Entrepreneurs are success architects. We build our castles one brick at a time.
A brick isn’t much. By itself. Stand back and it’s hard to be anything but awed when you look at the Alhambra, Windsor Palace or Himeji Castle. Taken together and those lowly bricks have shape, they have a meaning, and they have impact.
If you’re on Facebook you’ve probably seen the name Upworthy by now.
With the tag line, “Things that matter. Pass ‘em on,” Upworthy generates more than 30 million pageviews per month, and boasts 4.5 million email subscribers, according to Fast Company. The viral media heavyweight recently raised $8 million from Spark Capital, and the Knight Foundation. With a small staff and almost no original content, it would seem that Upworthy has found the perfect business model.
But Upworthy’s meteoric rise to fame was no overnight success. It was built brick by brick by founder Eli Pariser.
Upworthy has a long backstory
The name Eli Pariser might not ring a bell. You may, however, be more familiar with MoveOn.Org. In a pre-social media era, MoveOn.org was an online organizing powerhouse for progressive causes. MoveOn came to prominence in during the 2004 presidential elections, rallying Democrats and Independents to support the candidacy of Secretary of State John Kerry, then the junior Senator from Massachusetts. While it may have lost some of its clout, MoveOn is still a force in political organizing and online fundraising, with a considerable email marketing database.
Upworthy and the filter bubble
Before launching Upworthy, Pariser set the chattering classes ablaze when he coined the term “filter bubbles,” in a TED Talk that has been viewed more than 3 million times. He also wrote a New York Times best-selling book of the same name. Filter bubbles refer to the world we inhabit, which is shaped by our online browsing history, what news we read, what our friends share, and what we “like.” We see a customized version of the Internet that is customized to suit our preferences, and we’re unaware of its impact on how we think, and how it makes us perceive the world.
Upworthy borrows heavily Pariser’s days at MoveOn, and his acute understanding of filter bubbles. Obtuse/provocative headlines and outrage work. Viral content demands one of two emotions; inspiration or outrage. Upworthy deals heavily in both.
It would be silly to start a whole new business and not take full advantage of the hard-earned wisdom, connections and reputation earned in previous ventures.
Luck is easy with a strong foundation
Pariser has been lucky to succeed so consistently, but he’s also extremely smart. Luck only happens once. Sticking to a formula that works is common sense.
As entrepreneurs we don’t always hit home runs, but the experiences we earn are vital to future success. ”On the Internet, if you don’t die, you win sometimes,” says Twitter co-founder and Medium CEO Evan Williams. Stick around long enough, and those bricks start to take shape.
Hero worship builds castles in the sky, with the promise of overnight success. We live on Earth. If entrepreneurship means not having a boss, harnessing your creativity and improving the world, the journey is the reward. If you’re committed to entrepreneurial success, remember that each day you’re taking more bricks out of the kiln. Keep stacking!
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