Erik Bergman has already proven himself as a success in founding Catena Media, but since then he’s proven to be so much more, going on to charitable ventures and founding Great.com as well. As we all start to discover the things that matter most to us during these troubling times, our Becky Liggero Fontana spoke with Bergman to see how he thinks we can make a better world, on this week’s episode of The Long Con.
Bergman is a relentlessly positive man, and that comes from a conscious decision to smile more. Liggero Fontana asked why that is. “Well first and foremost, I believe that smiling communicates that you are happy, and what that means is that if I’m happy you are safe, because I’m not going to attack you if I’m smiling,” he said. “So I believe that being smiling communicates that the people around you are safe, and I believe that’s something that sets an energy between people. I think that safety is one of the feelings that we prioritize the least in our society and in our companies and stuff like that, we don’t think about it, but when we feel safe we can be ourselves, and where we’ll be ourselves we can be genuinely happy. I believe that if we feel safe that’s when the inner child within us comes in, that’s what we can play and just enjoy the moment.”
Catena Media has been such a success in the gambling world, and it’s almost shocking that Bergman would have left it. “I mean the very short story of Catena Media is that it started out of pure joy and pure happiness. Me and Ian, and my other co-founder, we just did this as a hobby project, and then suddenly it took off. We hired a lot of people, I had no idea what we were doing we had investors, we had lawyers, we had an IPO, and a lot of the passion I originally felt was replaced by demands and sacrifices and late nights and stress, and all of these things. And I just lost all the joy, and at some point, reached immense financial success.”
After leaving Catena, Bergman went on to help fund school project in Africa, and that gave him a whole new perspective on life, as he discovered just how rough some people have it. He told a story about a school he helped funded, which had to have the unique rule that the children shot not be beaten. “In the other school buildings, the kids got beaten up, and the kids had to be afraid, but here the kids got to be safe, as we touched upon, and they got to be happy,” he said. “And for me that was the first time I realized that, whoa, this is something that you can do with money, this is something that can change things, that really brings meaning.”
That new perspective lead to what has become Great.com, and rather than focus on short term moves to build profit, he hopes for something much greater. “Well, in very short, Great will be a casino affiliate, very similar to Catena and all the others out there, but with a big, big difference that this will be a lifelong project,” he said. “I’m doing this for the next 50 years and for me it’s not important to make results this year, it’s important that we make the biggest possible bang for the buck over the next decades.”
To build a truly great organization that can help support these projects, Bergman is exploring the ways he can have a happier, more committed workforce. “I believe that the single most important thing when it comes to reaching results is consistency over time, and being persistent chasing your results,” he said. “And this is very, very easy if you’re having fun, and it’s very, very hard if you’re not having fun. And I believe that most organizations, they strive towards not having fun and pushing themselves to the results, because that’s usually the quickest way of getting there, while we’re prioritizing having fun and creative freedom and whatever it is otherwise that is important in life, because we believe that’s how you’ll get the better results in the long run and the happiest team.”
Bergman hopes that by leading by example, and making charity a top priority, he can help shift the corporate culture permanently. “If I could accomplish one thing in my life, that would be to make charity cool,” he said. “And what I mean by that is that people spend $10,000 on a Rolex watch, to show their Rolex watch and be genuinely proud of their Rolex watch, but they’re not giving $10,000 to charity and talk about how they did that.”
Watch the full video to see Bergman’s thought on other important charitable causes, how he hopes to let employees set their own salaries one day, and the lessons he expects the world to take from the Covid-19 pandemic. And don’t forget to subscribe to the CalvinAyre.com YouTube channel so you don’t miss any of the great interviews and videos we have coming.