Documentary Chronicles the Return of a Former Tech Mogul

Josh Harris lost everything in dot-com bust; he's back with tell-all film.

ByABC News
September 6, 2009, 1:52 PM

Sept. 6, 2009 — -- There was a time, around the turn of the millennium, when Josh Harris was a giant.

His stock for Jupiter Communications, his first Internet company, was worth $80 million at some point, and he started an Internet video company years before YouTube was introduced. Back then he boldly predicted to "60 Minutes," "I'm in a race to take CBS out of business."

Harris, no relation to this reporter, threw even more millions into building a fully wired bunker in Manhattan, where scores of people had their every move -- even in the shower and the bathroom -- recorded and broadcast. It was called "We Live in Public."

In a newly released documentary, also called "We Live in Public," Harris is painted as having foreseen the age of Facebook and Twitter, where users voluntarily give the world the details of their lives.

"People don't look up anymore. They walk around like this, clicking," says New York Times reporter Abby Ellin in the film. "We are slaves to these little digital boxes. [Harris] was saying this is the way it's going to be. And he was right."

But Harris rapidly and radically unraveled. His Manhattan bunker, which was filled with firearms and even an interrogation room, was raided by police.

He and his girlfriend moved into an apartment where they broadcast their every move live to an interactive online audience, which led to a public and messy break up.

Then the tech bubble burst and Harris lost nearly everything. "It was a nervous breakdown," Harris told ABC News. "It was a complete official meltdown."

Today Harris lives in a friend's pool house in Los Angeles. "I've got basically five bags," he says. "I can be outta here in five minutes." He also plays poker a few days a week at a casino to make a living.

After spending several years on an apple farm in upstate New York and then moving and starting a company in Ethiopia, Harris sees the new movie about his life as his ticket back to the big time.

He's now tooling around Hollywood in a borrowed Corvette, pitching a show that captures all the video streams that people are putting up on the Internet from their Webcams at home. The videos capture and broadcast brutally intimate moments of people's lives.