Anthony Bourdain is nothing if not a man of many ventures.
The chef-turned author and Parts Unknown star is currently on the hunt for new titles for his book line, Ecco, while simultaneously overseeing an investment in digital magazine Roads & Kingdoms, which publishes long-form stories about travel, food, and culture. At South by Southwest last week, Bourdain sat down with Inc. to explain some of the rules he lives by as an entrepreneur, TV personality, and media executive.
Here are highlights from the conversation.
What else have you invested in besides Roads & Kingdoms?
This is my one and only. I'm not looking for investment opportunities. I thought what Roads & Kingdoms was doing was providing a venue for really great voices to tell really great stories that other people weren't telling. I just really wanted to be a part of that.
You basically travel for a living now. What do you think is the biggest trend that could change the travel industry?
We are looking at an inevitable situation where you will be able to go online, probably with an Oculus, and walk down the streets of Tokyo and look in every direction and have the voice of Jeremy Irons whispering in your ear saying, "Turn left and on the third floor is an excellent Izakaya." You will be able to walk down the street in a city that you've never been to, in preparation for your trip. It's certainly going to change the way people plan their vacation.
You've also said that Twitter is the future of business. Why?
It's not just the way we talk now, it's the way we experience things. Even chefs who bitterly complain about Twitter and Instagram and people taking pictures at the restaurant, when I go out to dinner with eight of them, they're all taking pictures of their food and tweeting each other at the same table. This is kind of the nexus of the future of small business and the future of big business. For my publishing imprint and my show, we often source subject matter and even authors and characters from Twitter.
Food and food delivery is a hot sector for startups. Do you think that space might be overheated?
It can't hurt [to have so many services]. I use a lot of those. I'm very happy about the fact that I can pick up my phone and have Shake Shack delivered to my apartment even though they don't deliver. There is certainly more interest in food and cooking and more knowledge out there now than 20 years ago. We're eating better as a nation. We know more about food. Younger people are spending disposable income dollars on food that 40 years ago they would spend on concert tickets or cocaine, so I can't complain.
You've said you like business models that nobody asked for. What do you mean by that?
If you're going to build expensive turn tables, like Jack White is doing, or have a live venue where everybody who plays there is recording directly onto vinyl, this is not a business model that most people would have backed. To me, that's an interesting model. Nobody asked for it, but it's awesome. I asked one of Jack White's partners what they were thinking and he said, "We just think certain things need to exist and we're in a position to make them exist, therefore we're going in. We're not going to be frightened and we're not going to wait for the market to tell us what to do." This is the way to go.
How do you define success?
Success is, do I like the people I'm dealing with? I live in business by something I call the no-asshole rule. It's an important one. I actually like everybody I do business with. We went to this one meeting in L.A. and a guy offered us a TV show and a deal that would have made us all Bond villain-wealthy. Like, helipad wealthy. The meeting went fantastically well, and we were standing there in the parking lot afterward and looked at each other, and I said, "If the phone rings at 11 p.m., do you want it to be that asshole?" And we were all like, "No way!"
Do you have any tips for how to build a personal brand?
I think you're kind of automatically an asshole if you think, does this conflict with my personal brand? You should feel free to change and do what you like.