Jason Katz is the founder and CEO of Paltalk.com. Jason oversees the strategic direction of Paltalk and also manages the company’s system architecture. Jason is an authority on instant messaging as well as web based voice and video. Jason previously co-founded MJ Capital, a money management firm. Earlier in his career, he was a corporate lawyer at the New York City office of Fulbright & Jaworski.
SM: Jason, tell us about your background. Where are you from?
JK: I grew up in New York City in modest circumstances. Growing up in the city was not a great way for me to grow up because I like outdoors and sports. It was hard finding places to play sports sometimes. My family story is the typical American story. My grandparents came to this country with nothing in their pockets. I credit my father as being the most entrepreneurial of them. I knew early on that I would rather start a business than work for someone else.
SM: What about education?
JK: I went to the University of Pennsylvania. It was an excellent place to be and I graduated with a degree in economics. The Wharton School is a very good school that gives you many different opportunities. I like economics because I enjoy the challenge of trying to understand how world economics work as a whole.
My next step was law school at NYU. A legal background is very good as well for entrepreneurs. I did take the bar and am admitted, but I knew very early on that I was never going to practice. The NYU curriculum was substantial and allowed me to elect courses to enhance my business background. Students also gained access to the NYU business school, which enabled me to complete some coursework there.
SM: What did you do after law school?
JK: I graduated in 1988, which was a year after the stock market crash. Any job in business was extremely hard to come by at the time. Wall Street was laid off all over the place. Law jobs were readily available, but I knew that I did not want to work in law. Fortunately, during my first summer at law school I interned for a risk arbitrageur. That is somebody who invests in companies involved in mergers and acquisitions. I levied that experience when I left law school.
I decided to co-found a business, MJ Capital, to create a boutique investment company that could supply people with advice about stocks, bonds or commodities. It was like a full-service firm, just smaller. I obtained my Series 7 license for stock, a Series 3 for commodities, and a Series 23 which was General Principle. We worked at that business for five years and built a very nice clientele.
For various reasons we split up. The majority of the company went to Oppenheimer and I left. I then found myself working with a family business, which is where I gained my love of technology. I spent five years running and building computer networks in the early days of the Internet. I started learning about computer to computer voice calling as well as instant messaging. In 1998, I came up with the idea of combining an IM with the ability to talk. Skype did that many years after but we were the first company to combine a buddy list and allow voice conversations. That was really the first version of Paltalk, which was launched in 1999.