Max is a multi-faceted person: he started as a programmer but quickly shifted to content creator. With 2 media companies created, he is an entrepreneur. Now he is starting a new company while also running the podcast “Desde Lejos,” which is top-ranked in the Latin American market. He is part of the founding team with TEDxRioDeLaPlata, the biggest TEDx event in the world with more than 10k in-person attendance.
He is from Argentina and has lived in Los Angeles since 2014, where he’s now developing a new startup: DecisionMate, a new company that helps in the decision-making process on market research.
Renzo: What were your roles in the content creation industry?
Max: The truth is at this point in my career I make everything because in the last stages of my life, all my jobs were in my own companies. So, there is no other way but to wear different hats. On one hand, I’m the CEO of the company, and on the other, I’m the creative director and I even clean the office. It’s like the Startup World is very fun but even with a lot of employees, you need to do different types of jobs.
I always liked being involved in all aspects. In the beginning, my job was surprisingly technical. I studied computer sciences. Beyond the creative aspect, it was so different from my current roles.
My first big paying job was in a media company in Argentina, Multimedios America, which doesn’t exist anymore. It had 2 newspaper sources, 3 radios, and 2 TV channels. As a hobby, I am always interested in radio, communication, and artistic things.
So, suddenly, I was playing a major role being close to my hobbies without being a protagonist, and on the other hand, I was building the infrastructure that supports what little multimedia could be done.
As I gained experience, I moved with purpose to a more creative role related to media and content creation. This was at the dawn of streaming audio, not even video, and I was very interested in all that and I loved it because they were the two things I like the most: technical and creative aspects.
R: Do you think there was a specific moment when you switched or was it over the years?
M: It was over the years but there was one moment when I was encouraged to produce web content for a TV channel.
In hindsight, everything that happened to me helped me a lot to take that step. I had the pressure from the company that every project had to be self-sustaining. They gave me money to develop the projects, but they told me, “Imagine that we are your investors. We’ll provide the money, but this project needs to make revenue in a certain time.” It was very rare but that was because the old school media didn’t have any trust in digital media. People weren’t used to paying for content on the Internet, so it was very difficult to make money.
One show that I produced for the internet for one of the TV channels of the company was Cosmopolitan TV. We produced online videos that people could download. It was whatever, but it worked and I liked it very much.
After that, I went to talk with my boss, and I said, “Now I want to do the same for the TV Channel and work both sides: technical and artistic.” He said yes and after that, I did both.
R: After that, you created your own company. What made you take the step from being an employee to creating your first company?
M: I was tired of the corporate world. In this company, I had made all kinds of possible jobs and I had done very well, thank God– actually, thank myself and who was my boss.
I always say that because it’s important to understand that in order to do well, in big companies overall, it has to be others that value you. So, to my boss, Dardo Gasparré, if at some moment he reads this, I send a big hug to him.
He had gone and I was a new structure in the company and I realized that I spent 80% or more of my time with corporation policies, and I was playing a game that I didn’t want to play. I had no time to do what I really wanted to do.
So, one day, I spoke with my wife and I said, “I’m doing well and I earn money, but the truth is I’m suffering and I want to do other things.” I was very involved in content creation and I had an idea how to start. I met who would be my partner later and it seems the stars aligned. I left the company and I started to build my first company: Emerging Cast.
R: What were you doing in Emerging Cast? How did it go?
M: We created content for a very specific category: How-To. I called it eHow because here in the United States, the biggest company that made this type of content was DemandMedia (Now Leaf Group). They had their own website called eHow.com, that for us was…everything. Anything that you searched in Google, eHow always came out, in both English and Spanish.
For us, it was complicated because we wanted to do the same in Spanish and Portuguese. But eHow killed us. We were around for a couple of years and long story short, DemandMedia bought us and we ended up being eHow Spanish, and eHow Brazil. Later we made eHow Germany, eHow UK, and a lot of other things.
R: So, what you thought was impossible became reality: you were part of this company.
M: Exactly. So it was. We watched a lot of what they were doing because it works very well, and it was like a black box because nobody knew the behind algorithm or how they did it.
When we started to do the due diligence of the possible purchase, we realized that intuitively we did the same as them, but we’ve never had access before. It was very, very similar. It was an incredible meeting in Buenos Aires (Argentina) when people from DemandMedia went to see our office. We were 7 people and they didn’t understand how 7 made the job of 700 in the United States. And they didn’t believe me that nobody had given me the blueprint of their roadmap because it was the same. It was so incredible. So, I go back to work in a big corporation much larger than the first one with a big budget to do things. It was so fun.
R: In addition to all these projects that you made, you are one of the founders and organizers of TEDxRioDeLaPlata. What led you to do it?
M: In 2019 we turned 10 years doing TEDxRIoDeLaPlata, but 10 years ago TED.com was known but in a specific niche: technology, entertainment, and design. (The acronym). I was interested because I was a nerd, and one time I was talking with friends and they told me, “You should talk to this person who is crazy about TED talks like you.” We talked, and definitely, we had things in common. So, we decided to make our first TEDx in a party hall in Buenos Aires to 46 people, and we loved it, especially for the possibility of expanding ideas.
What we do in TEDxRioDeLaPlata is to create a possibility to meet wonderful people who do incredible things and give them a platform to expand their ideas reaching more and more people, which is what they need the majority of the time. It got out of hand. Now we’ve produced events to 10,000 people and millions of people have watched our talks.
Suddenly you see it, and say, “What!!” But, 10 years have passed. Part of the founding team came the day before the last event, and we said, “What happened?” when we saw the 10,000 empty seats ready for the next day.
It’s crazy, but we love doing it, and we do it for the love of doing it, without receiving a payment. So, if you feel like it, everyone can contribute in some way to make it a better world. I am not going to do as the speakers do, they are doctors who are going to Africa to heal I don’t know what. I do not know how to do that. What I know how to do is help people get their ideas to go further and give them a platform to make that happen.
R: You mentioned this idea of leaving the world a better place in the sense of communicating and expanding ideas. You have also done different companies and projects. That is like that little tic that gets you up in the morning to do what you do.
M: That’s a really good question because I wonder a lot. I always say that I’m very consistent with the idea of leading by example.
This started when I left the first company to build my own company. My two daughters were so young, 1 and 4 years old, and what I thought was, it’s a really bad example for them if I keep doing this job where I’m not happy and the only reason is to get a paycheck at the end of the month. With what moral authority could I suggest that they should do what they like and follow their dreams? So I try to follow this belief that does what you like most and be with the people you most want to be.
Those who believe in more than one life and reincarnation, great, but it’s not my belief. So I say makes the passage through the earth useful.
I hope that in the future, my loved ones, or my grandchildren who are not born yet to say, “Wow, look at grandpa, he made this or he achieved that.” It happened to me with my grandfather, an immigrant was who saved from concentration camps, and he made us all in the end. He had a mechanical workshop and he was not a millionaire, but what it’s not related to money. It is the legacy of everyone doing what they want most, and this is the most valuable part.
Everything that I’m doing fills me and motivates me every day. Since I had a lot of fun doing my last podcast it doesn’t matter how many listen to them or not. Like the company I’m working with now, we started it a few months ago and there is a lot to do. It’s a lot of work but I really enjoy doing it.
His Podcast “Desde Lejos”
R: You have your own Podcast, “Desde Lejos”. Did you say, “I want to make a podcast and throw myself into the world” or did it come with another purpose?
M: That’s it. I always liked radio, but a few years ago podcasts didn’t exist. And worst of all was that I worked for a company that was the 4th most listened to on Argentinian radio. And I couldn’t make a show there. I was desperate.
Before I came to Los Angeles, I created a podcast called Esperando el Taxi (Waiting for the Taxi), that I did twice a week live while I waited for the taxi to come find me the office.
When I moved here 5 years ago, I didn’t have family or friends beyond my daughters and wife. So I started a new podcast to be closer to my friends in Argentina.
At the beginning, only my friends listened to it, and for me that was perfect.
R: Today the audience is more than your friends?
M: Yes, it has grown a lot. I’m happy with the results. Some weeks I can’t record an episode and everybody starts to write to me, “What happened with the episode?”
I do it because it’s fun to me. If it wasn’t, I would not do it. It doesn’t have a huge production because when I produce an episode, I know what topic I will discuss, and if I interview a person, I record it before.
People write to me to thank me because they have a good time in that one hour per week, and to me, that’s awesome. I received messages from all around the world. For example, a girl from Russia is learning Spanish with my podcast. And I told her, “Nooo! You should listen to something else, don’t learn Spanish with my podcast.” She will learn how to speak with an Argentian accent and with the worst of Argentinian accents because anything can happen in my podcast.
R: Are you monetizing it?
M: It’s a mix. I don’t monetize enough to live with it. There is a platform called AudioBoom that contacted me a while ago and they put Pre-Rolls Ads before every episode, and I earned money with that. And also I have a Patreon Webpage where people sent me money, and I infinitely thank those who pay there, but it’s not my intention to live with this podcast.
I would like to live making podcasts, but I think Latin America is not prepared yet like the United States. I have friends who have Podcasts here and they live because it works spectacularly. But hey, all in good time.
R: Do you think that in Latin America there is still a space for growth in podcasts, they’re just being born?
M: Yes, there are a lot of podcasts from Latin America, but nobody is marking money yet. It reminds me a lot of when we started creating web content 20 years ago and didn’t get paid for that. Now if you make quality content at an affordable price, people pay for it, beyond the existence of piracy. I’ve often asked why I don’t get paid for my podcast? It intrigues me a lot. And people told me it’s because they get it free. So a lot of people expressed to me “Close the podcast as premium content and 50 people may listen to you but they pay you instead of 20 thousand, 50 thousand, or 100 thousand that are free.” So I don’t think it is worth it because I’m happy that more people listened.
And I get Havanna alfajores free. I mentioned them a lot, so I already met the goal, I have a lot of alfajores here.
(R: I’m still waiting for my alfajores)
Los Angeles Life
R: You moved to Los Angeles when you sold your company to DemandMedia. But now you are not working in that company, however, you still live in LA.
M: I went to LA long after they gave me the company. At the beginning when I stayed in Argentina, I traveled there a lot. Then, the international operations grew and they offered to have me come (to LA), and my partner stayed in Argentina. After a while, I left DemandMedia because here in the United States a lot that companies change direction quickly and what used to be a spectacular content creation hub became something else that didn’t interest me at all. I had my residency here, so it was easier to quit, if not, I had to go to Buenos Aires.
R: What did you do next?
M: So, I built another company with the same partner that founded the previous one. We produced a bit bigger content for over 4 years. We had a lot of fun and the truth was that it was very good. We worked with Youtubers in their golden era. Then we produced shoulder programming (like digital shows) to the biggest network channels, HBO, ABC, FOX, and Turner. It was a business that was good while it lasted because those companies learned to do it and they do almost everything in-house. So, FavMedia became part of another company and I went to do something else.
R: And now, you’re building a new company again?
M: In September 2019, I found a new partner and we founded a new company called DecisitionMate that had nothing to do with what I was doing. It’s a huge challenge for me because it’s a problem that I experienced on my own and that was the spark of DecisitionMate, running a company that has nothing to do with what I was doing was a double challenge. First, because it’s a new company built from scratch, and second, it’s something that I’ve never done. It’s a challenge but I learn new things every day, so I’m so happy.
R: You told me that you wear a lot of hats. What is your advice for somebody that is starting in their career as a producer?
M: It’s a spectacular moment in the content creation industry precisely because everything is decentralized. And now the big networks like Disney, NBC, or ViacomCBS are starting to centralize a little again. But it’s like everything: when it expands a lot, the big media gather again, and then it expands. The difference now is that there are a lot of windows to show what one does. I would say to everybody that is starting that is the best time in history to avoid getting to work in any of these companies and to create content independently. All those companies really don’t produce a lot. They are companies that give money to producers with brilliant ideas to make it. So that changed. Before, Disney produced everything in-house, but now they need more and more original content, so they buy the whole project. There is a huge war between Netflix, Disney+, AppleTV+, Warner, Paramount, etc and all those streaming platforms are fighting to get the best content.
My oldest daughter is studying TV production in college. She wonders how it’s possible that the same movies continue to be made as remakes, but in her class, there are 40 people, and the 40 have an idea to produce. Out of all of them there at least has to be two good ideas.
So for me, if you want to produce content: make notes of your ideas, and go to make them.
One difference from Argentina to the US, if you go with the right person and if that person has time, they will give you a few minutes.
And you only need one contact and today is easier with social networks, some contacts can be as old as 25 years it doesn’t matter. When you identify this person, write and insist that they give you 10 minutes. Now when you get those minutes, practice what you will ask because another thing that I learned here is when they say 10 minutes, it will be 10, not 15 nor 8, it will be 10. So take advantage of it.
R: Well, speaking about time, it’s 30 minutes since we started, so thanks for the interview and your time.