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New York’s New Media Moguls Are Making Waves


So, just where ARE the new jobs in this economy?

They’re out there . . . especially if you are in New York City and you have what it takes to be a new media entrepreneur.

That is according to a panel of New York’s most successful Internet impresarios, who shared their personal startup stories and career secrets on March 16 at “Digital Entrepreneurs 2.0,” on Fordham’s Lincoln Center campus.

The panelists: Adam Rich, co-founder of Thrillist; Stella Grizont, managing director of Ladies Who Launch; Jonah Peretti, co-founder of Huffington Post and BuzzFeed, and Steve Gordon, an entertainment attorney, have benefited from the city government’s push to attract and accommodate Internet startups by offering office space and other incentives.

They have also, Peretti said, ridden a wave of change from traditional business models to a cyber-based model taking shape.

“One of the things you see with Internet companies is that they have a small number of employees able to reach a large audience, so there is an operating leverage that you don’t see in the traditional businesses,” said Peretti, whose Huffington Post site has 100 employees and gets 40 million visitors per month. “We have a company that reaches more people than the Washington Postand the Wall Street Journal—with a much smaller team. It’s definitely a shift.”

Rich, 29-year-old co-founder and editor of the men’s lifestyle newsletter Thrillist, recalled the “super-scary” moment when his site, which he started in 2005 with his own funds, got too big to manage in addition to his day job. Rich quit the day job.

“My partner and I went on to raise institutional funding,” he said, “but only after we’d developed a product with thousands of users.”

The top reasons why women are launching their own Internet businesses, said Grizont, are for lifestyle changes, more creativity and for money. What attracts them to Ladies Who Launch, an online training and support site for women in business, is the site’s vast gender-specific startup resources and style.

“For women, doing what you love is just as great as having a global brand,” Grizont said. “You find women leaving their corporate tracks because they want to change their lifestyle, maybe develop it around their kids … or something they enjoy.”

She referenced two female entrepreneurs: Allison Jagtiani, a former banker who became a baker with a successful Manhattan-based GoJi berry cookie line, and Jen Gruber, a mother of twins who patented a mom-friendly handbag.

“It is really about taking a leap, following your gut, and seeing where it leads,” she said.

As a former director of business affairs at Sony Music and legal consultant to MTV, Steve Gordon called himself an example of the transition from an old economy to a new economy.

“Because of digital technology, the record business is way off,” said Gordon, author of The Future of the Music Business: How to Succeed with the New Technologies (Backbeat, 2005). “Those corporations I worked with got treated very badly, and in turn, treated us badly.”

Gordon said that once he no longer had an “old world” company brand to attach to, he embraced entrepreneurship. “I’ve emerged pretty well. I brand myself with my book, with my podcasts, and with my teaching.”

The panelists predicted that future of digital entrepreneurship would include strong branding, strategic partnerships and innovative media even more “annoying” than Twitter.

“Then there’s a quote from (ad executive) Allen Kaye, who said, ‘The best way to predict the future is to invent it,’” Peretti said. “There is truth to that. If you see a trend and you wonder whether it is going to pan out, and it gets you excited, that’s where you want to be.”

The event was sponsored by the Graduate School of Education and the Center for Communication and was moderated by Bill Baker, Ph.D., Claudio Acquaviva, S.J. Chair and Journalist in Residence.


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