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How Comedian Chris Hardwick Built a Media Empire for Nerds

Nerdist CEO Chris Hardwick got his start on MTV in the early 1990s. But at heart, he’s always been a big nerd.

“When I was young, Comic Cons were a safe space. You know, before we could kind of be public about the stuff that we were into without the fear of getting judged or beaten up or whatever. Comic Con is a safe space, I want Nerdist to be a safe space,” Hardwick told Fortune.

Nerdist Industries, his small media empire that celebrates all things geek, has grown from a personal website where Hardwick shared his tech and science work, to a successful podcast with a loyal following, to a full-fledged business. Today, its podcast network has 49 shows, including the original Hardwick-hosted Nerdist podcast which receives 6.9 million monthly downloads. Nerdist also produces a website with news shows, a YouTube channel with almost 1.5 million subscribers, a channel on video gaming network Twitch, and even improv comedy events.

“Sort of like Sim City: The goal is to have this perfectly functioning civilization, you know? We’re just setting up little camps,” Hardwick said, naturally reaching for a video gaming metaphor to explain his company’s approach to expanding to different media platforms and formats.

“We’re just trying to create arteries that connect everything and feed off of each other and help each other grow to this large aggregate organism,” he added.

In 2012, Nerdist was acquired by the movie production company Legendary Entertainment. Though Nerdist was Legendary’s first fully digital property, it has since added comedienne and actress Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls, and actress Felicia Day’s Geek & Sundry.