His first company was part of the dot-com era in New York, and his second venture, Weblogs, Inc., a publishing company that he co-founded together with Brian Alvey, capitalized on the growth of blogs before being sold to AOL. In addition to being an angel investor in various technology startups, Calacanis also presents at industry conferences worldwide.
Jason Calacanis in January 2008
Calacanis started his career in the 1990s as a reporter covering the internet industry in New York.
Calacanis's biggest success to date is Weblogs, Inc., which was sold to AOL in 2005.
Before forming Weblogs, Inc., Calacanis was founder and CEO of Rising Tide Studios, a media company that published print and online publications. During the dot-com boom, Calacanis was active in New York's Silicon Alley community, and in 1996 began producing the Silicon Alley Reporter. Originally a 16-page photocopied newsletter, it eventually expanded into a 300-page magazine, with a sister publication called the Digital Coast Reporter for the West Coast. Calacanis' socializing earned him a nickname as the "yearbook editor" of the Silicon Alley community. The company also organized conferences in New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco focused on the Internet, web, and New Media. With the end of the Dot-com bubble, Silicon Alley Reporter failed, and the company was sold out of bankruptcy to a private equity firm.
He launched the web directory Mahalo ("thank you" in Hawaiian), which raised $20 million in venture capital from investors including Sequoia Capital, News Corp, CBS, Mark Cuban, and Elon Musk. The company hit a peak of 15 million unique visitors a month and achieved profitability in 2011, but suffered a sharp decline in traffic that year from the Google Panda search algorithm update and shut down in 2014.
Calacanis founded ThisWeekIn.com, which shut down in 2012 but is live again and available as a weekly podcast.
In 2009, Calacanis founded the Open Angel Forum, an event that connects early-stage startups with angel investors. The forum was the culmination of a series of public comments by Calacanis questioning the ethics of pay-to-pitch angel forums. Calacanis believes startups shouldn't have to pay to pitch angel investors, calling out fees that can range from $1,000 to $8,000 for a single 10- or 15-minute presentation. Calacanis is an angel investor in Robin Hood, wealthfront, Uber, desktop metal, datastax, thumbtack, superhuman and trello.
Calacanis raised a $10 million fund for his own venture investment firm to invest in startups that emerged from the Launch conference. Limited partners in the fund include David Sacks. Following the success of the Launch conference, Calacanis declared his intent to get closer and more involved in the new ventures that emerged from that conference. The level of investment was around $25,000 to $100,000 in five to 10 startups per year.
Calacanis publicly announced in 2018 that he had sold all of his Facebook stock, expressing sharp criticism of company CEO and co-founder Mark Zuckerberg on the Too Embarrassed to Ask podcast. He called Zuckerberg "completely immoral" in how he runs the business and said, "No founder should ever sell a company to him."
Calacanis authored a book titled "Angel: How to Invest in Technology Startups—Timeless Advice from an Angel Investor Who Turned $100,000 into $100,000,000" on angel investing published by HarperCollins in 2017.