Pete Cashmore runs from New York City the news website Mashable.com, which covers social media and new technology, but he first developed his interest in the expanding Internet as an isolated teenager in rural Scotland. NY1's Budd Mishkin filed the following One On 1 profile.
Why has Pete Cashmore become so successful, so quickly? Perhaps it was his initial approach all those years ago, in 2005. Back then, Cashmore was a 19-year-old living at home in a small town in rural Scotland, searching the Web for articles about digital culture and blogging about it.
"I guess I never really thought about why it could go wrong or why that was. Why wouldn't you try it? If you're excited about it, why not?" says Cashmore.
He created Mashable.com, a news website dedicated primarily to covering social media and new technology.
"There was a need for perspective on technology, and on the Web, that was an outsider perspective, one that didn't assume that you knew who everyone in Silicon Valley was. One that didn't assume that you knew the names of all of these technologies were," says Cashmore. "But simply that you wanted to use them and make your life better or help others use these technologies."
The site now boasts more than 50 million monthly page views and 17 million unique monthly visitors.
After moving from Scotland to San Francisco, Cashmore and his company are now based in New York City.
"There's something about America and particular New York that's appealing to me in a sense," Cashmore says. "Kind of the egalitarian nature, the so-called 'American dream,' that I actually buy in to."
His decision to put Mashable's headquarters in New York wasn't solely based on the city's aura. So many of the big industries -- finance, fashion, media, advertising -- are also in New York.
"It makes it an endless realm of possibilities for us to explore how different industries are being effected by technology," Cashmore says. "It's something that we wouldn't necessarily get on the West Coast, because it's purely just, 'here's the tech piece.' For us, it's very much, how is tech changing everything else? And everything else is right here."
Only a few years ago, Mashable.com was simply Cashmore sitting at his computer at home in Scotland. Now there's a pretty constant buzz about him in the blogosphere and his influence is growing.
Mashable hosts an annual Social Good Summit along with the UN Foundation at the 92nd Street Y, where Cashmore interviews leaders like Elie Wiesel.
"Mashabale had this huge online reach, up to about 16 million monthly readers, that all have thousands of Twitter followers and hundreds of Facebook friends and very, very connected. What if we put the tools in their hands, started having big communities of people online solving problems? That's what it comes down to," says Cashmore. "It's taking a system that could have been closed and very top-down and making it more bottom-up, more accessible, helping everyone to make a change in the world."
Cashmore says he likes being behind the brand. But his public persona is growing, at conferences like the Mashable Connect 2011 and on the front page of the New York Times' business section.
Only a few years ago, at the South By Southwest conference, it was an entirely different story.
"I must've had like many hundreds of business cards and going around, 'I'm Pete, check out my site,'" recalls Cashmore. "And now we go back there and Mashable has these huge events and we had a party this year, and we had 12,000 RSVPs."
The Mashable office on Park Avenue South clearly has a youthful enthusiasm, but there is also a seriousness of purpose. Cashmore may not be logging the 18-hour days he did early on, but there is little separation between work and the rest of his life.
"I think it's just a trend of modern life that being disconnected isn't really a realistic proposition," Cashmore says. "And in a way I dislike being disconnected because I feel like I'm not so in control."
Cashmore was born in 1986, and it's hard to imagine he was alive before the Internet took off.
When asked what he would have done if he was born before the development of the Internet, Cashmore says, "I don't know what I would do."
Growing up in Scotland, it was clear that Cashmore wanted to do something different, and something big.
"It's like in school, you think grades are really important, and it started dawning on me that everyone else was getting grades and going to school and how was that going change the world, if that's what everyone did?" says Cashmore. "So I just wanted to go off and do my own thing."
He loved gizmos and gadgets, so as a teenager, he started buying and selling them.
"I was trying to be the UK distributor of smoke-ring guns. Although they don't call them guns, they call them 'blasters' in the industry," says Cashmore.
He quickly realized that the digital world does not have a lot of problems found in the physical world.
"Real-world things, in general, are pretty inefficient because you lose so much, it's so much work," says Cashmore. "First of all, to have it organized, having them sent from one place to another, pay all the delivery and to pay the tax and all that. But online stuff is so efficient, because there's no product."
Oddly enough, Mashable and its vast digital community were born out of solitude. Cashmore spent much of his high school years recuperating at home, because of complications from appendicitis.
He says the social isolation never really bothered him.
"We had a desktop computer in our house, I figured out how to use it. I realized there was this whole world out there and suddenly this was my world," says Cashmore.
With his parents sleeping, Cashmore says he would work through the night on Silicon Valley time, reading about new technology and social media and blogging about it.
"As soon as I started writing, people would start sending me hundreds of emails a day, very quickly, talking about the new things they were working on on the Web, sites they were going to launch," says Cashmore.
The response to Cashmore's blogs led him to dream beyond his small hometown.
"You don't have any reference points when all you've known is living in a small town in the middle of nowhere. It's like you don't really have any sense of the wider world," says Cashmore. "I didn't live in a city, I didn't really see the world. All I had was this world, the digital world."
Now Cashmore is described as an "Internet hero," but he is not satisfied with that sort of success.
"You come in and say, 'Oh you have this successful website?' No I don't, because there are all these other successful websites, like Facebook or Google or whatever. Why can't we be there?" says Cashmore. "It's a bad habit, in the sense that you never really feel any completion, but it's a good habit in the sense that you end up going so much further when you say, 'Okay, what's the next thing,' rather than celebrate the current thing."
Cashmore appreciates that there is value in people knowing his story, of building a global website out of his room in rural Scotland, and that it might inspire and empower others.
"If we can just get the tools of connectivity into people's hands, there's amazing, magical things they can do with it, far more than figuring out how to launch a media site from rural Scotland. They can change the world," says Cashmore. "They can trade in their countries, they can create livings for themselves, they can become self-sustaining. I mean, there's so much you can do, when you're just more connected."