How To Start A Massively Successful Media Startup From Your College Dorm Room
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I spoke to Alex Lieberman. Alex is the Cofounder and CEO of Morning Brew, the world’s first daily summary of the day’s business news written for Millennials by Millennials. Prior to Morning Brew, Alex was a fixed income trader at Morgan Stanley. And then, prior to that, he was a student at the University of Michigan, where he studied Real Estate and Financial Markets at the Ross School of Business. This interview is adapted from our From the Dorm Room to the Board Room podcast interview I did with Alex, which you can listen to right here.
Andy Molinsky: So, Alex, as a recent Morning Brew subscriber, I’m very excited to hear how you founded Morning Brew.
Alex Lieberman: It started my senior year at the University of Michigan. I was lucky enough to receive a full time a job offer and only had to take two or three classes to graduate. So I had some time on my hands and I decided to help out with other friends’ job searches. As it turned out, one of the hardest things for them was keeping up with the latest business news. They could do it, but what they were reading was just so dense and uninspiring.
Molinsky: So, was that the problem you were trying to solve?
Lieberman: Exactly. So, I literally just started writing a daily business roundup, which, at the time, wasn’t even called Morning Brew. It was called the Market Corner. And it was super simple – just a Microsoft Word template that I would put together saved as a PDF, and distributed through a listserv through Michigan’s website.
Molinsky: And that was it? It started catching on from there?
Lieberman: Yes – I started receiving texts and emails every day from people wanting to subscribe to the list. And by the end of first semester senior year, pretty much the entire business school was signed up for Market Corner. From a business standpoint, this was the purest form of proof of concept because the product looked horrible, was hard to subscribe to – but it didn’t stop people from joining. There clearly was a strong appetite for better business news that was conversational, digestible, and written with a young businessperson in mind.
Molinsky: You were able to create something pretty remarkable right out of college. Can you give advice to today’s college students who would love to do something similarly impactful?
Lieberman: If you’re able to pull it off, I truly believe that starting a business while you are in college is one of the best things you can do. You just have so many resources at your disposal – your alumni-base, professors, fellow students. Also, I found that when you ask for things as a college student, it’s much easier to get a yes than when you’ve already graduated.
Molinsky: You’ve had to hire a bunch of people now to keep up with the success of Morning Brew. What have you discovered to be critical in the hiring process?
Lieberman: We look for people who are passionate about what they do – the type of people who, once they get interested in something, get incredibly interested in it. We also look for intellectual curiosity, which for us, is like an intellectual obsession. We don’t want people who, when diving into something, stop at, say, 70%. We want people who don’t stop until they understand at a 100% level. And the final element is work ethic. We want people who are intensely goal focused, and who will orient everything they do at work towards achieving that goal. So it’s those three things: passion, deep intellectual curiosity and work ethic.
To hear my full interview with Alex, check out our From the Dorm Room to the Board Room podcast, where my team and I bring our own passion, deep intellectual curiosity and a strong work ethic to exploring young people’s careers on a weekly basis.