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A New York VC Spotlight: Ken Lerer


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KEN_LERER

Have you been on Buzzfeed lately? You can shake your head all you want, but I know that between emails to your boss and conference calls and boardroom meetings, you’ve been looking at list after list of baby animals in hats, or puppies cuddling each other, or whatever newest page full of adorable content the website has shared. But have you ever thought about who is behind all that amusing content?

Meet Ken Lerer, chairman of Buzzfeed, and founder and manager of Lerer Ventures, a New York-based seed stage fund that invests in the early stages of a startup’s life, and seeks out those entrepreneurs with product vision, consumer insight, focused execution and unwavering ambition. As chairman of and an investor in Buzzfeed, he recently invested in another animal-themed aggregator, The Dodo, started by his daughter and launching this fall.

Lerer Ventures has made a number of successful investments, including Namely, Quartzy and Maxwell Health.

Lerer has vast experience in online news media, as the founder of NowThis News, a digital news media outlet providing original news content for mobile devices, and a co-founder of Huffington Post. NowThis News is especially important, given how much technology and the news media go hand in hand, as it addresses the four key trends in digital consumption: social, video, digital and mobile. He also serves on the boards of several non-profit organizations, such as the Association to Benefit Children. He shares his knowledge on these broad ranges of topics by teaching at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, the University of Pennsylvania and New York University, where he has taught courses on the media and American corporations.

Not just a businessman and entrepreneur, Ken Lerer is a liberal activist as well. He and his wife are active fundraisers for the Democratic Party, and have hosted fundraisers for Barack Obama in their home. A thoroughly grounded and loyal New Yorker, Lerer is a minority owner of the New York Mets and a family man who collaborates with his children in his many ventures, and helps to fund theirs as well.

Lerer has been in the venture capital business for decades. Prior to Lerer Ventures, Lerer was a co-founder of Robinson Lerer Montgomery.

VC Firm:

Lerer Ventues

Sector Focus:

Consumer products and services, industrial/energy, IT services, technology

Selected Investments:

BuzzFeed
Business Insider
Warby Parker
Rapgenius
Birchbox
Maxwell Health
Quartzy
Dragon Innovation

Current Boards:

BuzzFeed
Betaworks
Bedrocket
Huffington Post
Association to Benefit Children
Bank Street College of Education

Previous Boards:

AOL Time Warner
Robinson Lerer Montgomery

Expertise Areas:

Startups
Venture capital
New media and journalism

Social Media:

Twitter

Memorable Quotes:

On being accused of nepotism by hiring his children: “What could be better than working with your children?”

On what he thinks of the AOL brand today: “AOL has a long way to go.”

On print media and young people: ““I have a 31-year-old and a 28-year-old, and neither of them have picked up a print magazine in I don’t know how many years. Those brands are somewhat meaningless to them and their peers.”

On online news media and backing The Dodo: “When I started the Huffington Post seven years ago now, that really was the model, and it’s certainly the model of BuzzFeed. I believe that’s the necessary model within certain parameters. I think a site should be informative, engaging, entertaining and fun—all that at the same time.”

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About the author: Cassandra Baim

Cassandra Baim is a recent graduate of Syracuse University, now living in Brooklyn, NY. While earning her degree in English, she worked on the editorial staff of a campus magazine and participated in two shows with the university’s radio station. She is a copyediting intern for AlleyWatch and enjoys music, books, crossword puzzles and a strong cup of coffee.

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