A meeting of Ben Rubins: CNET's and Meerkat's

Chanting, flowers -- it's the story of what happened when CNET reporter Ben Rubin decided to interview Meerkat CEO Ben Rubin.

Ben Fox Rubin Former senior reporter
Ben Fox Rubin was a senior reporter for CNET News in Manhattan, reporting on Amazon, e-commerce and mobile payments. He previously worked as a reporter for The Wall Street Journal and got his start at newspapers in New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts.
Ben Fox Rubin
3 min read

Meerkat's Ben Rubin, right, and CNET's Ben Rubin.
Meerkat's Ben Rubin, right, and CNET's Ben Rubin. Richard Peterson/CNET

NEW YORK -- I never thought the most romantic moment in my life would happen when I met a total stranger with the same name.

Up until then, I'd been annoyed at this other Ben Rubin.

Seemingly out of nowhere, this guy using my name became the talk of the tech world because he was the founder and CEO of Meerkat, which lets people live-broadcast videos right from their phones. Meerkat became a breakout hit at this year's South by Southwest conference in Austin, Texas. Now the two-month-old startup is getting even more attention as it battles Periscope, a similar app from Twitter.

For me, things started innocently enough. At first, a few friends and colleagues would inquire playfully, "Hey, you know you have the same name as that Meerkat guy, right?"

"No, damn it, he has my name!" I'd say, working hard to convey my disdain over the interloper.

Then my Google search for "Ben Rubin" (something I check almost hourly) became overwhelmed with a torrent of Meerkat stories. After that, some smarty-pants public relations rep sent me an email with the subject line: "Congratulations on your new funding round..."

This was getting out of hand. I realized I needed to meet Ben Rubin and set the record straight that I am the real Ben Rubin. I got my chance this past week at TechCrunch Disrupt in New York.

But, before I confronted the more-famous me, I knew I needed some help. I contacted The Verge's Silicon Valley editor Casey Newton.

Newton wrote a story in March titled, "I, Casey Newton, interviewed a man named Casey Newton about his startup," in which he, Casey Newton, talks to a startup CEO named Casey Newton. He also wrote a story about Ben Rubin (not me) and Meerkat that, fittingly, published on my birthday. If Newton couldn't help me, no one could.

"I would definitely say do a little bit of homework," Newton told me last week about preparing for my big interview. When I pressed him for specifics, he responded, "I would find out his full name -- his first, middle and last. And then I would chant it seven times into the mirror and see if anything happens."

Armed with a handful of invaluable tips like that one, I felt ready to confront the other Ben Rubin at Disrupt.

Watch this: Ben Rubin meets Ben Rubin

Meerkat's Ben Rubin first had an onstage interview and then appeared live on Fox Business, all from the Manhattan Center. Now it was my turn for the interview. But before I could say anything, Ben Rubin was already walking right over to me, his outstretched arm holding a bouquet of a dozen red roses. "These are for you!" he said.

Roses? No one ever gave me roses, let alone a guy named Ben Rubin. I suddenly realized how wrong I was.

It ends up the other Ben Rubin -- as Newton had warned me -- is a bubbly, funny guy who was more than happy to welcome another Ben Rubin into his life.

Meerkat's Rubin onstage at TechCrunch Disrupt. Ben Fox Rubin/CNET

Despite that, I still went after him with a series of demands. I asked the 27-year-old Israeli-born Ben Rubin to apologize for gaining so much attention using my name. He immediately did. I asked him to step down from Meerkat and do something more boring with his life. He complied (jokingly, of course) and said perhaps I could take his place. Clearly, this was one impressive Ben Rubin. One of the few things he wouldn't agree to do was change his name -- I threw out the ideas of George W. Bush, Lance Armstrong or Ashlee Simpson, which I still think are perfectly reasonable suggestions.

I asked Ben Rubin what it was like to suddenly get so much attention for his work. He said he felt lucky and appreciated the chance to tell his story.

"We're doing our thing," he said of his team. "If we get attention, it's great. If not, it's still great."

"Is that your advice to me?" I asked. "If I plan on blowing up at some point, just keep doing what you love doing?"

"Exactly, exactly," he said. "Just do what you love."

"I might as well just quote myself in the story," I replied.

"Quote yourself in the story, dude," he said. "The story is about Ben Rubin."

We soon parted ways. Later that night I gave the roses to my wife. She asked me where they came from.

"Ben Rubin," I said, and left it at that.