By John Rogan
Named in honor of the late former professor Charles G. Manoli who passed away in August of 2016, the Manoli Lecture Series at Saint Vincent College is a program that invites prominent speakers involved with the college to give lectures on various subjects.
The latest speaker is SVC alumna Michael Kriak, class of ’96. Kriak, current media circle global lead for ConsenSys and LGBTQ+ advocate, has had a very prolific and successful career since his graduation, from his time as CFO/COO of online entertainment conglomerate Mashable to his current activity as a Broadway producer.
Prior to his lecture, Krisk spoke of his work at ConsenSys, his work as a Broadway producer and LGBTQ+ issues on campus.
“It’s probably been 13 years since I’ve been back,” Kriak said on his return to Saint Vincent College.
Kriak stated that the school’s infrastructure is fascinating to see, and that he “loved the opportunity to speak to some of the web design folks and some of the web design students today, and some of the theatre class students,” although, he said, […] [he] was joking with the archabbot that the “underground” should be reopened.
“It was, for me when I was here, a little comedy club in the basement” Kriak stated.
Kriak described Blockchain, the subject of his lecture, as “technology,” a code and system to create a fundamental change in the way the Internet operates, and predominantly change the dynamics in relation to how value is created, and how people participate in that value.
“In the present iteration of the Internet, [it’s] centralized organizations, like Facebook and Google,” Kriak stated.
Kriak spoke of his current Broadway show The Prom, a musical-comedy set to an original story and original music, “which is very important.”
“It is a story that makes you very happy and joyful, and makes you love and appreciate the people that are around you, and the opportunity and the inclusion of people around you,” Kriak said.
According to Kriak, the story involves over-the-top, larger-than-life Broadway stars who, somewhat randomly, find a young woman in high school on Twitter who lives in the Midwest and who wants to bring her girlfriend to the prom.
“The story focuses on these individuals, and the right to love who you want to love, and to have inclusion and the strength of acceptance, and that’s really important,” Kriak said.
On his specific role as a Broadway producer, Kriak stated that it has similarities to his previous work.
“I’ve worked in digital media for years, and the ingredients are the same,” Kriak said. “It’s good stories, it’s building an audience that’s connecting with people, punching through the noise to gain attention, and to develop a connection with individuals. The medium is just different.”
At Mashable, Kriak said, they were reaching a 100 million people across multiple social platforms.
“A theatre is one where you get to do that, and get really personal, and kinetic, and that’s super special,” Kriak said.
Kriak then discussed his role in Backstage Capital, describing it as a a “seed-venture capitol firm,” specifically focused on helping entrepreneurs that are women of color, “[which is the] reality of the venture community at large, particularly within Silicon Valley and New York.”
Kriak stated that something like 85 to 90 percent of all venture dollars go to male young entrepreneurs.
“Inclusion is important, and you have to, at times, be able to create platforms so that people that are underrepresented are being represented,” he said.
Kriak said, in regard to the recent rejection of an LGBTQ+ group on campus, that there are values that speak of equality and compassion and care and diversity, and that those should certainly be represented across the board.
“I think that there should be great care given to support to people, period, for whatever, whoever they are, whatever they express,” he stated. “I would definitely advocate for having that, and giving [an LGBT+ group] a try again […] certainly the values that I just mentioned are the ones that would be in line with the values of the campus.”
Kriak explained that campus involvement in LGBTQ+ issues were nonexistent prior to his graduation.
“I don’t think there was ever an attempt,” Kriak stated. “I love that people want to try that now and want to be able to develop that.”
In regard to whether he believed Saint Vincent College was a safe environment for LGBTQ+ students, Kriak stated that he has not been here that often, so he would hope that it is.
“I would imagine that any expressions of violence would be met with condemnation, regardless of orientation, race or gender,” he said.
“Make your voices heard,” said Kriak, when asked if he had any advice to give LGBTQ+ students on issues they might encounter on campus. “There should be reasons, if there’s any reason you feel that your voices aren’t being heard, or that there’s injustice being done, certainly all individuals need to respect that.”