Foundr Magazine Podcast with Nathan Chan

“I think about how little we knew, but how—I believe—how courageous we were,” says Christene Barberich, reflecting on the early days of Refinery29.

Before she and co-founder Piera Gelardi were the women at the helm of one of the fastest-growing digital media companies in the world, they were new entrepreneurs working tirelessly on a vision (first sketched on a napkin) that outsiders failed to understand.

The Refinery29 founding team formed in 2004, and in those early days (before Twitter had even launched), people struggled to grasp even the concept of digital media. The co-founders’ pitches were met with skepticism.

“We would go talk to people, and they would act like we were trying to sell them a carpet or something,” Gelardi says. “They thought it was a scam.”

Potential advertisers and brand partners also didn’t think customers would ever want to buy something online. “I just remember thinking, like, ‘I don’t think that’s true,’” Barberich says.

That skepticism gave them an advantage, though: It gave Refinery29 the freedom to operate and experiment without the pressure of competition.

Today, Refinery29 has an international audience of 550 million and has earned multiple distinctions, including Webby awards and Inc. 500 list mentions.


Key Takeaways

  • How the two met and influenced each other’s decision to go all in on Refinery29
  • The early days at Refinery29 when wireframes were hand-drawn
  • The freedom of operating under the radar when digital media was still the Wild West
  • The critics who doubted the business model and thought it was a scam
  • What they lose sleep over
  • How they approach content creation
  • What they look for when hiring
  • The advice they would give to entrepreneurs who want to use content to grow their businesses
  • How they define quality content
Direct download: FP253_Refinery29_PT2.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:18pm AEDT