Mundane to Insane: the story of Jonah Peretti (Becoming 30 series)

Yenner edit Buzzfeed founder Jonah Peretti.
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The first of a series of posts about looking forward to your 30s.

In this first blog we explore the transforming story of Jonah Peretti the multi millionaire and co-founder of Buzzfeed.

His story is one of hope and focuses primarily on making lemons out of lemonade and how curiosity can sometimes lead to breakthroughs no matter what your age.

Jonahs slow beginnings was as an average science teacher in New Orleans. A regular joe blogs,if you will.

With a somewhat normal aspiration to teach he never really took much to do with social media or anything in regards to reality stars etc.

His story starts of as a regular guy finishing a days work and logging onto his computer to scroll and shop. Sounds normal right?

Jonah was always a person mesmerized by the construct of how ideas spread and was curious, always questioning and always searching…Sound familiar 20 somethings?

He began to study his masters at MIT and left his teaching profession in the hopes of graduating. It was during this time that he found himself one night becoming curious about the Nike shop online and how their word processing determined what was acceptable and what was not in their create section. (This may sound mundane to some but there are guys out there who are genuinely fascinated by these things. )

While purchasing an item online Jonah began to play with a few words into the search to see what would be allowed and what wouldn’t. It turns out he had stumbled upon a loophole when he typed the word, ‘sweatshop’ into their system and was surprised to see they accepted this to use in his creation.

However he received an email the following day explaining how he would not be receiving his delivery as they do not condone the use of this word. Weirded out by the hypocrisy of the company he began what would spark his whole entire new chapter in life….an email argument with the company. After many emails back and forth he began to find the whole thing rather amusing and decided to share the emails with friends.

This occurred in the early 00’s for those of you too young at the time,the word, ‘viral’ had not been invented yet. With this in mind, his emails took off into the stratosphere and became worldwide news.

It became so huge a discussion began involving this small town teacher and student. Ending up progressing to news channels debating sweatshops with Nike’s global PR.

Nike vs Jonah edit
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Now one can only imagine how he must of been feeling. He was an ordinary person who just got involved in a word long debate with a huge sport brand and ended up becoming a headline across every network.

Now this is where we would expect his 5 mins of fame to end. However as I said before he was a curious person and also intelligent. While still studying his masters, his world wide attention caught the eye of Ken Lerer and Ariana Huffington. It was through Jonahs strong personality and opinion that in 2005 led to the creation and founding of the Huffington Post!

Yes…this guy managed to create something and seized it with both hands pushing all his ideas and knowledge he’d spent most of his 20s keeping to himself and teaching to school kids.

He let himself become curious even when he became the star of this huge controversy. He saw opportunities and grabbed them.

We could say from there, Jonahs life transformed.

However being a wonderer he began a small hobby on the side of this very profitable Huffington endeavour.

“What does it mean when people can share media and become the distribution?”

Jonah for Raz interview

“How can a student with no context in the media reach millions of people about an issue he knows nothing about?”

Jonah questioned in talks with raz about his quick claim to fame in 2001.

His complete mesmerization with how the media operated and what made things ‘viral’ became a focus of Jonahs work and in 2011 when Huffington post sold their assets to AOL Jonah found himself putting all of his efforts into his Buzzfeed creation.

This was yet again another experiment by Jonah, just like the emails in early 2001 and now he had began what has become a multi million media based industry.

AOL bought the Huffington for the small amount of $315 million in 2011. And his current company ‘Buzzfeed’ was last valued at $1.5 billion doubling its audience every year.

I can’t help but find this story inspirational because it shows how keeping that curious nature, questioning everything and seizing the moments can change your life. Although Jonah has stated he owes it down to luck mostly. For me his humble beginnings and using all of his previous knowledge to make his decisions in his 30s allowed him to gain experience and explode his ideas an creativity.

He never finished his masters and claims that he’s still ‘procrastinating’.

Vaporwave buzzfeed edit
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I will leave with this quote from Jonah which sums up the lesson in his entire story.

“Once you have some initial success, you get access to people and ideas or data that allows you to synthesize things.”

Jonah Peretti

Thanks for reading

The Yenner 📠

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