QA: Tony Hawk on Taking His Business to the Next Level

Skateboard icon Tony Hawk carves out some time to talk Twitter, Shred and his new business book.
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This story appears in the January 2011 issue of . Subscribe »

Tony Hawk
Tony Hawk
Photo(C) Getty Images/Jordan Strauss

The last time we talked with Tony Hawk, CEO and "chief trick-rider" of Tony Hawk Inc., he was nervous about the release of Tony Hawk: Ride, a video game that debuted an expensive skateboard-shaped controller. Just a year later, he's rolling out a sequel, Tony Hawk: Shred, and a business book, How Did I Get Here? The Ascent of an Unlikely CEO. We caught up with Hawk at Activision Studios in Santa Monica, Calif., and in between Shred test runs, he told us about what's next, and how social media has made his business bigger, better and, somehow, even cooler.

You were "scared to death" about Ride.
Well, it was uncharted territory. Some people really panned Ride, and others enjoyed it, but we noticed the younger Wii crowd enjoyed it the most, so with Shred, we're giving the kids what they want. The controls are much tighter, the stunts and levels are more massive, and we added snowboarding because my vision was to have a board control that could be used for different sports.

You're so plugged in to your audience. The book even includes e-mails and tweets from fans and critics.
Staying in touch is the most essential thing to running my business, and I've been saving a lot of those over the years. Some are just too funny not to share, and some really hit home with why I made certain business choices, like working with companies that would bring merchandise down to certain price points.

Do you have a tweeting philosophy?
I only share things that I think are really funny, or real experiences, like the time I found myself at the Great Wall and took a picture. I've been offered money to tweet specific talking points or promotions, but I won't. I'll do it in my own voice if it's something I believe in, but I won't put it in their wording, because then that isn't real.

How did you get 2 million followers?
Treasure hunts and giveaways! One day I was driving to my office with a brand new skateboard and thought "What if I just hide this? How fast would it be found?" I left the board, and by the time I got to my office, there was a frenzy of retweets, and someone had found it within 15 minutes. I'm not lost on the fact that because I give stuff away, people want to follow me. But that's OK. It's fun.

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