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Personalities

Personalities

The Clone Collector: Meet New York Superangel Fabrice Grinda, Master of Digital Knockoffs

Mr. Grinda speaking at LeWeb 2011. (flickr.com/leweb)

Fabrice Grinda, the French-born Internet mogul best known for duplicating American companies across the globe, is taller—6’3″—and handsomer than he looks in his hundreds of pictures online, with thick eyebrows a few shades darker than his hair. He speaks rapidly and pronounces almost every word, including “entrepreneur,” in a near perfect American accent. “Ultimately, I was not a super creative guy,” he said, resting his arms behind his head and propping one smooth leather loafer on the edge of the coffee table in his sparse Chelsea office.

In 1996, Mr. Grinda was a 21-year-old analyst at McKinsey & Company, where he watched the Internet bubble inflate from his small, windowless office and worried that he might miss his chance to strike it rich. Problem was, he didn’t have any ideas. That’s when he decided innovation was overrated.

“Screw creativity and originality,” he recalled telling himself. “I’m going to take a U.S. idea and bring it to Europe.”

As an entrepreneur, Mr. Grinda copied eBay for France. Then he copied a European business selling cellphone ringtones for the U.S. He now runs OLX, a Craigslist knockoff he founded that is now bigger than Craigslist itself. By night—and in sporadic meetings throughout the week—he’s a so-called superangel, with 96 investments.

The majority of his portfolio? Clones. “Copies of established ideas,” he clarified. “‘Established,’ meaning $100 million in sales for the original model, and profitable or on a clear path to profitability.” Among his investments are a Diapers.com for Russia, a Grubhub for China, a Diapers.com for Germany, a Jetsetter for Turkey, a Stubhub and Eventbrite for Spain and Latin America, a Warby Parker for France, and an Airbnb, an Expedia, a Gilt and a PayPal for Brazil. Read More

Personalities

Jonah Peretti’s Meme Streak

20 Photos

'Going Viral'

Jonah Peretti’s office has two glass walls, two white walls and no decoration except for a giant, multicolored rectangle, with blue and violet hues fading upward and coalescing into a tight little rainbow wheel at the top. The Brooklyn artist Cory Archangel, a friend of Mr. Peretti’s, makes these “gradient paintings” with one click in Photoshop, blows them up and sells them for lots of money, Mr. Peretti said. It is, in his words, “kind of a joke.”

Mr. Peretti, 38, a navy-eyed, wavy-haired nerd-king with a machine-gun giggle, was a cofounder of the Huffington Post before he moved on to other things. He likes these gradient paintings a lot. His Twitter page is also a gradient. Mr. Peretti, a career mischief maker with a “great, sort of trollish sense of humor,” as one former employee put it, likes jokes best when they’re subversive. He’s infamous for arguing that Mormonism is superior to Judaism because of its growing numbers, a shtick he uses in presentations. As a grad student at MIT in 2001, he ordered a pair of custom Nikes embroidered with the word “sweatshop,” extracting a series of awkward emails from an unlucky customer service rep. He forwarded the emails to a few friends, who forwarded them to their friends, and so on. Literally millions of people have read them. Read More

Personalities

Web MD: Can Williamsburg’s Techie Doc Sell Health Consciousness to the Masses?

jayparkinson-headshot

Jay Parkinson, the man Fast Company dubbed “The Doctor of the Future” in 2009, was lounging in his Williamsburg backyard, a few blocks from the Bedford stop on the L. It was a sleepy afternoon, interrupted only by the occasional sound of his Goldendoodle, Buddy, crunching on a bone, or his neighbors, on the other side of the fence, giving their pet pig what sounded like a bath.

The Bose radio in the kitchen piped soothing Dixieland standards past the verdant rose bushes. Dr. Parkinson went sockless in his loafers. He wore navy seersucker shorts and had his chambray shirt unbuttoned to somewhere around his fourth rib, revealing a tight, tanned torso. Life seemed swell.

“I was the doctor of the tech community,” the 35-year-old Dr. Parkinson recalled of his emergence on the scene several years ago. “It was just my first practice, but I got a ton of press and a lot of hits. So, like, anybody young and creative in New York would call me up to be their doctor.” Read More