For the Thrill of It
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.”
A bit of late-breaking news for your Thursday: All Things D reports that men’s lifestyle brand Thrillist has raised a $13 million Series A, led by Oak Investment Partners.
Joining the funding fun were family outfit Lerer Ventures and Bob Pittman’s Pilot Group. Pilot was the first firm to put money into Thrillist, helping founder Ben Lerer get off the ground back in 2005 with $2 million in seed money. This is the first outside capital they’ve raised since.
New York is teeming with startups aggressively elbowing for their moment in the spotlight, but sometimes obnoxious levels of networking and gimmicky marketing can only get you so far. Enter Speed Dating for Startups, a new contest born of a Thrillist/Samsung collab that gives wantrepreneurs a chance to strut their stuff on video for the chance to win a prize package.
From July 23 to September 30, users can submit a 30-second video explaining their startup: think of it like a filmed elevator pitch performed on a very, very slow elevator. The top three winners will get face time with some of New York’s most beloved techies, including TechStars cofounder David Tisch and Thrillist’s own Ben Lerer.
In fiction, the experts tell you to write what you know. In founding a company, you’re told to fix the problems you find in your own life. So it makes sense, then that Andy Russell–a leading investor behind email newsletters like Daily Candy, Thrillist, Tasting Table, and PureWow–has decided the world needed InsideHook, another free lifestyle newsletter, but this one targeted to his own demographic: “The discerning, urban, established man who lives a fast-paced and rewarding life,” as the company describes it.
In a visit to Betabeat’s offices last month, Mr. Russell, who helped launch roughly one email property a year for the past eight years as a partner at the powerhouse investment firm Pilot Group, said he recognized the need to cater to the 35-to-55 set by looking at his own life. On date night, he and his wife would end up at the same sushi place around the corner. “My wife looks at me and goes ‘Again? Where’s the guy who climbed Kilimanjaro on our honeymoon?’ Or I used to own a restaurant in the West Village called Moomba. ‘Where’s the guy who started the hottest nightclub/restaurant in New York?'”
Most Fashionable Techies
JackThreads, the members-only shopping site for sartorially savvy fellows, launched a new feature last week that may appeal to those whose shopping habits are calibrated to 1960s-era PanAm flight. The new customer service tool is called “Jill Says,” and it allows members to live chat with an all-female team of customer service representatives and stylists called “The Jills.”
Skeptical that the company would really hire a staff of women to coddle its shoppers in the safe space of a chat box, we ran a quick Turing Test.
“Hello, my name is Jill. I’m your personal stylist today! What can I help you with?”
“Hi! Are you a real person? Or an automated service,” we asked.
“lol I’m real,” she responded. We were already feeling the love.
Dapper dudes, unite: AskMen published a slideshow today of the “Most Stylish Entrepreneurs,” and many fashionable New York businessmen made the list. Hey, at least we’re finally objectifying dude techies the same way we usually do ladies?
“Here is what happens when ambition meets fashion,” declared AskMen in a post partially sponsored by Dell. You’re totally dying to know who made the list, right?
Tasting Table, the daily epicurean email publication in the same vein as Thrillist, doesn’t fancy itself just another “To the trash bin with you!” newsletter. With stringent editorial standards (“no pay for play”) and a management team plucked from established print brands like Condé Nast, Tasting Table is quickly eking out a space for itself in the crowded foodie sphere.
The New York-based startup has doubled their year-over-year revenue for the last two years, and projects revenue of $10 million to $12 million and a count of two million readers by the end of 2012. Tasting Table does it by producing quality editorial work packaged into daily emails, with advertisements for various restaurants and bars sprinkled throughout.
Despite the fact that men’s lifestyle brand Thrillist acquired clothing club JackThreads back in 2010, JackThreads is actually a much bigger brand. So it makes sense that the fashion club for dudes would announce its first private label, Goodale, built in-house and exclusively for JackThreads members.
the startup rundown
It’s no Flatiron, but these days Soho is a popular place to locate your startup. One building alone, 568 Broadway, is home to Thrillist, Foursquare, ZocDoc, and 10Gen. But it wasn’t so long ago that the neighborhood was an entirely different beast, and today offered a pretty bleak reminder as FBI investigators closed a stretch of Prince Street. They were digging for the body of first grader Etan Patz, who vanished 33 years ago and inspired a nationwide kidnapping panic.
2×2^2. April 16 is officially 4sqDay in New York and over a dozen other cities around the country. The fan-created social media holiday’s official celebration will begin at 7 p.m. at The Caulfield. Check out the community blog and RSVP here.
CAPITAL IDEA. General Assembly is bringing back “Assembled Capital,” an all day event dedicated to getting startups funded. The $200 (plus a $4.97 fee) to get in is a bit steep, but breakfast, lunch and booze are totally included! The event will include talks, panels and plenty of elbow-rubbing time with the like of Squarespace’s Anthony Casalena, TechStars NYC’s David Tisch, Charlie O’Donnell of Brooklyn Bridge Ventures, Shane Snow of Contently and many others.
AIRbnFREE. Airbnb is teaming up with Thrillist and sponsoring Tour de Thrillist, a bicoastal race to discover all that LA, Vegas, Austin, Philly and of course NYC have to offer. Up for grabs is a five-destination trip and free Airbnb accommodations. Cross your fingers and enter the sweepstakes here.