This week for Office Hours we talked to Richard Rosenblatt, a board member of UCLA’s School of Theater, Film, and Television, a co-lecturer at the Anderson School of Business and a UCLA alumnus. In other words, a true Bruin (kind of): “I studied law at USC only because UCLA law school rejected me,” he told us, laughing.
Rosenblatt is also one of Fortune’s “Top 50 Smartest People In Tech,” and received the runner-up spot to Steve Jobs for “Smartest CEO.” How did he go from racing scooters around Westwood Village to being an extremely successful CEO? We attempted to figure it all out by picking his brain about his time at UCLA.
Can you tell us a little bit about the class you teach or how you stay involved with UCLA?
I have taught with Peter Guber over the last few years in the film school and last year in the business school. We focus our courses on the intersection of technology and media and teach through a Q&A format centered around well known knowledgable guests. Our guests have included tech luminaries, such as the CEO of Twitter, to traditional media personalities trying to expand digitally, such as Carson Daly. I lecture because the students inspire me with their energy, brains and overall enthusiasm to be successful.
What were the most memorable parts about your time at UCLA?
Westwood was a super happening and busy little city. I was excited to be in the middle of it and my tuition was only $400 a quarter back then. I also remember having a red motor scooter that my friends and I would race around campus in the middle of the night. (He laughs).
How about campus life?
In my day, the lottery determined if you were admitted to a dorm and I was not. I lived off campus and definitely am sorry I missed the dorm life. I co-founded Alpha Epsilon Pi on campus and loved it a lot. I made amazing friendships. I met my wife at a fraternity party and we never looked back. We were engaged 18 months later and now we’ve been married for more than 20 years. She has kept me in line all these years.
You were involved with Myspace. How do you think social media affects students differently today then during your time at UCLA? Maybe you would have met your wife over the Internet instead of at a party!
Social media is the most amazing communication device ever created and changes everything. No one even had cell phones so you had to set specific times and places to meet people or be tethered to your phone at home or – God forbid – we used pay phones. Now, you can constantly meet new people, keep in contact with your friends and share photos and information day and night. It’s like a college within college.
How did you start your first business from campus?
I worked for a small paper called the Village View, the Daily Bruin’s competition, when I was a sophomore. I was selling ads over the phone for whatever price the advertiser would pay. I realized that my clients needed to expand their business beyond our little paper, so my wife and I started a new business. The new business, in essence, was a reseller of newspaper ads across the Country. We offered clients the ability to reach millions of people in every state by buying ads from us. The business grew quickly and we expanded in 1993-1994 to selling bulletin board and Internet ads. That led to my first Internet business (iMALL), which led to the next one and so on.
Do you have any tips for aspiring entrepreneurs and students?
Yes. Be passionate. Don’t give up. But make sure you have a business model that is scalable and repeatable. Don’t focus on how much money you make, just learn.