Meet Josh Harris: The Entrepreneur Who Lost $50m Over The Internet
Although not as familiar to this generation as Mark Zuckerberg, Josh Harris also used to rake millions in the tech world. Being a tech mogul and founder of Jupiter Communications in the 1990s, his worth once peaked at $50 million.
He left Jupiter in 1994 and founded Pseudo. In 1999, his old company went public on Nasdaq. Still owning about 15 per cent of that company, he became a multi-millionaire.
With his company Pseudo Programs, he tried to merge video and chat. He predicted the future trend of sharing everything online.
His company, however, was way ahead of his time as this innovation came almost a decade before most people had a broadband, so the size of the show was just as big as a postage stamp. Pseudo Network grew to 50 separate channels and generated 200 hours of programming per month.
But the present Josh Harris does not live in a lofty mansion. Years after his glory days, he can be found residing in a grubby apartment in Las Vegas, scraping around $650 from online poker, and under surveillance by the FBI.
About 18 months ago, he moved in to the second-floor unit in a row of flats. The interior is almost bare, with very little furniture. He sleeps in a bag on a mattress on the floor, with a knife by his side.
He narrated how a link to an art installation at the World Trade Center before the 9/11 attack, has caused him to be watched ever since. This circumstance is the reason he lives alone, even to the extent of cutting off all contacts with his siblings.
Recalling the events that led to his present situation, he said he was getting deeper into New York's avant-garde art scene. His biggest production was a month-long experiment wherein about 100 volunteers lived in capsules in a six-storey warehouse on Broadway. The facility was equipped with webcams. The police shut down the project on New Year's Day in 2000.
But what really triggered the FBI to keep an eye on him is his association with Gelatin, a performance-art troupe from Vienna. In March 2000, the group claimed to have removed a window from the 91st floor of the World Trade Center's North Tower. They inserted a prefab balcony and then walked out of it one by one - naked. This stunt was filmed by Harris from a helicopter he hired.
The New York Times ran a story about it and Harris was quoted as a keen and unrepentant facilitator. The story was provoked more by a Gelatin show documenting the event, with the show scheduled for Sept. 11, 2001.
Aside from the date, the title of the show, "The B-Thing" also aroused suspicion that Gelatin was aware about the Bin Laden attack in advance.
Harris claimed that he has since been under surveillance, citing instances he believed he was being monitored by security forces. One encounter in particular was when he stayed in Ethiopia where he took off for a year in 2007 with his last $8,000.
He lost his money after the dotcom crash, and when Pseudo and Jupiter tanked. He also spent heavily on his art projects.
"This has been an unbelievable 10 years of my life," he says, looking back to when his money ran out.