In order for someone to self-actualize, he or she needs…
This interview is packed with helpful information and applies a unique lens to the world of LGBT travel. We dive into Ed’s journey into entrepreneurship and his travel philosophy as a gay man. If you prefer to listen, you can press play and subscribe in iTunes or Stitcher Radio.
Welcome to Gay Ambitions where we bring out the best in business. I’m your host, Paul Collanton and I’m excited here to be in Madrid with Ed Salvato, Co-founder and Chief editor of ManAboutWorld which is the gay travel magazine for the iPad. I’m actually one of their global correspondents in training and so I look forward to learning more about the business model because it turns out there’s a lot of history behind it as well. So Ed, given listeners a brief of who you are and what you do, so can you take us through what you do personally and give us an overview of your business.
Ed: Sure, yes. Thank you for having me in your podcast. And I hope your listeners can get something out of it.
Paul: My pleasure.
E: My name is Ed Salvato, and I’m the editor in chief of ManAboutWorld and it is the first Gay travel Magazine created specifically for the iPad. We launched the business two years ago along with my business partner Billy Colbert, who is the original founder of Out and About the very first gay travel newsletter that was editorially driven, written for the readers back in 1992. So there’s a lot of gay travel DNA in this publication. So in this past month, we released a version for the Android tablet as well. It’s a digital magazine, there’s no print involved, it’s not a blog, it’s not a website, we didn’t kill any trees. It’s a connection magazine, so I consider it to be eco-friendly as well.
P: How did you decide to start with iPad? Why iPad?
E: I was also the editor in chief of Out and About and also Out Travel both really great print publications with digital presence but primarily print publications. And my background is print, I love print. But my background is also very early web. We launched the first website in 1998 for Out and About and it was instantly profitable because we sold travel guides as PDF’s for cash, for money. And we made a lot of money. And people didn’t know what acrobat reader was and what’s a pdf. So, we have a lot of customer service. And then with economic crisis in the United States in 2008-2009, the magazine was discontinued as well as my job with Here Media. So I wasn’t sure 100% on what to do. I didn’t think the world needed another gay travel website or gay travel blog. And it’s very difficult to monetize those without millions of hits and impressions and I didn’t know what to do really until Billy thought of why don’t we launch an iPad magazine. At that point I didn’t have an iPad, didn’t know what it was all about. We are pioneers in the space to a certain extent. There aren’t many digital iPad tablet, android tablet native products. There are a lot of replicas but there are very few original creative for that platform. We’re sort of inventing it as it goes along. So that was really the reason we did it. It was a very crowded space, the gay travel website space, but this space is not very crowded.
P: I love it. It’s a subscription model, which is lucrative. And it’s evolved with the times. We obviously still have prints and we know it, we love it but we have to evolve with times as well and be where the consumers are.
E: Right, and you know the idea that content should be free is not what I subscribe to. I believe that content, should really pay for good content. We have really good content, its premium. And I believe it’s worth it. You buy a subscription for $39.99, it’s a cost of a few cocktails in Manhattan. You’re going to have like the best trip ever.
P: Yeah, I agree with that too. And you’re more likely to read something if you paid for it as well, right?
E: Good point. iPad is the fastest technological product or has been because it slowed a little bit but it’s set to outpace pc sales and people want to justify their purchases so they need content. There’s a lot of good business reasons to develop in this platform.
P: For sure, Can you take us back to a time that you might have failed in a business endeavor or at some point in your career? ‘Cause one of the things we like to do is learn from other’s experiences in order to stay in the game, to find a way to continue to look forward. So, is there anything that stands out?
E: That’s an excellent question. And you know, at the time of failure, you just don’t think there’s any way out, it’s just an absolute failure. When you look back any time, I didn’t have a complete success. I’ll say there’s always a learning moment from that I think and if you harness that perspective, you can then move toward to an evolved place. And maybe you decide, something is not for me and that’s some learning and that’s something very important. So I think for me, I went to Harvard as an undergraduate and into business school. So I have quite a formidable education and I felt I was forcing myself into a box, I should do a certain kind of thing. I was living in Paris and I decided no, I needed to move back and get serious and go to business school. In fact, that was probably a failure of a decision but it lead to all these amazing things once I figured it out. And I think its leading up to your question I assume, what’s in it and what I want to do.
P: Yeah, well that’s a quite problem that you were so ambitious, you were in business school. And that was something you realizes wasn’t for you.
E: I came out of there not making a lot of money. I was in a Wall Street job. I end up in marketing and research which was a great background for becoming a journalist. Data Gathering and collection is a very important task that a lot of travel media doesn’t do or doesn’t do thoroughly enough. So, it wasn’t a waste. It took me a while to appreciate that investment but I really felt like this was the wrong decision.
P: Let’s go the other end of that spectrum. After you went though that discovery process, at what point did you decide this I want to be doing. This is my AHA moment. What was the light bulb for you?
E: That is a great question. I had an epiphany. It really was quite simple, I have read one of these books, like ‘What Color Is Your Parachute’, that kind of book. It still exists I’m sure but its then very trendy, I believe it was in the 90’s. Basically one of the things that took away from that was just figure out what is it that you’re passionate about? What is it that you love to do? And is there a way to get someone to pay you to do it? So every day I would wake up, like what do I want to do, what do I want to do with the rest of my life? Even though I had a job, it just felt like there’s a huge disconnect. I’m doing this job that could lead some place but what I really want to do. And what I decided what I really want to do and which I really love to do is travel and tell people about my trips. It’s simple as that, you know, that’s something if you just have the freedom to own that, simple as it is. Then you realized, first you can think ‘Oh no it doesn’t make any sense I need to you know, make money and be a businessman or whatever.’ But really that is a very simple and fulfillable goal and sure enough, one thing lead to another, I met Billy who just presented here in Madrid, in this convention. I met him at a cocktail party. it’s also another theory of my life and in travel is always say yes. If someone asks you to do something, a good opportunity, always say yes, always. And also go in small groups, 1 or two people max. So, I went with my friend to this fundraiser and saw this guy Billy and I recognized him and using that energy from the magazine I introduced myself and told him I am a journalist and speak Italian. You should hire me and hahahaha. And I was little bit tipsy. And so a few months later, I started writing for this magazine and then after proving my writing skills, a few months later, I had job offer and my whole life changed at that point. So epiphany for me was I love to travel and tell them about my trips. The AHA moment was, I can do it and the fulfillment of it was meeting this guy, accepting this job offer and moving to LA from Boston and taking a gigantic hit in pay. But then two years later, the internet boom occurred, we got bought, and my salary increased.
P: Wow. That’s a lot of history and it sounds like you followed your passion and then you also took the right networking opportunity which is really important. Is there a certain part of the travel story that you like to share more than the other? Is it the hotel, is it the experience on the beach, what do you like to share?
E: It’s really personal stuff. In writing, we’re very guidebook oriented. So you’ll find out the right hotel for you to go to, the coolest restaurant. But it’s really two-fold. I try to nail the destination itself. I mean it’s hard to do it in 2,3,4 or 5 days, but what is that feeling and what are the people like, specifically gay people. I think, that’s what people want to hear hear and that’s what resonates with potential travelers. Once they hear, “Oh Thailand is not really foreign and scary! It’s really warm people who have a language that reflects their warmth. And it’s a destination. At the same time, other worldly, easy to navigate through. So if you could just epitomize or boil down or find the gestalt of the destination and impart that and I think it always parallels with the people. The key for me is always talk to people. Always learn a little a bit of their language, use it and talk to people. I try not to be with groups of Americans – I mean they’re fabulous, but you’ll never meet anyone if you’re with a group. So be by yourself or with another person and just talk. Speak to someone in their language and start learning the culture.
P: Totally. I was just in the lobby meeting someone who didn’t speak English. I was trying to remember some of my old Spanish. It took me a minute but I think we made a connection and tried to end the conversation with Hasta Luego!
E: I have a great app you could use. It’s called Learn Spanish, it’s a great app for any language. Learn Thai, you play it, it says it, you say it and you can do it slowly, it will repeat it, you can show it to them.
P: What is one of your proudest, one of your proudest moments over the course of your career?
E: God so many, really. Knowing that all roads lead to me in gay travel editorial language. I was very humble about that and took that very seriously. I always try to share and teach gay travel and tourism whether it’s a prospective advertiser or readers or whatever it is. And empowering people to take a trip. Go, don’t be afraid, be powerful and travel around the world. Just read our guide before you go. The real high for me was at one of these IGLTA conventions in 2008. My colleague and I at Here Media launched the Final Out Travel awards. These are award that are widely coveted, recognized all over the world. The top destinations, top hotels in about ten categories. And when we presented these awards, people were eagerly listening and accepting them. It was a huge, huge deal for us to do that. That was really high moment for me, career-wise.
P: Absolutely. That’s groundbreaking. I love when you said about empowering people to travel. Because it is scary and I know personally that if it’s not laid out for me, I might not do it. And so I think giving people that feeling is powerful marketing in itself.
At what point did you consider yourself making the jump into entrepreneurship? Was it at the founding of this magazine?
E: I think was the accidental entrepreneur. Right after the magazine folded, I didn’t really know what to do with myself. I am not a huge planner. And then I got a phone call about doing some consulting. I was the accidental consultant. So I guess I was the entrepreneur without really thinking it through. Then I took the job, consulting job and got a full time job for a year. Then at that point, beginning with that, I launched this business, for 14 really difficult months, I worked two full time jobs, 7 days a week. Almost all day, all night. I finally quit that other job. So maybe it was the quitting of that full time paid salary job and taking the leap. And just this past month in April 2014, where I finally said “I’m an entrepreneur and this is what I’m doing.”
P: And It was partnering with Billy for the right opportunity. The two of you came together with your skills that complimented each other.
E: It took a while because we both have complimentary skills, we have similar skills, that’s the difficulty. But now, we’re sorting who does what better.
P: Gotcha. Yeah because he was the Chief Editor.
E: But now he’s more of a publisher. And so he relinquishes that other side of things. But it’s nice that we can do both things. But he is a good partner. That would be my advice is you have to find the right partner.
P: Is being an out person in business either held you back or propelled you forward in your journey?
E: I think, initially I think it can hold you back, especially if you try to force yourself to do that thing. Like forcing yourself to be the market research person or work in a bank. I wanted to express myself and I had a partner at that time, but it seemed forced and awkward. And I do think it can hold you back if you’re not going to take that super visible job as a Wall Street investment banker as a gay guy – but that’s changing. Now that I’m a gay travel expert, it’s baked into my DNA. It’s seamlessly integrated with my being. I’m just a gay travel expert andI’m also a travel expert. That makes sense and it’s organic and everything feels very comfortable and light about that.
P: What is your favorite success quote?
E: Early to bed, early to rise. I believe in getting up and just working, just being there rising and kicking ass right away.
P: Well of course. I mean, if you’re out till 3 o’clock in the morning. Spain time is a little different. But in the US, we need to know our bed time. We need to be able to get up.
E: I could never survive in Spain. I would never meet people. I would never socialize. I would never have dinner.
P: So, was there anything before you made the leap up to entrepreneurship that you felt was holding you back from doing it?
E: Well, there’s always a fear, fear of failure, you know. And risk of failure which is going through the savings or having a mortgage. Financial, I think is a big thing. We didn’t want to get investors so we’re not, we’re very independent in respect to owning the company. Once you just embrace and jump into it, you can’t look back. Let it go and give it a shot.
P: Yeah, I like to think that what is the absolute worst case scenario if this doesn’t work out? You do something else.
E: I’m a single guy, I don’t have kids. And I’ll pay my mortgage. You know, I’ll be fine.
P: Exactly, that’s awesome. And I think inspirational for a lot of people. What’s the best advice that you’ve ever received personally or learned along the way?
E: Yeah, that’s a very good question. I think probably, it goes back to, don’t feel forced to do anything that doesn’t feel natural. If it feels right, it’s probably right but if it feels wrong, it’s probably wrong. That’s true whether it’s a dating situation or entrepreneurial situation or just accepting your job or not accepting your job. I think, it’s really an important lesson. I think, a lot of people just don’t find the right fit ever. “Oh, what should I do for the rest of my life?” Well, sweetie, your 55. You should figure it out.
P: What is one of the other habits that you have that you believe contributes to your success?
E: I’m incredibly disciplined person. I just do stuff when I have to do it. Also just like, working out every single day, whatever it is. I’m so busy but I manage to do it and I don’t drink.
P: So, one of the things that we have on our website is called app of the week. It’s a resource that helps make business people more productive. Is there any kind of internet resource or tool in your company that you’ve used?
E: Yeah, Absolutely. Well in fact, men of the world wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for these incredible apps that exist not just on your phone. There are terrific ones that allow you to launch a business, staff up without paying a lot of money. Fiverr is great for small projects. There’s one called Odesk where you can get someone to a larger project for you. So you’ll get someone in Singapore or Philippines or Bangladesh. They do digital projects for you. And another one we use to create our logo was 99 designs. And they even have a feature where you can have people bid on the designs that the designers come back with. So it’s 299 dollars, you’ve a got a logo system. I mean back in the day, that would cause you 10 grand and could get crappy, you know. And this is cheap and high quality. And so the internet has enabled so much with respect to a lot of business.
P: Is there one particular project that stands out from working with those companies that you could share with us.
E: Yeah, I think it’s the logo system probably. This is really beautiful logo system that we have, an airplane going through on our magazine ManAboutWorld. It’s the whole system that all coheres and it’s all complimentary to one another. The logo stands out. You could read it or if it’s in a tiny business card, it really stands out even if it’s just two letters. So, the system that was made creatively in Bangladesh with so little money is brilliant and has a long life.
P: Are there any books that you have read recently business or otherwise particularly helpful or impactful on your life.
E: Two, one is Jared Diamond’s “Guns, Germs and Steel”. He talks about why some civilizations thrive and flourish and succeed while others do not. He demystifies countries in Africa and that process which turns into geography. He is into details a little bit but overall it was amazing one. And another book is “Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell. Brilliant, about how to succeed. He has this notion that it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert.