PandoDaily Founder Sarah Lacy Talks Tech, Silicon Valley, and ‘Glamorous’ Startups

Learn how Sarah Lacy raised venture capital to launch PandoDaily and why she believes entrepreneurs should be deeply motivated by a sense of mission and listen to their...

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When you have publications that are just glad-handing and rewriting press releases it’s not really adding insight or value. Meanwhile, when you read a publication like The New York Times, it is really great at covering many things, but startups is not particularly one of them.

Everyone realized they had this great publication in TechCrunch and that had gone away (i.e. with the acquisition). So given the market timing, no one I talked to doubted the opportunity. Everyone thought that it was something that they wanted to exist … that needed to exist.

On top of that, I just knew a lot of investors. In particular Marc Andreessen, who I had known for many years (since 2008), had been trying to convince me to start a media company. So he was the first phone call I made. He was like, “Whatever you need, I’m in … I want to do this and help you build something for the long-term.” It was good timing for me since he happens to be the king of Silicon Valley right now.

Once [Marc] was in, given the timing, and my relationships with people, I don’t think I even did a sales deck. I just called people up and told them what I wanted to do and they were like, “Where do I send the check?”

So it was annoyingly easy for me to raise money.

Sarah Lacy; Photo Source: MIMA (http://bit.ly/13tikRc)
Sarah Lacy; Photo Source: MIMA (http://bit.ly/13tikRc)


Steady Evolution: Remaining Agile and Opportunistic

It’s amazing how it has all sort of gone according to plan. I think part of that is because we’re doing something in a new way, but we’re not creating a new industry.

People need really good, high quality journalism about technology and startups. There are print pubs and blogs that have been around for a long time … yet we knew there was a need in the market. The question was, “Can we do it really well?”

In terms of the business side it has been a little bit more risky. We don’t want to build a  business that monetizes off of pageviews. We want to build a media business that monetizes on influence. That hasn’t really been done before in the blog world, but it has definitely been done in the offline media world.


Lacy’s monetization strategy aligns with current industry buzz as online media properties look to create value beyond the traditional “paywall”.  According to Sam Slaughter, vp of content at Contently, in a recent Digiday post, “Pageviews are the simplest way of measuring traffic, traffic is the easiest way to sell advertising, and selling advertising is the easiest way for publishers to make money online. But while pageviews are still effective in judging direct-marketing campaigns, they are amazingly useless when it comes to brand advertising.”


For example, rather than doing a big 3-day conference we host monthly events in three different cities — a distributed conference throughout the year. We didn’t necessarily know if that would work, but it works really well. A lot of the ways that we’ve thought about selling ads and sponsorship are different than what’s been done before. It has been a steady evolution.

We are at the point now where we are still experimenting on a lot of things.


The Influence Game: Connecting the Smartest People in the Room

When it comes to traffic growth it should be a marathon, not a sprint, according to PandoDaily writer Bryan Goldberg. “For whatever reason, the tech community — and the young, impatient entrepreneurs who want to be rich immediately — are obsessed with virality,” he explains. Lacy plans to run the distance, yet she’s aims to take a different path.

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