Chegg CEO and President Daniel L. Rosensweig ’83 was featured in an article in Forbes. The article was released on the heels of Chegg’s announcing that it has expanded into e-textbook offerings. In the interview – which is transcribed and available to view online as a video – Rosensweig discusses Chegg’s four most recent acquisitions as well as his career and inspirations behind his successful trajectory.
Throughout his career, Rosensweig, a member of the Colleges’ Board of Trustees, has created internship opportunities for HWS students to work directly with him and offered them job opportunities following graduation. The interviewer asked him about mentorship.
Rosensweig explains, “We hire for the summer 12 to 14 interns from colleges. Part of the commitment is they not only come in and have jobs, but we actually show a real interest in what they want to do with their lives. And it doesn’t have to be what we do. We spend time with them and they rotate around and they meet everybody and we ask them their goals. We try to create opportunities for them to do that. And everybody who does it knows you actually get more out of it than you put in. Because it’s really wonderful to see people succeed.”
Prior to joining Chegg, Rosensweig was president and CEO of Activision Blizzard’s Guitar Hero franchise. His accomplished professional life has been focused in media communications and Internet industries, including roles as Chief Operating Officer of Yahoo!, President of CNET, and CEO of ZDNET.
He dedicated the Rosensweig Learning Commons at HWS in 2008. He was a President’s Forum Series speaker this past spring.
During his time as a Hobart student, Rosensweig was a political science major, a member of Kappa Sigma fraternity, and studied abroad in London.
The full Forbes article follows.
Dan Rosensweig: His Journey From Yahoo To Guitar Hero Then Chegg
Kym McNicholas • Forbes Staff • August 18, 2011
Will students say “Goodbye” to sore backs this year as the ability to download digital versions of textbooks gets easier and more titles become widely available? So far, only about 10% of students have adopted the lighter way to learn, according to Dan Rosensweig, CEO of Chegg, an online student services company, which includes its original business of renting textbooks online. But he’s expecting that number to increase to about 25% by 2015, as there are now dozens of sites including Chegg, Amazon, and even an Apple iPhone app for mobile devices called, Textbooks, which offer students e-textbooks. That said, Rosensweig is not willing to stake Chegg’s entire future simply on textbooks. So along with announcing Thursday that the company has expanded into e-textbook offerings, Rosensweig says his team has integrated Chegg’s four most recent acquisitions into a broader digital platform: CourseRank, started by three Stanford students, which helps students choose their classes; Cramster, a homework help site; Notehall, where students can buy and sell class notes; and Student of Fortune, which is an online tutorial marketplace for those who need help or can help others with homework . In the video interview below, Rosensweig explains that his goal is for Chegg to become the ultimate resource for students 365 days per year, not just on the first day of school.
Rosensweig is committed to helping students save money and get smarter. That’s not just from a CEO standpoint. Rosensweig took the Chief Executive position at Chegg because he learned through his two daughters the struggles students have in school and he wanted to help them and others in their educational pursuits. His oldest daughter, in fact, is just heading off to college this year and he knows firsthand the impact today’s higher education costs can have on a pocketbook.
And it turns out his daughters didn’t just have an impact on his decision to join Chegg. They’ve played a big role in his career choices over the past twenty years, including his position as CEO of Guitar Hero at Activision, and before that, COO at Yahoo.
Forbes: Looking at your career path…basically your goal is to really be an even better dad?
Dan Rosensweig: Well, I’d like to be as good a dad as I can be. Honestly, I’d say it’s to make sure that I’m still relevant to them. Kids, I have figured out pretty quickly that it’s more important for me than it is for them to do these things to be around them. They’re wonderful kids, their mom, my wife, Linda, has done just an incredible job. And we’re all close. And so yeah, to be relevant in the worlds that they live in is important to us.
So, the jobs you’ve taken have been around the things that would continue to make you relevant to your daughters, correct?
Rosensweig: Yes. Looking at computer magazines, I knew they were going to grow up in a world of technology. The internet, when I really began to understand the power of it, you know, watching guys like Jeff Mallett, Jerry Yang and David Filo, it really became evident to me in 1996 that this shift was going to come. And so I switched over to the Internet. Going into Yahoo and having a chance to talk about big brands and big consumer and things that they were interested in and products that they would use was really fun and interesting for me. When I went to Guitar Hero it was very simple: We’re all music freaks in our house. My daughters love and wanted to meet Taylor Swift. So when I was at Guitar Hero, we signed her up for Band Hero and had that opportunity to do introduce her to my daughters. We also got the chance while there to hook up with Jay-Z and Eminem. We had a very successful year with Guitar Hero. We launched a new IP, DJ Hero, which I think was the best selling new IP that year. So we had done the things that we needed to do and wanted to do. But I wasn’t willing to move to Southern California. That’s when I decided on Chegg because I realized it’s now really about education and learning and empowering young people to pursue their passions, pursue their interests.
And I assume your daughter’s using Chegg?
My daughter signed up for her classes and she used Chegg’s scale, the CourseRank. And now she’s ordering all of her textbooks. And she’s encouraging everybody else in the class of 2015 at her school to do the same thing. So it’s really fun to be where they are. And it’s a big part of what my wife and I like to do.
But before you had kids, what drove you?
Well, what drove me before that is what drives everybody else. I didn’t have any money. My wife and I were married. We got married, we’re going to be married 23 years. And we needed to earn a living. So we did what we did best and we pursued it and we pursued it. And we tried very hard to do things. Our view was we may not be smarter than everybody else, but we’re going to work harder than everybody else and we’re going to put more oxygen in a room than we take out. And we’re going to win as a team as opposed to individuals. And who knew where that was going to lead.
Did you know this is where you’d end up when you were in school?
I love when I go back to my college at Hobart and William Smith Colleges and they say, “Mr. Rosensweig, did you know what you were going to do?” I was like, “Sure, in 1983 I was certain I was going to be in technology and running giant Internet companies.” Ha. There were no Internet companies and there were barely computers. So when you’re in college you really don’t know where you’re going to end up, but you know who you want to be along that journey. And so, you know, my wife and I have always focused on that. But as it relates to the kids it’s once they really begin to come of age and show their own interests and their own passions, then it’s easier to connect and try to do things around their interests.
And now that the girls are grown up I hear you are volunteering with the Boys & Girls Club ?
Well, I’ve been extremely fortunate in my life. So I actually believe that I’m the living embodiment of living the American dream. So I had immigrant grandparents who came to this country and came for religious freedom and loved it, never made any money, Bronx, Brooklyn, but loved America. And they told me every day it’s the greatest country in the world. You can do anything you want in America and they believed it. And then my mom raised my brother and I and she became a school teacher. And so she was always teaching kids, always, always, always in the classroom, tutoring, teaching my brother and I. And it just seemed like a very noble profession at the time. And my aunts and uncles did a lot of that on my father’s side.
So, you grew up with great teachers and then ended up working in the first part of your career almost exclusively for founders who also became mentors, right?
Yes. I was raised to believe that it takes a village. Everybody believed that in our neighborhood. I grew up in Dobbs Ferry, home of the famous Zuckerbergs. Even my high school football coach was phenomenal. He took all the guys and he cared about beyond football what were you going to do as men, what were you going to do as contributor to the community. And we had a great football team. When I moved into my career, I then had the opportunity to work in and around with Bill Ziff when I was at Ziff Davis and that was extraordinary. And the people he put into place who worked with me, Ronnie Sonnenberg and Eric Hippeau and those people who took time to mentor me and help me build a career. That mentorship is what I experienced throughout my career whether it was at Ziff or at Yahoo. Since then I’m mentored by guys like Bill Campbell now who are incredibly helpful and incredibly supportive. And he’s chairman of Columbia so I mentor at Columbia business school helping kids understand their careers and their jobs.
And now you’re paying it forward?
Yes. We hire for the summer 12 to 14 interns from colleges. And part of the commitment is they not only come in and have jobs, but we actually show a real interest in what they want to do with their lives. And it doesn’t have to be what we do. And we spend time with them and they rotate around and they meet everybody and we ask them their goals. And we try to create opportunities for them to do that. And it just, everybody who does it knows you actually get more out of it than you put in. Because it’s really wonderful to see people succeed.
But you’ve worked with more than college students. Who have you mentored at companies we all know in Silicon Valley?
Many of the people I’ve had a chance to work with are on management teams at Zynga, Facebook or even Jeff Weiner at LinkedIn. It’s just been such an honor to work with great young talent who have found a way to far exceed everything that I ever did. And that’s exciting because you know, there are only 318 million Americans. But there are seven billion people in the world. And we either compete as a country and grow and build and support each other or we don’t. So I’m a big fan of, you know, we come together as a country and really educate people to follow their own passions. It’s not for us to decide what their passions are. But what greater reward is there than to help somebody who has a real passion achieve it?
Or simply pursue it, right?
Or pursue it is even better. They don’t even need to achieve it. I think pursuing is as important as achieving, it’s the journey, not the destination. That’s why I’m excited about the Boys and Girls Club. I thought there was an opportunity for me to help other kids through a terrific organization. Friends of ours, my wife and I, run it, and we’re getting started in two weeks. It should be fun.