Paul Berry: The Innovation Interview
Paul Berry, Founder and CEO of RebelMouse shares his thoughts and insights on innovation, technology and RebelMouse.
Paul is also an advisor to Lerer Ventures and serves on the Digital Advisory Board of American Express. Previously, he was CTO of HuffingtonPost where he ran product, design and engineering from year 1 to a year after the acquisition of the company by AOL. Before HuffingtonPost Paul was Vice President at Related Capital which was a real estate finance company that went public with a market cap of 3+ billion. He started his career building the internet business for Palo Alto Software which creates business plan software for entrepreneurs and has been a regular judge and speaker at the annual Princeton Business Plan competition.
He is married with 3 kids and lives in Tribeca, Manhattan. You can find him at rebelmouse.com/paul.
How do you define innovation and what does it mean to you?
Innovation is executing something real in a different way than has ever worked before. I emphasize execution because I believe ideas are all in the ether, and nothing under the sun is completely original. But how you put things together, for what purpose and how it is used, amplified and impacts the people it reaches has the potential to be completely unique. Real innovation has impact, so you could say that I believe a tree that falls where no one can hear it didn’t make any noise.
What industry needs to embrace innovation and take more risks?
History is accelerating. The innovator’s dilemma is going to be turned into a law instead of a theory. The executives and employees at large companies who are smart but take risks are getting rewarded. At RebelMouse we are seeing people embrace change in the most surprising industries. Software is eating the world – if you love this change you’ll love this world and if you hate it the world will be a terrible place to live in. I’m not versed in any of the industries which need to fear innovation and take less risk though I’m sure they must exist.
What is the best piece of advice that you have been given and received?
Jonah Peretti taught me the art of saying “Yes, and” instead of “No, but” – I think he was impacted by his sister Chelsea Peretti who is a comedian. It has had a profound impact on nearly every day or week of my life, not only in how I run RebelMouse but also as a father (of three) and a husband, brother and son. The art is not just to cave, but to help elevate ideas through positive improv.
What is your greatest achievement and why?
Being an active dad. I have 3 kids and nothing brings me more delight and perspective in life. I am sure that my career would be tiny without them lifting me up. After that, having taken RebelMouse from an idea to reaching 20 million monthly uniques, a team of 50 and fast growing revenue probably has to win. But I am much more happy to be on a journey then reach having reached any particular destination.
Newspapers and Books: Digital or Physical?
100% digital. Most days I spend an hour reading to the kids and its always on a kindle. I love nature and I can’t understand any more why the forests are worth dropping for a nostalgic feeling.
What was your greatest takeaway from growing up in Mexico?
I always thought that having spanish as my first language would be vital, and i would have a career that required being bilingual. But in reality what was vital was understanding different cultures. For the last 15 years I’ve been working with brilliant developers, designers, editors and such to build best in class teams and I would never have been able to do that if I hadn’t learned since I was young to be close to people who were far away. And that tamarindo mixed with chile is delicious.
Why did you decide to build RebelMouse now?
The timing was and is just perfect. Everyone’s struggling to be a great publisher, trying to weave together all these different technologies and discovering how hard and frustrating it can be. The open web needs to get dramatically better at a shocking speed and I believe that’s exactly what we’re helping everyone do with RebelMouse. Mobile sites, apps and desktop experiences need to be social, real time, data driven and easy. Its really hard to do so its a big barrier to entry and why we have 30+ of the best developers I’ve ever worked with working around the clock across the globe.
How did you convince large brands such as GE to actively embrace RebelMouse as platform?
Happily enough its mostly just showing them what we can do. We are addressing problems companies know they have, and creating opportunities they know they want. Then we obsess on performance of everything we launch so that we become a core part of their business and have truly wonderful relationships.
As an Advisor to American Express Open, what has American Express taught you and what insights have you shared with American Express?
Massive companies are humbled by the last 10 years. They are filled with smart, highly energetic people that I love. They are learning how to get out of their own way and work with great companies and people to learn and iterate at a pace faster than their core infrastructure allows. And that Susan Sobbott is a tremendously smart human being who has put together a killer team.
As consumer habits shift and we move towards a wearable society and then to the living room, how are you planning to positioning RebelMouse to benefit from these trends?
RebelMouse is built from the ground up to anticipate and adapt to the acceleration of history. We are flexible, fast, dynamic and help content creators reach every meaningful platform in really significant ways. Its such an exciting time.