan (PDF), updated in December 2020.
—By Marc Arakaki