Gary Vaynerchuk Will be Bigger than Oprah

with 32 Comments

Gary Vaynerchuk Hustles

In the Beginning

For the uninformed, Gary Vaynerchuk’s story starts (for our purposes) as the co-owner of a wine store in New Jersey called Wine Library. Inspired by Andy Samberg’s Saturday Night Live video Lazy Sunday exploding on YouTube, he started video blogging about wine at Wine Library TV. He sent one of his employees out to get a video camera from Best Buy and, as he would say, started hustling. Now he makes major appearances on talk shows with regularity, is syndicated heavily on Hulu and iTunes, and takes in 5 figures for speaking at media and technology conferences.

Why He is Successful

Gary is high energy, extroverted, but most importantly he is passionate and genuine when he discusses a topic. With wine, he has created a small empire around Wine Library TV. As someone that recognizes the business and marketing power of the social web, he has become one of the most popular speakers at conferences on the subject. Whether wine or social media, Gary gets others excited about what he talks about and that holds a lot of value. He brings humor, honesty, and passion. And he frames it in an easily consumed and entertaining package. He has mastered the delivery.

Why He Will Become a Media Giant

Not keen on settling for the success he has seen so far, Gary commonly shares his desire tobuy the NY Jets one day. On his Facebook page he sums it up simply with “I am a Wine guy who wants to buy the NY JETS.” This represents piece of his hustle, his willingness to put in the work needed to become the best in his arena. Combine his drive to completely devour the projects he is involved in with his entertaining personality and Gary brings a lot of value to the table. He even has his own iPhone game, B1nary.

Actively seeking content partners to collaborate with on future projects, Gary’s first video effort outside of Wine Library was personality interview show Obsessed TV. The show is good and could grow into something pretty significant, especially with Gary’s support. However I view Obsessed TV as Gary’s practice swing.

Where Will Gary Go Next?

Gary’s next step is where things will get interesting. He has mentioned that many corporations and celebrities have approached him for advice. Who can blame them? Combine his growing access to large brands/celebrities with his expertise and drive to constantly do bigger things and some very cool things could happen. At SXSW, Gary let people know that he is starting a media company, Vayner Media, with his brother AJ. This is obviously the most telling clue of his coming Media Giant.

If Gary can grow his own personal brand to the extent that he has – from wine store co-owner in New Jersey, to wine and media celebrity/speaker/media channel – imagine what he could do with a brand or a celebrity that already has a massive audience and appeal?

Some have called Gary the Oprah of the web. While Gary and Oprah are opposites in many ways, one common link is their drive to build themselves into media empires. Oprah started with cable TV, Gary with video blogging.

Learning from Gary

  • Be Genuine – Be true to yourself
  • Hustle – Put in more work than the other guy
  • Persue Your Passion – If you are not working on what you love, you won’t make it
  • Delegate – Learn how to partner and connect with others to get it done
  • Watch the Tools – ” always pay attention to the nerds, when the nerds talk I listen – the tech scene is the future”
  • Be the Expert – Learn everything you can about your industry, know more than the other guy
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32 Responses

  1. Scott Hepburn

    Very well written post, Jason. Those of us who live and breathe social media know the Gary Vaynerchuk story, but anyone who is new to "GaryVee" is in for a treat. You did a great job capturing Gary's story and the important takeaways. Hustle on, my friend!

  2. Chris Dessi

    Excellent post. I had the pleasure of meeting Gary in person last week, once at a "Tweetup" and again in person. He is the real deal. The same person in front of a group as he is one on one. You can can't help but feel his passion, and sense that there are even bigger things on the horizon. Gary's the type of guy that can change the game. We need more guys like him not only in our industry but in the world. Prediction = by 2011 your parents, grandparents and children will know who Gary Vaynerchuk is.

  3. jakrose

    @Chris I could not agree more. Of all the pseudo celebrities I met at SXSW, Gary and Chris Brogan were the two that really struck me as great guys and super genuine. And this is despite them getting constantly bombarded with new people wanting to meet them every second of the day. I have a lot of respect for that. It is one thing to be a smart person, and another to be a good person.

    I have had the same discussion with people, that Gary has the best chance of breaking mainstream from the social media world. Honestly, video is a big part of this. The biggest personalities with the largest audiences in the social space are Youtube celebrities. Video is just a peice of what Gary does, but it is the most visable piece. I think him working with celebrities will be what really raises his stock though. Doing for them what he did for Wine Library. Should be fun to watch and learn from.

  4. Vik Duggal

    Great post! I had heard about Gary before SXSW 09, but after hearing him speak, shaking his hand, and yes giving him a hug I can tell you that you can feel the authenticity. He comes from a challenging place being an immigrant and on top of that the eldest son of immigrants. He's decided to let most of it out (hence the cursing).

    He's struggled to take what was working and expand on it. His hustle is genuine.

    I think Jason really covers this well in the most and his prediction is spot on.

    The Learning from Gary part is especially appropriate. Write down what you want, and be yourself to get there. Gary isn't the only one who will be a player in this space so to those who are reading this and looking emulate STOP.

    This is a 400 year movement folks. The online media came is only getting started.

  5. Samantha Brown

    Not sure why I had not heard of Gary, but his videos are pretty empowering. Thanks for sharing this Jason, your insights are always surprising. When are you going to start video blogging?

  6. Michele (@defcon_5)

    Great post Jason. Would love a postscript on how his wine business is doing. Is he transforming into a professional speaker or will he remain at the helm of his original business?

  7. BrandonUttley

    Excellent commentary, Jason. Gary Vee is the man! You need to shave your head and start a video blog. :)

  8. jakrose

    I promise to do 1 of the 2 next week Brandon.

  9. VIk Duggal

    Brandon – I think that Jason should do both!

  10. Ian Mikutel

    I've always loved Gary's use of the word "hustle". Thing that gets pushed aside is that he hustles SMART. There is a difference.

    Not sure if it'll be possible to get bigger than an Old Media empire like Oprah as our New Media generation continues to get more and more fragmented, but my bet would be that if you asked Gary, he would rather have a smaller, targeted, more passionate audience than Oprah any day.

  11. jakrose

    Good points Ian. Give new media a little time. The numbers will grow. And I would not be surprised to see Gary jump to some old media formats as well before the year is out. Or help others hustle in those formats.

  12. Jim @smashadv

    He has a strange voice for his intensity. But he's got a lasso on something and is getting a lot of ride out of his approach to problem solving. I think he's more like an SM version of Zig Ziglar or Tony Robbins than Oprah. Nice post Jason.

  13. MattWilsontv

    Jason, I had the pleasure of visiting Gary at Wine Library and hanging out in his office at his tweetup and have seen him in person at the Web2 expo in NYC. Both times I was impressed with Gary's ability to connect with people on such a personable level, yet give advice that people truly wanted to listen to. He's got the charisma to go far… it'll be interesting to see how he combines his internet persona with mainstream tv if he ever does.

  14. Josh Hurlock


    Excellent write up on Gary V. Ever since I became involved with the social media scene, I have been following Gary V. and the awesome work he does. Saying he will be bigger than Oprah may seem like a stretch, but you truly never know. He has great ambition, charisma, and the ability to captivate. I would not put anything past Gary V.

  15. Vanguy

    Gary V is well-worth following. The best part is he's not playing at anything. His wine knowledge is deep, didactic and welcoming to all.

  16. Anja Merret

    Nice post. Totally agree. Genuine is how I would describe Gary V. And passionate of course.

  17. Jose Ibarra

    Great Post. It will be interesting to see how the hustle evolves during family life. We wish Gary V a very happy and healthy baby. P.S. I predict a possible plunge into baby products ;)

  18. jakrose

    @Jose – too funny. I think you are right. Gary will pull in the family life a little into his day to day. Maybe not putting his family members front and center or anything, but I can definitely see a baby food testing show on WineLibrary TV.

  19. Rafe Anderson

    I love Gary’s approach to business. His focus on the relationship with the consumer is critical to the growth of any consumer facing product or service. Today many “corporate suits” avoid any engagement with their consumers. This lazy approach to business will lead to downfall of some of the country’s most popular brands. It’s time to shift from marketing “to your customers” to “marketing with your customers”. Keep up the good fight Gary!

    Who is Oprah?

  20. jakrose

    @Rafe great thoughts. I share that same line of thought with all my clients. It is tough to convince some of this transition, but those that get it will thrive. I am definitely stealing that “marketing with your customers” line. Nice summary.

  21. Vik Duggal

    I'm stealing that line to. That's a great one.

  22. jakrose

    I had the same experience seeing him at SXSW. I could not imagine being that bombarded with people wanting to meet you and do business with you and still be able to be as nice and genuine as he is. I see the same thing in Chris Brogan. Not sure I could pull off the same thing if I was in their positions. Huge admiration for both those guys in that respect.

  23. Sarah Merion

    I was speaking with someone today about the appeal of Gary. He is unlikely, as a success story and as a person. His ability to contradict people's ideas of normalcy (ie. wine and NY Jets) contributes to his appeal, his business strategy, and ultimately his success.

  24. KAHUNA

    I want to be Gary's, Stedman.

  25. Mike Templeton

    I missed the announcement about the coming of Vayner Media, but it's nothing I couldn't imagine happening. With his immense success in Wine Library TV, launching, all of his speaking gigs and now the new book deal he's landed, I can see him continuing to grow and breaking into the mainstream. What I think he has going for him over everyone else is that once he hits mainstream, he'll already have millions of loyal and dedicated fans who can continue to propel him. I love watching his videos and find him to be truly inspiring when I'm in need of a pick-me-up.

  26. Amanda Seyderhelm

    This is a great example of how to leverage social media when you understand your niche – without that clarity, you may as well just sit and drink the wine! Thanks for posting Jason.

  27. Neil Cowley

    but it will take another woman to out-do Oprah – a man can't do it!

  28. […] you? He’s the guy that is being predicted to become “bigger than Oprah” [source], and mostly due to his passion, drive, and authenticity. To me Gary is living proof of the fact […]

  29. kaaist

    Gary Vaynerchuk will be bigger than Oprah! Now that is a bold statement and a title that definitely caught my eye :)

  30. James Zakaria

    I don’t know if I can get past the idea that Gary likes the NY Jets or that he is a NY wine guy. He is a passionate interesting guy and I have enjoyed his interviews. Go Packers Go.

  31. Paul Smart

    He is getting closer …

  32. Jason Keath

    Indeed he is Paul. Perhaps I should do an update of this post, 6 years later.