In partnership with Hudson Union Society

Meet Suroosh Alvi, Co-Founder of Vice Media -

The innovative entrepreneur shares his career story


Perhaps few companies have been more influential for a certain young generation than Vice media. Meet Vice co-founder Suroosh Alvi and hear how it all began.

About Suroosh Alvi:

In the mid 90s, fresh out of a drug treatment centre and living on welfare, Suroosh Alvi starts his own magazine with two friends - a scrappy little counter-culture rag called The Voice of Montreal. Two decades later, that humble mag has blossomed into a massive media empire comprising websites, TV and documentary production houses, book publishing, a fashion and film division, record labels. VICE is a global media channel focusing on investigative journalism and enlightening videos about everything from world news, travel, art, drugs, politics, sports, fashion, and sex.

"All that we did, really, was fill a vacuum" says Alvi. "When I looked out at the landscape of what was being published, there weren't many compelling options, yet there was all this fascinating stuff happening that wasn't being." Alternative media success stories come no grander. VICE is now a sufficiently big deal that mainstream media corporations A&E, Disney and Hearst wanted a piece of the action, reportedly spending $450 million to buy a 20 per cent share.This former punk mag scribbler now heads up an organization worth over $4 billion. That's a higher book value than Buzzfeed and the New York Timescombined, and Alvi is as amazed as anyone. Right from the beginning, it was a risky venture with a high chance of failure.

"Really, it made no sense to launch an English-language magazine in a French-speaking city in a shrinking media market with so much intense competition. But we saw a void, and we wanted to fill it with more exciting and authentic content.” Twenty two years later, that mission remains unchanged. Alvi's still trying to make "great, gritty, raw" content and get it in front of as many people as possible. People might say 'why start a cable TV channel, now that millennials have stopped watching TV?' But we believe in the power of great storytelling, and whether people want to watch us on mobile phones, laptops, TVs or the big screen, it's all the same to us.” The main reason VICE has become so huge, reckons Alvi, is that the mainstream media spent so long being complacent and dull.

"At some point, the mainstream media made the assumption that young people didn't care about news. Wrong! They just didn't want boring news! So we just started filming each other, telling stories we thought needed to be told. It was rough around the edges, but ultimately, we were speaking our audience's language in a way most traditional media sources weren't."

"As the mainstream media focus on fewer and fewer stories, it leaves the rest of the world for us to talk about. Really, there's a whole universe of under-reported stories out there, and we want to take that on. Just as other media organizations were shuttering their regional news bureaus, we were opening new ones in New Zealand, Australia, Japan and Eastern Europe.”

About Hudson Union Society:
The Hudson Union is one of New York City's most celebrated institutions that provides a special intimate place where leaders connect directly with the public. The Hudson Union is known as an essential cultural force with an eclectic range of leaders regularly visiting, speaking unfiltered, and challenging conventional beliefs.
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