Peter Kafka

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Ben Lerer’s JackThreads Starts Selling Duds to Dudes Overseas, on Their Phones — And They’re Buying

jackthreads iOS appBen Lerer used to make money by telling dudes where to spend their money, via his Thrillist email startup. He still does that, but now he also gets dudes to spend money via his JackThreads e-commerce site.

Now Lerer has figured out a new line extension: Selling stuff to dudes overseas, via their phones.

In the last few weeks, New York-based JackThreads has pushed into Australia, the U.K. and Canada. It turns out there were a lot of youngish, affluentish guys out there waiting to give him money: Lerer said international sales went from essentially zero at the beginning of the year to 7 percent in April. In May, it is on track to do 10 percent, he said.

“International has already made an actual substantive change in our business overnight,” Lerer said.

And he said that international customers — who tend to buy more per order than their U.S. counterparts — should help Thrillist Media Group do at least $75 million in sales this year, and perhaps as much as $100 million. The majority of that money will come from JackThreads, which he bought in 2010. But Lerer said that, unlike other e-commerce startups, his operation is “significantly profitable.”

It’s worth noting that Lerer attributes much of his JackThreads success to mobile apps the company has launched — especially its iOS app, which is currently ranked eighth in the “lifestyle” section of Apple’s App Store. More than half his international sales, he said, come via mobile.

And he attributes much of that success to work he has been doing via Facebook’s newish app-advertising program. Facebook, which is pushing the notion that app ads will be a big new revenue stream for the company, is a big Lerer fan, too. Facebook officials highlighted his company as a success story during their January earnings call.

Last year, Lerer raised $13 million in a round led by Oak Investment Partners — just the second round Lerer has raised since he started his company in 2005.


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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work