For the Thrill of It

Thrillist’s Ben Lerer on the Joys of (Hopefully) Never Having to Raise Capital Again

"I don’t see any reason why next year we couldn’t have 10 to 20 private label brands."
 Thrillists Ben Lerer on the Joys of (Hopefully) Never Having to Raise Capital Again

(Photo: Crunchbase)

It was a very busy morning for Ben Lerer, the 30-year-old Lerer Ventures scion and CEO of men’s lifestyle brand Thrillist. The company announced yesterday that it had closed a $13 million series A, the first outside financing since Thrillist raised a $2 million seed round way back in 2005. Growing Thrillist from a Daily Candy-like daily newsletter to a men’s lifestyle empire with little venture capital in just seven years is no small feat.

“That’s the cool thing for me,” Mr. Lerer told Betabeat by phone this morning, his voice still colored with the excitement of closing a solid round. “That we were able to legit boostrap a business to 200+ people and $60 million in revenue without the money. It really gives me confidence that we have the right habits and the right discipline so that now that we have this money, we’re going to know how to spend it the right way rather than spastically run around spending it.”

The new round was led by Oak Investment Partners and included a follow-on investment from Bob Pittman’s Pilot Group. (“I have such a close and trusting relationship with Bob and the team over there.”) Oak managing partner Fred Harman has known Mr. Lerer for quite some time, so he’s not afraid of the new cash infusion crippling the business’s ability to stick to its guns. “We have a close relationship through everything he did with my father at HuffPo,” said Mr. Lerer. “This isn’t the big bad wolf. This isn’t some scary financial institution. These are people who we trust. I’ve seen how Fred and Bob work with companies in good times and bad.”

Thrillist plans to use the money to build out both its ecommerce platform in JackThreads as well as its media vertical. “I intend to remain profitable,” stressed Mr. Lerer. “The strategy here is, ‘Let’s continue to invest in really high quality content and consumer facing products that bring people happiness.'” This includes identifying some potential acquisition targets to build out verticals where Thrillist hasn’t quite gained traction: travel, gadgets and sports, for example. (“We may be having some conversations, so I can’t spill too much,” teased Mr. Lerer)

Thrillist will also continue to build out its private labels. The two in-house brands are the highest sellers on JackThreads, said Mr. Lerer. “We’ll continue to lean into private label. We’re seeing that we’re really good at creating merch and we understand what our guys want. I don’t see any reason why next year we couldn’t have 10 to 20 private label brands that we own and operate in 20 different categories. It differentiates us from other people in the marketplace.”

With $13 million in hand, Mr. Lerer said, “I see no reason why we would ever need to go raise again, except in the case where we have extreme success where we invest incredibly hard or if we see an acquisition that we’re really jazzed about.” An investor who hates raising? Oh, the irony.

For now, Mr. Lerer is looking forward to executing on his fresh Thrillist strategy and enjoying not worrying about money for a little while. “This is the fun part,” he added.

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