Amazon founder and chief executive Jeff Bezos leads a $5 million funding round for Business Insider, a popular news website, the publication announced this morning.
Business Insider is an outgrowth of the original Silicon Alley Insider, which waslaunched by ex-trader Henry Blodget in 2007 and has since been mostly absorbed into the parent brand as it expands its coverage to virtually every industry. The media startup, based in New York, has raised nearly $20 million since launch in consecutive, almost annual funding rounds as it attempts to sustain its growth.
Jeff's investment grew out of a dinner he and I had about a year ago. We talked about the business, and he was excited about it. (He sees some parallels with Amazon). A few months later, he expressed an interest in investing. My reaction was basically "Hell, yeah!"
Jeff's vision, leadership, and philosophy at Amazon have inspired a whole generation of startups and entrepreneurs, including me. Amazon has always focused on customers first, knowing that, if they do a great job at that, everything else will take care of itself. This obsession with customers and long-term focus are the reasons that Amazon has been so successful. And this philosophy is something that we very much want to emulate. (We have two sets of customers, obviously--readers and sponsors. And we're obsessed with both).
Blodget didn't offer any additional detail on Bezos' interest. The move certainly continues Bezos' tradition of varied (some have called them "bizarre") investments; his Bezos Expeditions outfit gained attention for its backing of a 10,000-year clock, private spaceflight (Blue Origin) and handmade glass cups for votive candles (Glassybaby) alongside more traditional digital investments in Workday, Twitter and Linden Lab. He has also backed political efforts such as the push to keep same-sex marriage legal in the U.S. state of Washington.
Business Insider appears to be Bezos' first investment in original content, though he has historically kept quiet about such things. With a net worth of approximately $24 billion, Bezos is the 20th most wealthy person in the world, according to Bloomberg.
The funding round also includes BI's existing investors. The funds will be used to expand its editorial, technology, product, sales, marketing, subscriptions and events teams, as well as expand its physical office, the company says.