In this episode of Founder Stories, Chris Dixon sits down with Thrillist Co-founder and CEO, Ben Lerer (who is also a partner with his father Ken Lerer in Lerer Ventures). Targeted towards young men, Thrillist is a “platform for guys” that offers “both local and national content and commerce smooshed into one place” says Lerer.
Inspired by Bob Pitman’s Daily Candy (Pitman is an early investor in Thrillist), Lerer founded Thrillist a couple years out of college. Before he figured out that he wanted to create a city guide for guys, he and his co-founder went through a lot of “get rich quick schemes” with the common thread that they knew nothing about any of them. The only thing they really knew about was “frivolous fun and buying stupid shit.” And thus Thrillist was born. A guide for guys with the voice of a national men’s magazine but a local focus.
Today, the site has a loyal following of between 3 and 4 million male subscribers, who are highly attractive to brand advertisers but also very hard to reach. Lerer built the advertising and content business to a respectable 8-figure in annual revenues, but then he looked around at social commerce companies like Groupon and Gilt and thought he could grab a piece of that by setting up parallel commerce businesses and cross-selling to his demographic. So last year he bought JackThreads, a group buying site for men’s threads. In January, he layered on a deals business with Thrillist Rewards.
Revenues shot through the roof. Lerer projects Thrillist will reach “about $40 million in revenue this year, almost tripling from last year.” He now employs 115 people, up from 45 last year. Not bad for a business based on frivolous shit.
Watch previous episodes of Founder Stories here.