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Last year, Spartz, Inc., raised eight million dollars in venture-capital funding and made several million more in advertising revenue.As new-media companies like Buzz Feed and Upworthy become established brands, Spartz hopes to disrupt the disrupters.On a wooden support beam near his desk, Spartz has tacked up images of some of his idols: Jobs, Branson, Bezos. and describes himself as the company’s oldest employee “by a hundred years.” He is thirty-six.The office layout is ostensibly non-hierarchical, but the workstation next to Spartz belongs to Matt Thacker, the chief financial officer, who has an M. A few seats away sits Gaby Spartz, the company’s vice-president of content.“That’s great, but it often creates so much noise that the people on the receiving end can’t hear anything.”Spartz took the stage, wearing a cordless microphone.People who achieve success at an early age often retain a childlike aspect into adulthood, and Spartz has the saucer eyes and cuspidated chin of a cartoon fawn.
A screen in front of a velvet curtain displayed, in jaunty type, “Hi! I want to change the world.”When he was growing up, Spartz said, his parents made him read “four short biographies of successful people every single day. The ability to make things go viral felt like the closest that we could get to having a human superpower.”He offered practical tips: “Facebook should be eighty per cent of your effort, if you’re focussed on social media”; “Try to change every comma to a period”; “Use lists whenever possible.When he got to the part about virality being a superpower—“I realized that if you could make ideas go viral, you could tip elections, start movements, revolutionize industries”—I asked whether that was really true.“Can you rephrase your question in a more concrete way? I mentioned “Kony 2012,” a thirty-minute film about the Ugandan militia leader Joseph Kony.It has been viewed on You Tube more than a hundred million times, but it did not achieve its ultimate goal: Kony remains at large, as does his militia, the Lord’s Resistance Army.“To be honest, I didn’t follow too closely after the whole thing died down,” Spartz said.Muggle Net made hundreds of thousands of dollars through advertising, and Spartz funnelled his earnings into a new company: Spartz, Inc.His first employee was his younger brother Dylan, who designed the site; during college, at Notre Dame, Emerson started working with Gaby Montero, then his girlfriend and now his wife.