499915

Michael Skolnik

Entrepreneur, Activist and Storyteller. Proud creator of #ObamaAndKids.

THIS CHAT HAPPENED ON March 23, 2016

Discussion

499915
Michael Skolnik@michaelskolnik · CEO of SOZE
Hi! I’m Michael Skolnik, a social justice activist, entrepreneur and proud father. I’ve participated in many national conversations about young people and the emergence of a New America. After running a business for Russell Simmons for the past seven years, I just started a new creative agency focusing on social impact campaigns. I’m excited to be here - ask away!
239747
Andrew Ettinger@andrewett · 👟 @wearAtoms // ex @Twitter @ProductHunt
Your bio says entrepreneur and activist. Is there a conflict of interest/tradeoff in being an entrepreneur, while also trying to solve a bigger social issue?
499915
Michael Skolnik@michaelskolnik · CEO of SOZE
@andrewett I hope that all entrepreneurs have an activist heart. We are disrupters by nature, so there is no reason why we can't do both. We must disrupt business as much as disrupt social problems.
239747
Andrew Ettinger@andrewett · 👟 @wearAtoms // ex @Twitter @ProductHunt
I remember the day I started following you on Twitter (Boston Marathon Bombing) - that might actually be the first time I fell in love iwth Twitter - you were posting what was happening almost an hour before the news was reporting it. The evolution of your content since then has changed, but has been equally compelling. Was there one single event in your life that helped shape your passion/activism?
499915
Michael Skolnik@michaelskolnik · CEO of SOZE
@andrewett Thank you Andrew -- that was a remarkable time. I stayed up 36 hours straight to cover those events -- it was wild. I have always been passionate about activism, since I was a child, when I use to go around the small town I grew up in and ask people for donations for my walk for the March of Dimes. My parents were very influential in teaching me about compassion -- which led me to a life of curiosity about all people and how they lived.
500303
LF III @geeknstereo · Social Media Manager, SOZE
How do you see tech and activism merging in the next five years?
499915
Michael Skolnik@michaelskolnik · CEO of SOZE
@geeknstereo LF III -- one of the my favorite people on the planet!!! how is suite 19???!?!? As one of the leaders of the Ferguson protests, you taught us so much about how tech and activism can merge. Your crew, DeRay, Netta, Brittany, Alexis, Tef and so many others who were on the front lines telling the story of the American protest that was Ferguson changed our generation forever. And for that, we are incredibly grateful, as you taught us how to better communicate with each other, and how to keep an issue at the forefront of the American conversation, ultimately forcing politicians to address these issues. If it wasn't for those phones in your hands, we may have never known the truth. And that truth has inspired millions around the world to stand up and be heard.
946
Niv Dror@nivo0o0 · VC at Shrug Capital
@MichaelSkolnik you wrote about why you created the #ObamaAndKids hashtag in a Medium post. Can you share a little more about what made it go viral? I assume it wasn't my tweet. 😊
499915
Michael Skolnik@michaelskolnik · CEO of SOZE
@nivo0o0 Well, you got 41 likes, so that ain't bad! Definitely appreciate you joining in the fun that was #ObamaAndKids -- that day was really wild because I did not plan it or think it would become a worldwide trending topic. I was literally on my couch with my 3 year old on my lap when I sent out the first tweet. By the time it started to spread, I was at an indoor playground with my son running through tunnels and going down slides -- with limited cell phone service. The only time I could get service was at the top of the slide, so I kept telling my son that we should go down the slide, so I could see how many people were tweeting about it. When the White House tweeted, it went nuts. One of the funnest days of my life.
225925
Harry Stebbings@harrystebbings · Podcast Host @ The Twenty Minute VC
@MichaelSkolnik when story telling with a blank canvas from the start. What does the ideation process look like for you? Would love to hear the thoughts on this one.
499915
Michael Skolnik@michaelskolnik · CEO of SOZE
@harrystebbings I listen to A LOT of music. I will listen to the same song over and over again for hours. It drives people around me crazy, but it is a way to tap into what's in my heart. Right now I am listening to Florence and the Machine - "Only If For A Night" - this is probably the 17th time I have listened to this song today. Music is a big part of how I move through life.
307651
Theoharis Dimarhos@theo_dimarhos · Marketing+Biz Dev at AngelouEconomics
Hey Michael. You're known to be very well networked in multiple sectors. How do you go about meeting people, gaining their trust and getting them to join your causes, espescially when they are busy?
499915
Michael Skolnik@michaelskolnik · CEO of SOZE
@theo_dimarhos Hi Theo! I believe in showing up. I believe in doing the work. And I think that people recognize that and they see that I have been showing up for decades. I am consistent in my work and I have never let up.
336581
Bridget McGraw@mcgrawbridget · Thingfully thing = physical + digital
Hi @MichaelSkolnik. Thanks for being here. Do you have any thoughts about Code for America and how they might become more like the WPA? I.e., how might they weave more storytelling and art-making into their work?
499915
Michael Skolnik@michaelskolnik · CEO of SOZE
@mcgrawbridget Hi Bridget -- I don't know enough about Code for America, but what I do know is that there is a massive movement to teach coding to young people from across the country and around the world. My niece was part of Girls Who Code, an organization founded by my dear friend Reshma Saujani. I would love to see more artists get involved with tech/coding and find ways to collaborate. The young people will figure it out, I am sure.
500256
Eric E. Garvin@ericegarvin
Hey Michael. Can you lay out how your new creative agency (SOZE)'s work product will differ from your work product at Global Grind?
499915
Michael Skolnik@michaelskolnik · CEO of SOZE
@ericegarvin What's up Eazy-E!! Our new company is very different than GlobalGrind. At the core of what we are building is a creative agency that designs and executes large-scale social impact campaigns for non-profits and triple bottom line companies. GlobalGrind is a entertainment/music website for millennials. I felt after 7 years at GlobalGrind, it was time for me to try something new --- the same mission though -- to tell stories, just a different medium. Keep doing great Eric.
307651
Theoharis Dimarhos@theo_dimarhos · Marketing+Biz Dev at AngelouEconomics
What are the elements that you have found make a story be shared / talked about the most? How do you try to infuse them in your social campaigns?
499915
Michael Skolnik@michaelskolnik · CEO of SOZE
@theo_dimarhos authenticity and passion. I have to believe that you believe it. If you hit us with some bullshit, our generation can smell it from a mile away. Tell a story from your heart. Tell the real story. Let those who are directly impacted have the mic.
103684
Korbin H@k1ix · Engineering @ Product Hunt / AngelList
What is the biggest issue pressing this nation?
499915
Michael Skolnik@michaelskolnik · CEO of SOZE
@k1ix race. I believe that most of the problems in our country stem from systemic racism. It is time as a nation that we address this disease.
459565
Leon Franco@leon_franco
What’s one thing you used to strongly believe, that you now see as fundamentally misguided?
499915
Michael Skolnik@michaelskolnik · CEO of SOZE
@leon_franco Hi Leon. I use to think that the "classics" of literature were from Western Europe or the United States - Shakespeare, Greek tragedies, Mark Twain, etc. I was taught that in school. And then I began to read "classics" from Africa, Asia, Latin America and other parts of the world and realized that as white people we are deeply conditioned to believe that our history is the most important -- as I have gotten older, I have grown to understand a much better global perspective....and that all histories are to be learned and shared.
489190
Bee Cee@bee_cee
With election season around the corner, what are you most excited about? Least excited about?
499915
Michael Skolnik@michaelskolnik · CEO of SOZE
@bee_cee Hello Bee Cee! I am most excited about the Republican Convention -- as it looks more and more like it will be a contested convention. I am curious to see what happens -- as this is something that I have never seen during my lifetime. I am least excited about Donald Trump's racism, sexism, bigotry, homophobia, islamophobia and every other ounce of hate that exudes from that man's daily existence.
Ben Tossell@bentossell · newCo
How did you get involved with Russell Simmons and what then drove you to leave and start up on your own?
499915
Michael Skolnik@michaelskolnik · CEO of SOZE
@bentossell I met Russell when I co-directed a film about his quest to end the Rockefeller Drug Laws in New York State back in 2004 -- the film was called "Lockdown, USA" and was released by IFC. I then re-connected with him 2009 when he asked me to be his political director and ultimately the President of GlobalGrind. I will never leave Russell!!!!! That is my mentor, my partner, my friend -- and we will always work together for the rest of our lives. When we sold GlobalGrind, my contract ended on Dec. 31, 2015 and it was time to start something new...so I did. But, Russell will always be part of my life -- I am off to LA tomorrow where I will spend the weekend with him.
Ben Tossell@bentossell · newCo
What advice would you give your 25 year old self?
499915
Michael Skolnik@michaelskolnik · CEO of SOZE
@bentossell LOL. At 25 years old I was running a business, two non-profits, working 80 hours a week -- the same pace I am at now. I have been at one speed for a long time! :) But, I would tell myself to really invest in friendships. Show up for important events -- weddings, birth of children, death of parents, -- just show up. Get on a plane, get in the car, on the train and just show up.
234457
Emily Hodgins@ems_hodge · Operations @ Product Hunt
What has most surprised you about yourself?
499915
Michael Skolnik@michaelskolnik · CEO of SOZE
@ems_hodge Hi Emily! I am always surprised that I work so hard. Some days, I ask myself what do you have left in the tank. I have been working since I was 14 years old and have barely taken a vacation or days off. I have been sick once in the past 8 years -- for one day. But, something inside of me -- that frankly, is indescribable, keeps me moving at 94 MPH everyday. It burns inside of me to do as much as I can while I am on this earth.
407305
Lesley Wu@deleted-407305
@michaelskolnik @ems_hodge good,i will do the same,working hard and stick to it,can't give up halfway!
234457
Emily Hodgins@ems_hodge · Operations @ Product Hunt
What's the main piece of advice you find yourself giving your clients about starting a new social campaign?
499915
Michael Skolnik@michaelskolnik · CEO of SOZE
@ems_hodge let authenticity and compassion be your guiding principles. lead with truth and honesty of who you are as a brand or a campaign. don't try to be something that you are not. and put the petal to the metal and don't stop.
I've seen your passion in several different causes and campaigns. Out of those, to which cause do you feel the strongest personal connection?
499915
Michael Skolnik@michaelskolnik · CEO of SOZE
@tonykchoi I feel the most connected to all the campaigns in a different way -- but the campaign to reform our criminal justice system is the one that I feel most connected to, as it is the issue I have worked on for over 20 years of my life and have met hundreds, if not thousands, of families and individuals who have been directly impacted by a racist set of policies that have decimated many communities across this country and the world.
364069
Nathalie Lays@nathlays · COO at Tylio
Referring to entrepreneurs being disrupters by nature... Do you think it is now harder or easier to be a disrupter and a successful entrepreneur?
499915
Michael Skolnik@michaelskolnik · CEO of SOZE
@nathlays I am not sure if it hard or easier -- but certainly it is possible. We are outside the box thinkers and we imagine the impossible. Let's not just use it in business, let's use that skill in all that we do.
437747
Carmen@macclabs · travel writer, cofounder
Hi Michael, are you planning to make another film - and from your experience what is the big different between a docu and just a movie ;-) thanks from the UK
499915
Michael Skolnik@michaelskolnik · CEO of SOZE
@macclabs I don't think I will make any more movies as a director, but certainly would like to produce more movies.