Talent, Suits, and Ego
On Project Veritas and James O’Keefe
James O’Keefe is out at Project Veritas. Much to my disappointment, people “connected” the ousting to the Pfizer release. Pfizer, the theory goes, had China launch a spy balloon as a distraction from the Project Veritas release, and then the PV Board ousted O’Keefe to protect Pfizer. This is nuts, and shows a total lack of real world business sophistication.
James O’Keefe lost his company to a tale as old as time - Talent vs. Suits.
It’s not surprising at all that O’Keefe lost Project Veritas. Founders are regularly ousted from their own companies. Here’s how it plays out.
Talent wants to build and create. They don’t want to manage operations or do paperwork. Talent creates value.
Suits don’t have creative talent. They can manage bank accounts and balance sheets. Suits capture value.
You need both value creation and value capture. Consider this humble substack. I enjoy writing. I’ve left an amount of money that makes me sick to my stomach to think about on the table as I didn’t want to set up paywalls or backend infrastructure. Suits are good at that, but my experience as a lawyer has shown me that working with Suits usually ends in litigation.
Fortunately you can help me capture value by signing up here.
Suits come in two kinds. Group 1 are the guys you want to be with. They are money men. They never wanted to be actors or content creators. They want you to make money and they want a cut. They’d be as happy managing your music or political career as they would your tile flooring business. They couldn’t care less what it is that makes you hot.
To them, you’re a widget. This seems “inhuman.” It’s the opposite. These are the best guys as they don’t want to jam you up.
Group 2 are frustrated Talent. These Suits believe that, but for accident of fate, they’d have been the Talent. Herein lies the problem.
Talent is attracted to the frustrated suits as they speak the same language. “Let’s do art and make money together!” Talent would rather be around people like them vs the the boring money men who work on their spreadsheets and go home to their families and are in bed by 9 p.m. Huge mistake!
Ego sets in.
Suits who are frustrated Talent want to direct the Talent.
Suits know how to play the game. They know that all you need to do to win the turf war with Talent is to flip the Board of Directors against the Talent. Or select your own Board members while Talent is busy.
One way this is done is via a donor.
Suit: Talent, we have a huge donor who wants to come in.
Suit: They want a Board seat.
Talent: Sure thing!
Because Talent doesn’t understand business, they get rolled without realizing it.
That’s what happened to O’Keefe.
Pfizer didn’t take over Project Veritas. You should not read people saying such nonsense. Either they are lying, or they lack basic background knowledge. Nothing I wrote in this little stack would be controversial to any big name artist to lawyer who has handled business partnerships.
Guys who think they are the next Jame O’Keefe get in via promising donors, they take over the board, and James is gone.
What’s the lesson for Talent?
Work with money men. The ones who don’t really care about what you do nor understand it. If they are boring, even better.
Then be Talent. Create value. Let the Suits capture it. Win-win.
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Spot on. This happens in startups all the time. Easy to predict what happens next - Veritas collapses, James starts something new and recruits the best talent from Veritas. He needs to learn this harsh lesson about suits and not repeat the same mistake.
Reminds me of a Gavin McInnes saying “you need a hippy, (creative guy) bullshitter, (sales) and a nerd (IT)
At Vice that was him, Shane Smith, and Saroosh Alvi.
Veritas will go the way of Vice