“We got lucky there,” says Ken. “Because it was a stupid-ass company until they did that app Draw That.”
“Draw Something,” corrects Ben.
At the height of Draw Something’s popularity, Zynga bought OMGPop for $180 million, a decision it regretted once the craze was over and it apparently reverted to being a stupid-ass company; it was dissolved last summer. “Timing is the key to life,” says Ken, who earned 25 times his investment on the sale. “Timing is luck and brain and guts.”
I ask if he thinks he sold the Huffington Post at the right time. Some of his investors thought they could have gotten $500 million. “What?” he shouts over the restaurant’s booming soundtrack.
“You heard her,” Ben says.
“I just needed a little more time to prepare an answer!” his father says. “I sold it at the right time,” he affirms. “The right year, the right month.” He pauses. “Maybe not the right day.”
“I’m a firm believer in not waiting until things crash,” he says. The Huffington Post hasn’t exactly crashed. “It’s clearly a different site from when we launched it,” Lerer says carefully. His relationship with Huffington reportedly deteriorated toward the end of their partnership. “I’m not saying it’s better or worse, but it’s different.”
Filling the media void for him currently is Nowthisnews.com, which distills the news of the day into short videos. He has big plans for the site (which will probably have been announced by the time this is published). And this week marks the launch of another site close to his heart: the Dodo, an animal-rights-centered website from the former editor of Salon Kerry Lauerman and another member of the Lerer Circle of Trust—his daughter, Isabel, a Columbia Ph.D. student who studies human-and-animal interaction and whose passions prompted Ken to give up meat, though “prompted is too polite a verb,” says Ken.
“She bullied him into it,” Ben interjects. “Her boyfriend is only ever allowed to eat meat on the weekends,” he says in horror. “I ordered bacon at lunch, and she thought I was doing it to spite her.” The Dodo will perhaps not take such a hard line. “It’s about animal rights, but not in-your-face,” says Ken.
Sure, he admits, part of the reason that Lerer Ventures is backing it is so they can all hang out. But then again: “The New York Times has an animal-rights story, broadly defined, on the front page every three weeks,” he says, chewing a tortilla. “I think we will have tons of advertisers. I think,” he adds, “it will make a lot of money.”