MICHAEL & MARCUS / COFOUNDERS WORLDS FAIR USA / BROOKLYN NY
Meet Michael and Marcus. They are determined to recreate the first world’s fair in the US since 1984. I was drawn to their dynamism and passion for unifying communities on a global scale through a highly innovative, sustainable, and educational motive. These guys have big dreams and are already making them happen through their micro fair, Worlds Fair Nano, that kicked off a few months ago. They are lovers of the future, champions of equality, admirers of the obscure, and my goodness, they are Blooming like lil onions.
How will you Bloom in the next year?
MIKE: I want to Bloom by seeing that there are a couple hundred thousand people who are interested in trying out all the future shit that I like. That's what I'm focusing on.
Worlds Fair USA is an effort to organize the first world’s fair in the US since 1984. My interest in the fair started when I noticed that every time a world’s fair would happen historically, the future would come with it. From the telephone, to the elevator, to live broadcast television, to the Seattle Space Needle, to the Palace of Fine Arts, to the Eiffel Tower, to the Ferris Wheel, to the Maglev train, to the first Ford Mustang…man, to the ice cream cone, which is my favorite. To the Belgian waffle in 1964 in New York, to the moving sidewalk in 1983 in Chicago—very few people know that one obviously—what I noticed is that the world’s fair places a massive collective deadline on progress because it is a finite thing that exists over six months and happens to include tens of millions of people, billions of dollars, and years of preparation. It’s like a super sink or swim thing and when you force people to swim, more often than not, they do and because of the scale of a world's fair, the strokes that people take happen to be world changing.
So yeah, over the next year I want to Bloom by showing that more people have the kind of excitement for the future that the world’s fair creates, which based off of what we saw in New York a just couple of months ago with our First Worlds Fair Nano which was a mini World’s Fair, I think we'll Bloom like an onion.
Describe an obstacle that you've overcome both personal and professional.
MARCUS: As a kid I was always very shy, never really wanted to interact that much or was always very nervous to jump into social situations. I put myself in a sales role when I moved to the city. I realized that I developed a lot of other skills while I was in college, like great analytical skills and logical problem-solving skills but I really hadn’t developed my skills as a salesperson. I started to realize that as I looked at the business people that I wanted to emulate and become, I needed to be better as a self-promoter. It was very sink or swim and I had to force myself to develop the skills.
MIKE: Yeah, so I guess like, personal and professional—I don't really separate those two things. I don't believe in work-life balance. It’s just like, you have your time and the same time between being born and dying is all of your time, so why split it in two? It doesn't really make sense to me. So anyway, the biggest challenge was that I spent one year—a little over a year—working on my idea to recreate the world’s fair and when I first decided to do it I was like, "Friends, family, I'm doing a World’s Fair!” and obviously it made sense to nobody. Not that people weren't supportive, but they definitely didn't understand it.
Spending a year working on something alone is a very long time to be alone and not have this sort of validation that you get from another human mind saying this, “thing is good.” The way I overcame that was just by doubling and tripling down on my understanding of why this thing. The world’s fair is the thing that I want to do with my time, and as long as I was able to keep answering like, "Why is what I'm doing good?” and “Why should I continue doing it?" As long as I was able to come up those answers, I would keep going.
So why should you continue doing it?
MIKE: The world’s fair is good because it generates excitement for the future, which results in massive progressions that happen to be human-wide because of the scale of the Fair. And then, you know, I guess I'm interested to see humanity progress, because I believe living is better than not living and if living is good you should make it maximum.
I was drawn to worlds fair usa because of your community-building aspects of your mission. What do you hope to achieve with regards to unifying communities?
MIKE: So the goal is for the world’s fair to become a massive international community—literally we hope to see 100 million people come to the same place over six months in 2022. And then we will engage a lot more in person over the years leading up to and during the fair through digital. The essence of the community is excitement for the future and excitement for progress and hope. It's a productive kind of mindset where you can think that it's okay to take your best guess at what you think your version of the future is and try it out. That's what the world’s fair is about.
MARCUS: The world’s fair is awesome because it's a platform to do anything and everything. I think any problem that you want to solve, there's a place at the world’s fair to do that. If we're successful we'll have not only every country in the world participating, but we'll have every political and social group as well, and we'll have one overarching problem that we hope to solve.
At your event, Worlds Fair Nano, you had storytelling elements surrounding ideas for the future. How did you come up with this presentation model and what value do you think it brought to the experience?
MIKE: Yeah, so the talks were awesome, and each person had a talk title called “The Future of…”. In particular what we liked about it was that whether it was The Future of Books or The Future of Dating or The Future of Species Design or The Future of Art, we had someone who was an entrepreneur and an expert in that field come talk about that future. And what was so cool about it was that because we positioned it as "The Future of…” it inspired the visitors to think more deeply about, "Wow! What is the future of cities? I have no idea. I've never thought about it.”
And so it's like, aside from the educational aspect of people coming to learn, it helped people think critically about their views on the future of these things, which ultimately is their future. It's cool.
I always ask about feminism. So where do you get your feminism from and is there any way that Worlds Fair USA can reduce gender inequality?
MIKE: A hundred percent. I do consider myself a feminist and you know, for me, I think it all comes down to values and I know what my values are and like, as far as gender equality goes, to me it doesn't make sense because for example, if Laura is the best person to do a job whereas I'm not, Laura should do it, and we should pay her and she should be the one to do it. That's just obvious to me.
MARCUS: My whole household was a very equal household. Like neither my mom nor my dad cooked. Neither my mom nor my dad cleaned. They both worked full-time jobs and on top of that they were both the exact same job role. They are both CEOs of a family-run business in the same company, so they are Co-CEOs, and it's not how most companies are structured. There were no gender roles in my household and I really think it’s a better way to live.
MIKE: What's beautiful about Worlds Fair USA is that all the Fair cares about is creation, innovation, and progress and we do not care where that comes from which is the ultimate equalizer because if all you care about is a better tomorrow then it truly doesn't matter who does it.
So finally, what is your big dream with regards to the Worlds Fair USA and beyond?
MIKE: My biggest goal with Worlds Fair USA is to build a model that can be replicated and help build renewable cities for the future. I'm a firm believer that human life is good and should continue and I think it's obvious that the biggest obstacle to that is climate and unsustainable practices like energy consumption. We're obviously having a bit of a tough time transitioning our global energy practices to a more sustainable future and I think a world’s fair could be an incredible catalyst, a very practical way to make building that renewable future affordable. I'd also love to see a world’s fair happen on Mars or another planet to act as a kickoff to another colony.
Why is there no apostrophe in your company’s name Worlds Fair USA?
It's funny, there's no apostrophe. The reason we ditched the apostrophe is because with an apostrophe, which is how world’s fair is typically spelled, it's possessive but without the apostrophe it can be plural, which has a dual meaning. One meaning being for other planets, and the second meaning that it represents all of the multitude of worlds that exist in our one world, like all of the people and everything.
Additionally, the actual logo is moving—the logo is alive, just like the world. We chose the double helix because we wanted something that was commonly human since the world’s fair is for everybody. One helix represents technology the other represents art, and then where they intersect to create the chromosomes, that represents human culture. And it's constantly moving and changing color because culture is ultimately varied and constantly changing.
Interview transcribed by @Brian_Dresner