Residency w/ Benjamin Gott of th-oughts
We recently had the pleasure of sitting down with Benjamin Gott, who has headed many different innovative ventures, more recently being his website th-oughts, an online education platform with a simple system - Q and A. We at the FMFHQ saw the genuine approach that this platform brought, breaking down the tall walls of communication in common artistic industries such as fashion, giving anyone and everyone access to a myriad of stand-out figures in their respective fields. This includes some of our favorites - Rob Garcia (En Noir), Mike Camargo aka "Upscale Vandal", designer Jakob Hetzer, writer Jian Delon, and photographer Christina Paik. As Benjamin puts it, for the price of the traditional coffee meet-up, th-oughts sets aside the hassle and cuts to, literally, the important questions.
Enough from us though - let Benjamin take you through his design process and the intricacies surrounding th-oughts.
For the readers that aren't already aware of who you are - where are you from and what do you do?
I'm Benjamin Edgar Gott. I'm from the "South Chicago Land" area, just moving from Michigan back to Chicago, the Goldcoast this time. I do too many different things - that’s the concern at least. Just enjoy spreading my mental space across a lot of projects. The ones people know well are THE BRILLIANCE!, Boxed Water, Benjamin Edgar, and now...th-oughts. I'm a founder at each of the those.
In managing so many projects, how do you spread out your time within the week?
For the most part - I have specific days I focus on things - and sometimes even specific blocks of time within those days that are carved out for X project. For example, Monday-Tuesday is almost exclusively working at the VC fund I'm part of. Monday evenings are for the th-oughts project, Thursday-Friday typically for the more creative design and consulting related projects. And, throughout the week, at any given time, I might be working on various design projects for Boxed Water. It’s a mental workout - I'm not super great at it yet, but learning.
Do you have any daily rituals in preparing/unwinding?
“For preparing...hmm, I don't really. Hope this doesn't sound corny - but effectively everything you do every day in your work and personal life is the preparation for whatever task is next...tiny or huge, etc. Well, maybe I watch Steve Jobs keynotes before I have to do a speaking engagement, ha.
As for unwinding. I love restaurants dearly. Like for real. I love food as well - don't think I'm quite into "foodie" territory yet...maybe I am. I deeply enjoy going to restaurants solo in the evening for a quiet meal.”
I totally get it - not only enjoying lovely food but enjoying the entire restaurant experience is what makes it special. Onto th-oughts, though. What sparked the idea?
There's an obviousness to the idea of being able to pay someone for their knowledge. That's effectively all of the traditional education...and even consulting for that matter. But creating something a bit more "micro" in the transaction side and something more of people "pulling" answers rather than having answers "pushed" to them by educators is fascinating to me. We have this insanely broad vision of where we'd like this thing to go...but for right now we're intensely focused on Q–A.
There's definitely a uniqueness to the concept - it even almost puts a flip on what the two of us are currently engaging in. With regards to the questions and answers - are there any parameters that you set for your candidates?
No parameters for the questions...our end goal though is to have people ask questions that move whatever it is they're working on forward. We consider that a more tactile form of education. As for the people, we select to answer questions - right now we're looking for people with a fairly large following as that is easy to activate. But that's short-term...our end goal is to build a destination site so experts don't need to be social media personalities as well, ha.
As of now, many of your recipients are in the fashion industry. Dissimilar to any time before it, what is your view on the current state of ‘fashion'?
Indeed they are as that is the world where we personally had the most connections - we plan on growing out of that soon!
As for fashion. I'm lucky that I get to pick some interesting brains in the industry over dinner occasionally and I've come to view fashion simply as another form of art - this is most certainly not a profound view or an original one. But it is a bit freeing in a sense to think of anything beyond garments that properly cover you, protect you, keep you warm, etc is unneeded and therefore "fashion." This by no means denotes it in any way. Humans are very expressive creatures and we do so most often with the clothing we cover our bodies in - so its deep part of our species culture. All that to say...I think people/designers are feeling more free to embrace that now than maybe ever before? To simply express themselves, their ideas, their beliefs through this super ubiquitous platform of clothing. And the internet has removed all the gatekeepers...anything goes now. You're only limited by your imagination. And I love that.
I can't agree more. It seems that people are increasingly (or at least more visible) straying from the norm, and guided by the mass of knowledge on the internet, those choices become incredibly informed.
Lastly, what's in sight for the future of th-oughts and yourself as an individual?
Yeah...more visible for sure. Everyone is an expert in the things they wear and consume now. I kinda love that.
Future of th-oughts – I wish it wasn't taking us as long as it is...but we have some great new features coming out. Simple ones like the ability to add audio to your submissions...to some kinda crazy ones that will change how the service is used...but I can't get into that one yet! Ha, sorry. Overall...it’s hard not to want to put a "ding" in the traditional higher-education system. It’s not some vindication or anything that I'm after either...it's just a personal interest in tinkering and experimenting and seeing if there is a better way for people to learn about things they are passionate about.
For me – Hmm. I'm working on a lot (too many?) of projects at once right now. I love it but have this hunch that at some point 1 or 2 of them will need to be the main focus. The focus is tough...as Steve Jobs said:
"People think focus means saying yes to the thing you've got to focus on. But that's not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I'm actually as proud of the things we haven't done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying no to 1,000 things."
So for me, I imagine I'll have to make some tough choices in the next year or so. I know personally, I'm drawn to working on th-oughts, growing something that people get true value from. I'd also, really, really like to get into the space "industry" in pretty much any fashion. I have a project coming out in early 2018 around that. My future personally is probably about consolidation and focus. And hopefully having fun.