From Drug Addiction to Founding a Media Empire Valued at $6Billion: The Story of the Rise and Fall of VICE Media
The importance of second chances
Vice went from being a media company valued at $6B to bankruptcy in a few years. In this newsletter, we will reflect on how the company started and what went wrong. There are lots of important lessons here. Let’s get started.
From Drug Addict to Media Moghul
Suroosh Alvi was a recovering heroin addict. Rehab was his second home. He was an immigrant with Pakistani origins. His parents were academics in Canada. Middle-class, immigrant parents trying to eke out a living in a foreign land don't exactly look forward to a son who has trouble being sober.
While in and out of rehab, he learned that his father had a heart attack. A catastrophe was close. And then his mum hit him - for the first time ever. That's when he got a sense of what his actions were doing to him and his family.
He realized that he wanted to write and cover underground street culture. He followed his curiosity as he didn’t have much else to rely on.
As with most transformation stories, out of nowhere, he met a mentor of sorts who believed in him - for no rational reason, just gut. They actually met at the “Narcotics Anonymous” session. He asked Alvi - have you considered writing? He also agreed to be his sponsor. Keep in mind - they did not know each other. They were complete strangers.
Soon after he started his own magazine The Voice of Montreal. At that time, he was living on government welfare schemes.
Eventually, he started VICE with $10,000. He could not get a loan from anywhere. He formed a team that was short on credentials but had oodles of hustle. They didn't have a business plan and they didn't wear suits. They did what they knew best - fill the authenticity vacuum by reporting stories about matters that interest people.