Jonah Peretti, founder and CEO of BuzzFeed, and Will Porteous, GP at RRE Ventures, indulge in a refreshingly candid conversation as founder and initial investor of BuzzFeed, respectively. They share perspectives from their respective sides of the table on a variety of issues from scaling BuzzFeed and business model shifts to investor-founder relationships. Today, BuzzFeed is a media house behemoth counting the likes of a16z as investors and clocking an MAU (monthly active users) of over 200M.

Some of our key takeaways from the conversation:

  1. Identifying Market Trends:
    The best entrepreneurs are intellectually interested in something, and are lucky if what they are interested in becomes a big trend. Investors, on the other hand, are more focused on identifying these underlying trends and then finding founders who are passionate about building a company riding that trend.
  2. Moving Away from Display Advertising:
    BuzzFeed made a conscious choice to move away from display advertising and focus on branded content instead. This came on the back of the belief that a business’ core technology should be directly correlated to revenue, and not focus on creating inventory that is then sold like a commodity. BuzzFeed now works with brands to write and promote content for them.
  3. Hiring Secret Sauce:
    Hiring is one of the CEOs most important jobs, and their team, arguably, the most important asset. Jonah focuses on (1) people with area expertise, preferring those who are the best at something vs. good at many; and (2) diversity of experience to bring in new perspectives, when hiring for BuzzFeed.

Below are some of the key conversation points and moments from the conversation:

  • 01:00 – Will was introduced to Jonah and to BuzzFeed by Chris Dixon, who is now a partner at Andreessen Horowitz
  • 03:40 – Jonah was a graduate @MIT media labs, doing research on media and tech; he started BuzzFeed on the side (whilst still at Huff Post) to test some of the technologies he was building to understand content virality
  • 05:50 – BuzzFeed on-boarded RRE as their first external investors; RRE invested in Buzzfeed based on Jonah’s understanding of virality and the team he had built
  • 07:50 – BuzzFeed moved away from display advertising and focused more on branded content
  • 11:40 – Founders and investors should have a shared long-term vision for the company, allowing for investment into long-term growth
  • 14:30 – Investors typically focus on market trends to invest in, whilst entrepreneurs are more focused on their passions and are lucky if those align with existing trends
  • 17:40 – Q&A: What traits should you look out for, when hiring talent?
  • 20:30 – Q&A: Will BuzzFeed focus on podcasts?
  • 22:20 – Q&A: Did BuzzFeed ride on a trend vs. create a new trend?


Speakers

CEO, Buzzfeed