April 22, 2011

Interview with Ben Bator - Summit at Sea

Interview with Ben Bator, co-founder of Texts From Last Night
Monday, April 11, 2011
Summit at Sea afterparty, Mondrian Hotel, Miami Beach, Florida
Conducted by Anneke Jong for the interview series "7 Leaders on the Rise"

Accepted to law school and comfortably unemployed, Benjamin Bator changed his career path in 2009 when he co-founded Texts From Last Night, one of the most popular sites on the internet. TFLN’s curated collection of humorous text messages receives 3-5 million page views and 5,000-7,000 submissions daily. With a published book and TV show rumors abound, Bator is now at the forefront of archiving the experiences of his generation. He returns to Summit Series after being a featured attendee in 2010 under the Summit Series banner of business.

Jong: Why do you like Summit and why do you keep coming back?

Bator: It’s a different experience each time. It’s not a conference where you’re getting the same thing every year. You can go in with a different mindset and totally make it what you need. You don’t necessarily go in and say, “I’m going to put in A and take away B.” It’s a totally personal experience, and I think they [the Summit Series team] do a really good job allowing people to make Summit what they want it to be.

Jong: What has your personal Summit experience meant for you? What have you taken away from the Summit community?

Bator: It’s hard to say in a sentence what I’ve gotten from Summit. My first Summit was DC10, and to be back here a year later has been a totally different experience. That’s a testament to the amount of personal growth I’ve been able to accelerate over the last year, mostly because of the people I’ve met at Summit and the relationships I’ve continued to put work into. The Summit community is a base of smart and really connected people that can facilitate your dreams. If you go in with a project, you can build out the entire project in no time because of the people here.

Jong: What have you given to the community?

Bator: Hopefully, a little bit of fun (not that they need help). More seriously, I’ve lent an ear to listen and help people out when they’re stuck — to look at a problem or a theory a different way.

Jong: What was your Summit highlight this year?

Bator: Wrapping up a discussion on identity and culture in a post-internet world, then running over to catch the last of The Roots’ set, and then going to a DJ session with ?uestlove [from The Roots] until four in the morning. I’m pretty sure that’s never happened before in my life. Or anyone else’s. It’s a completely unique and novel experience.

Jong: What’s next for you and Texts from Last Night?

Bator: I’m going to continue to make Texts from Last Night a really humorous, and somewhat archival, collection of interaction for our generation. And have a lot of fun while doing it. We have some growth plans in the works to make the content community even more fun and exciting.

Jong: What’s your favorite reaction from a Summit attendee who learned you started TFLN?

Bator: What’s really crazy is when I meet people and I’m kind of in awe because they have a product or company that blows me away, and then they tell me that what they do to relax is read TFLN. Nothing is more nerd boner producing than that.
You can catch up on last night's debauchery at TFLN or follow Ben on Twitter at @benbator.

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