It’s not every day that you have the privilege of seeing an idea grow into a global enterprise.
But that’s the happy situation that I have found myself in over the past few years.
Business Insider recently began an exciting new chapter in its history: We have closed our sale to Europe’s leading digital publisher, Axel Springer, and we’re working on big plans. Before I focus all my attention to those, though, I want to take a moment to thank some of the many people who have helped us reach this point.
Progress like this is never the product of one person or even a handful of people. Rather, it is the collective creation of everyone who has ever contributed time, money, or effort to an enterprise.
In our case, that’s a lot of people. And I am grateful to all of them.
* Without my co-founders, Kevin Ryan and Dwight Merriman, Business Insider would never have gotten started. We also would never have moved out of our loading dock. When Kevin called me in 2007 with the idea of starting a “digital tech publication for New York,” I was a freelance writer and blogger starting a research and consulting firm. Kevin’s idea sounded like a lot more fun. I knew how to analyse companies, but I didn’t know much about building them. Thankfully, Kevin and Dwight did. Our early office was the freight elevator loading dock of one of their other startups. As board members for the following 8 years, Kevin and Dwight provided invaluable guidance. If not for Kevin’s experience, intelligence, and drive, and Dwight’s magical tech expertise, what began in August, 2007, as “Silicon Alley Insider” might still be a few of us plugging away on Typepad.
* We raised 8 rounds of financing in 8 years. And we were blessed with smart, patient, helpful investors who not only trusted us with their money but understood and respected the business we were in. The growth trajectory of media organisations is less exciting than that of “platforms” and technology companies. In our early years, moreover, the consensus was that digital media was a lousy investment. I will never forget the look of excitement and trepidation on RRE Ventures partner Stu Ellman’s face when he decided to buck conventional wisdom and lead our first major institutional round in 2010. RRE joined a dozen brave angel investors (Richard Hanlon, Ken Lerer, Gordon Crovitz, Dave Morgan, Jim Friedlich, Scott Kurnit, Marc Andreessen, Howard Lindzon, Roger Ehrenberg, Matt Luckett, and Norman Cerk), Kohlberg Ventures, Pilot Group, and Allen & Co. In later years, Somesh Dash and Todd Chaffee of Institutional Venture Partners, Jeff Bezos and Melinda Lewison of Bezos Expeditions, and the team at Axel Springer came aboard and powered us the rest of the way.
(One of the lesser-known bailouts of the financial crisis, by the way, was the bailout of Business Insider. When Allen & Co. led our third round of financing in the dark winter of 2009, we were a few months from running out of cash. Herb Allen and his colleagues were gracious enough to describe the money they sent us as an investment, but it was also a lifeline. Allen & Co. is the best media and tech advisory firm on Wall Street. It has been a privilege to do business with them for so many years.)
* Organisations like ours require a broad range of outside skills and expertise to succeed, and we have been fortunate to have many great partners and advisors. When we first met Ron Fleming and his team at Pillsbury, for example, Ron was described as the best startup and growth-company attorney in New York. Over the past 8 years, he has shown why. Ron and his team have always delivered for us. So have our accountants, payroll and benefits firms, real-estate agents, landlords, designers, and other service providers. A few years in, we realised we need a Board member who knew the media business cold. Fortunately, Gordon Crovitz, the former publisher of the Wall Street Journal, did. Gordon has been a critical member of our team for more than 5 years, and we are thrilled he will be with us going forward. In the past year, meanwhile, as we have planned and then launched additional sites, we have benefited greatly from the expertise of Andreas Wiele and the team at Axel Springer.
* Companies are teams of people working together on a common mission — and we have an amazing one. At Business Insider, there are now 350 of us working together to create a great, global digital media company. This team is always renewing and refreshing itself — over the past 8 years, more than 500 people have contributed some part of their careers to our cause. We would not be where we are without the skills and efforts of many recent arrivals. At the same time, we continue to benefit from the talents of those who came aboard many years ago and have grown with us. To name all of the key people in each category would mean listing hundreds of names. I will mention two, though. No editorial team will ever make a sustainable impact without strong business and technology teams supporting it. Our business and technology efforts began in 2008 when our president, Julie Hansen, walked in the door. A few years later, our chief revenue officer, Pete Spande, joined us and turbocharged our growth. One of the most rewarding aspects of the last 8 years for me has been to work with so many passionate, talented, and gracious people. It is a pleasure and privilege.
* Most importantly, without our readers and clients, we would not exist. When we launched in the summer of 2007, about a thousand of you visited us the first day. We were grateful for your attention. Now, 3 to 4 million of you regularly visit us each day. And we’re similarly grateful. We’re also grateful to the hundreds of clients who partner with us and subscribers who pay us directly. We come to work every day to serve you. And our goal is to keep getting better and better.
And now, to the future…
* We have gotten to know the Axel Springer team well over the past 15 months. They’re one of the smartest, most forward-looking media management teams on the planet, and we are grateful for their confidence in us. Axel Springer’s team understands that, if you want to invest in the future, you need to be bold. The day we announced our marriage, Axel Springer’s CEO, Mathias Döpfner, explained to CNBC why Axel Springer was investing in us. In short: because the future is digital. Mathias also made an observation that you rarely hear from CEOs: Even if Business Insider is a total write-off, Axel Springer will be fine. That’s true. It’s also the way other visionary and inspiring leaders like Jeff Bezos and Reed Hastings approach such things. We’re still in the early innings of the digital revolution, and the future will always be uncertain. We have no intention of being a write-off. But we’re thrilled to be partnered with a bold, passionate, creative team of people who are as excited as we are about lies ahead.
Thank you all again.
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