Elie Ayrouth on Unstoppable with Kara GoldinElie Ayrouth is the co-founder and publisher of Foodbeast, the ever-growing media company known as the “TMZ of food news”. He joins me on today’s episode of Unstoppable to talk about how he became the food social media entrepreneur that he is today.

Ten years ago, Elie started Foodbeast as a blog. Then when social media started incorporating video, Elie jumped on the opportunity to combine his film background with his blog content. Foodbeast’s social media following grew immensely, and Elie’s career became extremely successful.

Listen in as Elie talks about how he started Foodbeast from his college dorm room, how he landed major brand deals, why he has never had a business model, and much more on today’s show.

And I have some very exciting news to share with you! For the next 3 months as a special thank you to all my listeners, I’ll be choosing 5 lucky listeners to win ONE YEARS supply of Hint Water!

To enter and win, all you have to do is head over to iTunes HERE and leave a meaningful review for the show. That’s it! And if I see you tweeting it out and tagging me @karagoldin, you’ll increase your chances of being picked. Please be sure to spread the word to your family and friends, and thanks for listening to Unstoppable!

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“What I love is that we’ve never had a business model. We’ve never had a business plan, and we built in a way that was comfortable for us.” – Elie Ayrouth

Show Notes:

  • What is Foodbeast
  • How to build your brand
  • Why video is so popular
  • How to build your social media following
  • What is Oozefest
  • How to put on events
  • Why to not have a business plan
  • How Foodbeast is different than Food Network
  • Why work for someone else
  • How to build community

“I don’t really have a passion to cook. But I knew that there were people that liked food but didn’t need all the pretentiousness around it, and I wanted to fill that gap.” – Elie Ayrouth

Links Mentioned:

Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Foodbeast

“If I was solely running this company, it probably would’ve been out of business years ago.” – Elie Ayrouth

Transcript:

Kara Goldin:Elie, thank you so much for being here today. We’re super excited to be chatting with you here in Los Angeles.
Elie Ayrouth:LA …
Kara Goldin:Yeah, I know. It’s super, super fun. Founder of foodbeast.com everyone, in case you are not aware, one of the largest food websites. Elie started this in his dorm room, University of Irvine? Is that …
Elie Ayrouth:Yes.
Kara Goldin:Okay, awesome. You were jealous of another site over or is jealous the right word?
Elie Ayrouth:No, I was inspired.
Kara Goldin:Just watching?
Elie Ayrouth:I was inspired by …
Kara Goldin:Yeah, so let’s … give me the background on this.
Elie Ayrouth:So I was in college and I fancied myself a clothing designer. I thought I wanted to design …
Kara Goldin:Interesting.
Elie Ayrouth:Yes. So I was in my apartment. This was my second year in college and I’m designing this street wear that I think is beautiful. I think it’s super cool. And when you’re a street wear designer, the one website you want to be featured on is Hype Beast. It’s not like your Vogues. It’s not like your Vanity Fairs. It’s something for younger dudes and soon now, a great female culture that is designing street wear.
Kara Goldin:Awesome.
Elie Ayrouth:I was like I want to be on this website. Long story short, I never got featured on that site because my clothes sucked. They were really ugly. I’m not a designer. But what I loved about Hype Beast was what it did for fashion and it normalized it where before to get on GQ, to be on Vanity Fair and Vogue, it was held to such a high regard. And you had to have gone to fashion school to do it. And a lot of people in street wear didn’t go to fashion school. They just are great brand builders.
Elie Ayrouth:So I was like you know what? I want to do this for food? There’s no other website out there that’s taking food a little less seriously. This was back in ’08 or ’09. The only websites out there were seriouseats.com and I was like if that … which is a great website, great recipes. But if that is the ambassador for food online where the name is Serious Eats, we’re not doing anything different than Food Network. I was like I know how to code websites. I’m going to make something called Foodbeast which is just a direct knock of Hype Beast but for food. And I’m just going to start writing about what I want to.
Elie Ayrouth:I wrote about what’s brand new at Carl’s Jr because that’s what I could afford to eat. I would do blogs about my friends trying to eat 40 chili dogs at the cafeteria at UC Irvine and sure enough, he exploded and spray vomited all the walls.
Kara Goldin:That’s kind of nasty.
Elie Ayrouth:Yeah, it was gross. So I didn’t have a voice then. All I knew was that I just wanted to talk about food comfortably. And so, I just kept writing. And no one visited the first month. It was just my friends around the dorm that would read it. And then, I just kept going at it. There was no Facebook at the time to share my articles on. I was learning a little bit about SEO.
Kara Goldin:You said 2008-2009.
Elie Ayrouth:This is 2008, very early. Facebook, I think the newsfeed was just being built but you couldn’t really share links at that time. But then, I got a surge of traffic when I wrote about and In-N- Out rumor where they were selling five cent burgers. And the traffic peaked. I think we were doing about a quarter million visitors a month and I’m still … I didn’t know what to do with it. And then, I realized there’s something going on here.
Elie Ayrouth:And so, that’s the origin of Foodbeast was just blogging one day at a time about the stuff that I cared about in food which I couldn’t find anywhere else online.
Kara Goldin:Very, very cool. And so, was it just you?
Elie Ayrouth:At the time, it was just me. I had a roommate who was a chef and inspired me to cover food. Because I wasn’t a foodie. I couldn’t cook. My mother is a great cook and I was blessed that I didn’t learn from her at all. So I didn’t really have a passion to cook. But I knew that there were people that liked food but didn’t need all the pretentiousness around it. And I wanted to fill that gap. I wanted to fill that gap. I was like one day maybe we’ll be like Food Network. Maybe I’ll make shows. I was a film major so I wanted to create video. And I was like I’ve got to start here because it’s cheaper. And I’m going to just write about food. And then, that’s how it started.
Kara Goldin:That’s awesome. So the video side of it was really your …
Elie Ayrouth:Passion.
Kara Goldin:The passion of the really the film student who was trying to figure out what he wants to do with this. I mean, you were really early actually figuring out video. Now everybody’s like I’ve got to make videos.
Elie Ayrouth:So for us, it wasn’t how to make video. I knew what I wanted to do video wise. And as soon as I graduated college, I’m a very safe quote/unquote entrepreneur so I worked for an ad agency right out of college. And I was like I’m going to make that money. And I didn’t know that you could ask people for money. I didn’t know there were funding rounds. I had no idea. I was like businesses have to be profitable. And so, I rented an office space with two of my high school buddies. Jeff, who is now our CEO, and Rudy, who is our CTO. And we’re each running our own design and ad agency in a probably a 500 square foot office with a bathroom that was also our kitchen. It was disgusting. And we’re like all right, first person … We’re all going to work on this in our off time. We’re going to use this office for meetings. And when anyone’s business takes off, we’ll help the other out.
Elie Ayrouth:And so, we’d all work our 9:00-5:00 and we’d come here after and chug away. And the Foodbeast office started getting all these packages. People wanted to be featured on the site whether it was drink company sending stuff over or a new gummy bear. Whatever it may be. And so, we started opening these packages and I called my friend, Mark, who made videos together growing up who now is our director of video. And I was like can you just film us opening these packages as if it’s like a TMZ style newsroom for food? And there’s three desks in this place so it’s not a newsroom.
Elie Ayrouth:And people started digging that on YouTube. Like 5,000 viewers here, 10,000 viewers there. And then, this digital website at the time, I forget the name, they coined us the TMZ of food. And I just ran with that for a while. So that immediately became us doing food video online. It was showing an office life of a food company. You never saw how Food Network operated behind the scenes. And I was like that’s good brand building. So that was the early stages of video for us.
Kara Goldin:Was YouTube.
Elie Ayrouth:YouTube.
Kara Goldin:Yeah. That was huge. And then, at what point did you branch outside of YouTube? Did you feel like … ?
Elie Ayrouth:We tried everything. So whatever came around, we’ve tried. So YouTube was good. We went a traditional YouTube route with signing with the multi-channel network and trying to build that audience. But we kept the focus on foodbeast.com. We wanted to make sure that … we’re not YouTubers. We’re not that funny. And we’re not talented in that sense. We were running a news organization. We wanted to make sure we never lost our audience.
Kara Goldin:Yeah, you guys were a media company.
Elie Ayrouth:So when people asked if we were influencers. We’re like no. I love influencers but that’s not us. And then, before you knew it, we just tried every platform that came out. Instagram, day one. Let’s get an Instagram account. And they didn’t have video yet. We did photo there. What really was crazy was when Facebook came around and no one was putting food videos up yet. This was before Tasty. This is before Tastemade. Tastemade wasn’t even a company yet.
Elie Ayrouth:We put up a video of some gal sent us cinnamon rolls being built in her bakery. Just a long beautiful table of just dough being rolled. For some strange reason, unedited, very raw, I decided to just put that on our Facebook page. And no one really knew how Facebook was going to push video at the time. And then, I saw that video get 100,000 views in two minutes.
Kara Goldin:Crazy.
Elie Ayrouth:I didn’t even know that was possible. We had say 100,000 …
Kara Goldin:This was on Facebook?
Elie Ayrouth:This was on Facebook.
Kara Goldin:Yeah
Elie Ayrouth:And we’d gotten millions of views on YouTube but it takes a couple weeks. And I was like there’s something crazy here. And at the end of 24 hours, that video had 16 million views. And I had to pinch myself a little bit. I was like holy cow. We did it. Someone submitted this video. We got licensing and rights to it. And we just put it online raw, unedited. And we’re like okay …
Kara Goldin:Did you buy any ads around it?
Elie Ayrouth:No, there was nothing to sell at the time. We had nothing to sell. Facebook wasn’t … To this day, Facebook’s a little slow on getting …
Kara Goldin:Yeah, yeah.
Elie Ayrouth:But I was just like holy cow. We have 16 million views. And our audience grew and so forth. And so, our ethos on video became it doesn’t have to be as polished. Again, we’re an unfunded company. So whenever I saw something like that, I just wanted to take advantage at the time. And we started publishing these raw videos that people were sending us. They’d cook something in the kitchen and we thought the idea was good enough, we would publish that on our Facebook page. And that really started growing our audience and the brand around now. Facebook, what I’ve learned is that just because it’s views doesn’t mean you’re doing any sort of brand building. Which is a really important thing to remember and sometimes it got ahead of me too. I was like we did 16 million views on this video but was Foodbeast anywhere involved with that video? 16 million people saw it but does anyone know Foodbeast?
Elie Ayrouth:And so, that’s been our ethos in the past couple years is that as things grow on Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, whatever platform, TV, whatever platform we’re doing, still intrinsically say Foodbeast. And that’s my role at Foodbeast is making sure that the content you see out there reminds you of Foodbeast and it’s different from the other great content creators out there.
Kara Goldin:Well, I think what you’re talking about is you’ve gone from almost being a service to being a brand, right? And so, how do you put your stakes in the ground around Foodbeast is bringing this to you guys which I think is super important.
Elie Ayrouth:Yeah. What’s great about the people I work with, I can’t stress it enough is that if I was solely running this company, it probably would have been out of business years ago. The fact that I’m just a content guy. I just love cool shit. If I see it, I get excited about it, I just do it. But other things scare the shit out of me like events. I have a partner, Jeff and Rudy, my two co-founders. They used to throw these underground raves.
Elie Ayrouth:Their high school, they would buy 20 or 30 kegs and they would throw it at these cottages at first, then they would rent warehouses in LA, $5, all you can drink. And pretty soon, these events were getting to 5,000 people, 10,000 people. And they would brand it Bottomless Beer. And so, I saw once that a SWAT team had raided it. Because this was just an unsanctioned event. And so, I remember that. And a couple years ago, Jeff comes to me and he’s like we should start throwing events. And I was like why? That’s terrifying. What if no one shows up? We’ll be embarrassed and all this other.
Elie Ayrouth:And so, we started small because when you have no money, you can’t do anything but. Yet you have to … It has to be right. You have to sell out. You have to do good things. And so, we threw our first Oozefest. All cheese, all you can drink, all you can eat …
Kara Goldin:And it’s called the Oozefest?
Elie Ayrouth:It’s called the Oozefest. [inaudible 00:12:01] and we had a thousand tickets to sell. Our goal was to sell a thousand tickets. That was the capacity that we had at this parking lot near our office. Again, we have no money. We have no sponsors. We have the money that we have to pay our employees but outside of that, we readily invest right back into the company. And the event sold out.
Elie Ayrouth:And I was terrified still. Even I was like we sold these tickets and they were $60 or $70 a ticket, all you can eat. And I was like what if they still don’t show up. What if they don’t care? What if they forget? And sure enough, my partner’s pushing me in these new directions of the food that they’re seeing online, that our fans are seeing online, how do we bring it to them in person? How do we create these memorable experiences that they can’t forget? And bring the whole food world 360 to them?
Elie Ayrouth:So our goal one day is just to throw a massive food convention where brands can interact with young people and good content creators and so forth. And so, these are the building blocks.
Elie Ayrouth:And what ended up happening is from Oozefest, we created Noods Noods Noods which is an all Asian based food festival. And it brings in sports and gaming. And what happened is that the fact that we had these festivals was differentiating us from some of our competitors.
Kara Goldin:Totally.
Elie Ayrouth:How does little old Foodbeast get a brand deal from big old Buzzfeed? Or big old Thrillist? Not only can you get content with us, you can also have your own food festival. So that’s where we started landing some of our, I don’t like to call the clients because we work with them day to day and they just love what they do and we grow with them. But Nissin Cup Noodles was this legacy Japanese brand. And they hadn’t spent a lot of money in the United States. And there was an honor that they were like we’re with Foodbeast. Not only can we get cool video online, not only can we change our brand perception digitally, but we get a food festival that chefs are there. Chefs are going to be right beside a Cup Noodle.
Elie Ayrouth:And so, the fact that my partners pushed me into events is … I’m very thankful for stuff like that now. And that’s just how we operate is you’ve got to try new things.
Kara Goldin:When’s your next event?
Elie Ayrouth:Our next event is Oozefest. It’ll be our fourth Oozefest. And I should know the date but it’s coming. You go to foodbeast.com and you’ll see our events section and it is there. Oozefest and Noods Noods Noods. Those are my favorite little babies that we have.
Kara Goldin:Well, it’s really establishing your brand. And I think that that’s a really important aspect of it. It’s interesting, we’ve talked about this at Hint a bunch that there’s a brand in the UK called Innocent which is one of my favorite brands. And it’s a … The guys that started it, like you, three guys from college that all went to college together and they really liked smoothies. And so, they decided that they were going to start this smoothie drink.
Kara Goldin:And they got really lucky and got it into Starbucks in the UK. And then, they grew it from there and the company was acquired by Coke and it’s probably … I’m guessing they’re probably billion and a half at this point. Yeah, they’re big, really, really big. But anyway, so I’ve gotten to know the founders over the years. They started, I don’t know, 15 years ago. And so, they used to do these festivals. And they’d get really pissed because they’d be like running up against Coke to do the festivals. And they were like we should just do our own festival. And everybody just laughed. They were like you can’t do your own festival. What are you guys talking about? You’re a beverage company.
Kara Goldin:And so, they had another buddy who was working in the parks, like totally different job, and was working in Hyde Park, the biggest park in London. And they were like what would it take for us to do a concert in Hyde Park? And he’s like what are you talking about? And they’re like we’re just going to get a bunch of bands. We know people in bands and we’re just going to do this. And we’re going to do it in Hyde Park. Ane he’s like I don’t know. I’ll ask my boss.
Kara Goldin:So he goes and asks his boss. And his boss was like well, if they did it on Sunday in the winter when nobody comes. And then, we’ll let them do it. It’s going to cost them some stuff and they can only be here for two hours and whatever. And they’re like fine. We just want to do it just because it’s just funny that we’re just going to go and start our own thing. And so, they did it and now it’s bigger than ACL. It’s bigger than …
Elie Ayrouth:No way.
Kara Goldin:And now bands beg them to be a part of the Innocent Festival. And it’s funny, we’re sponsoring Outside Lands up in San Francisco and I was telling one of the people that we deal with at Outside Lands that I said I don’t know. I think instead of paying you guys, I think I’m going to do my own festival. And she was like laughing. And I was telling her this story and then she’s just like I cannot believe that they started their own festival. And I’m like yeah. And if you talked to these guys, they are now … They’re definitely a beverage company still to this day and they’re all over Europe and the US is probably one of the only countries that they’re not in now.
Kara Goldin:But they’re also a media company. They’ve got all of this great content. They’ve got people enjoying the product. And they also lock everybody … Well, they can’t lock Coke out now because Coke now owns them. But Hint can’t be part of that festival. They do their own thing. So anyway, brilliant. They’ve done a bunch of other stuff that’s really super brilliant. But you should read their book actually on the founders and it will make you think … and they’re really funny too that that’s like a whole other aspect of …
Elie Ayrouth:They don’t take themselves so seriously.
Kara Goldin:No.
Elie Ayrouth:To do something that massive, on paper sounds stupid. It sounds stupid. We should throw our own festival. No, if you’re a drink brand, you work through the traditional sponsorship route. You don’t throw your own. You just build up …
Kara Goldin:I need to bring them … Actually, when I go to the UK in June, I’m going to interview these guys because they’re just really like … people will always ask them did you know how to throw a concert? And they’re like no, of course not. We’re just, I don’t know, we just thought it was really funny. And we actually wondered, are people going to come? Are they going to pay for tickets? It’s in the winter. Who’s coming?
Kara Goldin:And anyway, it sold out and actually life is beautiful. The clothing company, wait, is it Life is Good or life is beautiful?
Elie Ayrouth:Beautiful is the festival.
Kara Goldin:Okay, so Life is Good. You know, the t-shirt company? They did the same thing. They followed the Innocent guys and that’s why they started … They have a big festival in Massachusetts too. So yeah, especially as you’re starting to think about this and get into this, you should read same kind of story …
Elie Ayrouth:Keep on learning because experiences are so beautiful. It’s the one thing that you can’t really take away from people. As Amazon gets bigger and you see retail kind of shutting down, now it’s all those old shopping malls are becoming havens for food. They’re turning into food malls. And so, that’s the leg that our festivals stand on now is they’ve seen all this stuff online and they want to go now and experience.
Elie Ayrouth:The only thing that digital can’t really take away is going and being around other people eating and consuming. And I think that’s a sexy thing that we’re just trying to hold on to and foster.
Kara Goldin:And I think from a content perspective too, that’s super … If you’re not doing tons of content with it now …
Elie Ayrouth:Oh we are. Our content is the only way we get people to come to the festival. So if there are 20 restaurants that are there, they each get a free Foodbeast video. They all get … The barrier to entry to come to our festival as a restaurant is create something cool to share with the world.
Kara Goldin:Yeah, but I mean also for you filming these people and the amount of … They enter and they agree to actually be filmed, that’s a whole other piece of it too.
Elie Ayrouth:Oh yeah. And people are sharing that experience with the world just by entering the festival grounds. That’s right.
Kara Goldin:Yeah, so it’s a whole super cool thing. So what have you learned since … So since 2008 as you’re obviously a media company. I mean, we look at a lot of media companies that are traditional media companies that are really fighting the whole advertising model now. They’re merging with other companies to stay alive. A lot of them don’t even have people working full time for them anymore. They’re hiring freelancers to do all of their stuff. Where do you think … How will you differentiate to …
Elie Ayrouth:What I love is that we had a business model. We never had a business plan. And we built everything in a way that was comfortable for us. So when we started, we didn’t hire anyone until there was enough … We didn’t work full time on the project until … We hired a managing editor before any of the co-founders put ourselves on payroll. And then, it started trickling one by one. So once our managing editor was hired, we saw enough cashflow they brought me on. Our partners were like you go first. We need more content and the better the content, the more money we can make.
Elie Ayrouth:And then, great. Elie got on board. Now it’s Jeff’s turn. Jeff, we need someone to sell these ads now. And our big thing was we wanted to stay true to how rough around the edges Foodbeast brand was. Because as many people that came into the quote/unquote food game, none of them … I was about to talk shit. But none of them really … They all became somewhat the same. They all were very safe knowing this is how we work with Wal-Mart. Or this is how we work with this one. Or someone still has to have an honest look at food.
Elie Ayrouth:And so, us staying true to that, the first couple years we didn’t sell anything. Who would want to work with a brand like that? And then, people started falling into place. People started really respecting a voice that was different than the rest because you can buy advertising with great brands that are very safe. But the relationships that we were building with these brands were that we wanted help and be authentic to our audience and we’re going to help you be authentic to yours.
Elie Ayrouth:And then eventually, that just stuck through. And now, we work with a lot of the same brands year after year after year. And we just try to not deviate from that. And that’s really, really helped. So we still have a core team. I think we have about … We have 18 employees. And we have a slew of contractors across the country. But we’ve had a couple deals come our way where like would you guys like some further investment? And I’d humor them at first and then I was like I just don’t know what I would … If you gave me $10 million, I wouldn’t know what to do with it right off the bat. Because a lot of the stuff that we’ve built that we’re really proud of, like our festivals, if someone gave me a million dollars to throw the first festival we did, there would have been way too many expectations. I feel like we may have lost potentially the authenticity that festival held.
Elie Ayrouth:Instead, we used our own resources and now we sell our these 5,000-7,500 person festivals. So we’re just growing. So next year, let’s go for 10,000 people. And use … not go beyond our means. And I think that is … I’m really fortunate that we went that route in our company. That’s just what worked for us. That’s not for everyone. There’s people that utilize investment really well. For us, we’re like you know what? We no longer have anyone to answer to when a festival does this. And now we can start another festival or launch a new TV show or whatever. Because it’s all just us. We just look around the room and our employees, everyone there, some of the best ideas come from someone that maybe started two weeks ago. And it’s an open forum. Some of our biggest videos were recommendation from a developer or a new account manager. She might have the best idea in the world. It’s like great, let’s run it.
Elie Ayrouth:Because there’s not too much friction to get from idea to execution.
Kara Goldin:Well, you’re still controlling your own destiny which I think is the … It’s the entrepreneur’s dilemma, right? What you’re talking about. And so it’s … You see the unicorns out there that are going out and raising tons of money. And then, you think well maybe or you’ve got one person internally that convinces you to do it. I always tell entrepreneurs it’s a fine line. And I’m a big believer that wherever you take investment from, you have to look at it as a marriage. Do you want to hang out with these people?
Kara Goldin:And do you … Mark Zuckerberg has talked about not just in terms of growing the team but also investors. He does walk and talks with them. And sees whether or not he can actually go hang with somebody for a few hours. And whether or not he enjoyed the conversation or this was way back in the early days when he was building. And he still does that actually with his team of people, the core team of figuring out whether he can hang with them. It’s not just an hour interview style.
Kara Goldin:But I really think it’s the same thing with investors because the number of people I’ve talked to who have ultimately done things but build festivals not in the way that they really wanted to do it but they had to because their investor was really controlling what they were doing. I think it’s an important piece.
Elie Ayrouth:Sure. Yeah, and I don’t want to paint it in the light of investors not being valuable. And our investment potentially came in other ways like incredible knowledge that we were gifted just by the right person at the right time and it may not have been money. So we’ve just been very … I feel blessed that we’ve had people that instead of money, they just gave us great feedback, amazing feedback.
Elie Ayrouth:So we’re not the kind of people at Foodbeast that we’re shutting things like that down. It’s just an idea of … sometimes one guy was like you don’t actually need my money if you do this. And this is someone at a major media company that they were courting for a while, they were courting us. And on the last meeting, he took me aside and was like don’t do this. He was like you’re this close from just doing it yourself. And he was like if you want this money, we can but you don’t need it right now. You don’t need it right now. He didn’t say you should never get it.
Elie Ayrouth:And so, I appreciated that and I was just like that’s just knowledge … He gave me some other knowledge too. But that’s so valuable. Be open to help and be open to criticism and always learn. The sooner you can learn that as an entrepreneur … I’m not saying this to you but to everyone who is listening.
Kara Goldin:No, I love it. It’s a great lesson learned.
Elie Ayrouth:That’s when you can really grow. I learned today just listening to you, I’m learning new stuff. So the more you can do that, the more you’ll grow and you’ll shut other things out. That’s investment enough.
Kara Goldin:I think also that’s a super interesting and important point too because I think that you never know where you’re going to get this information from. It’s like you’re talking to another media company. A lot of people are like oh, I’m not going to talk to that person. I always say to people, I really learned this in tech in particular when I was at AOL, I was friends with Yahoo and Microsoft and my husband worked at Netscape. And we were all friends. We were smart enough not to disclose exactly what the secret sauce was and whatever but we were all super friendly with each other and PS we thought if we ever get fired or need to go do something like maybe we can go and hook up with these people and go do something else really fun and whatever.
Kara Goldin:But I think that’s it’s you end up picking up little pieces of information and especially from people who you may not expect. We’ve had … I always tell employees especially I think it’s somewhat shocking when we have executives from Coke and Pepsi that are hanging out at the Hint offices. People are like wait, what? They always see they’re wearing suits and stuff which is so not us. And I don’t change the way I am for any of these people either. But it’s interesting because it really is … I always encourage entrepreneurs, if people will meet with you, even if they seem like they’re competitors. Not that you’re going to be sleazy but you just never know what you guys are going to learn from each other. And they may get a great appreciation out of you and what you’re doing different.
Elie Ayrouth:I have this feeling that you can work with anyone. And it may be my utmost optimism that that’s a thing.
Kara Goldin:I think it’s awesome.
Elie Ayrouth:I’ll take a meeting with anyone. Whether it’s someone that wants to intern and they’re not even in my department. But some of the best ideas that were gifted to me were from people that I least expected. I hate networking events. If there’s one networking event that almost shut down Foodbeast where it was like year one or two and Jeff and I, neither of us were full time on it and we went to a networking event that he dragged me to at Chapman University. And this gentleman walked up to us and he was like what do you guys do? And I was like I run a food website. It’s called Foodbeast. It’s like the TMZ of food. And he was like that’s an awful idea. He was like how do you differentiate from everyone else. And I was like who am I differentiating from? Name one thing. You’re just now talking down to me. And from that moment, I asked him what he did. He was starting a social network powered by entrepreneurs that everyone needed to be a part of. And it was run entirely on a software called Flash. And Flash doesn’t exist anymore for everyone who is listening. And at that moment, I just realized that that scene particularly wasn’t for me. It gave me a little bit of bad taste for networking events.
Kara Goldin:Anxiety and everything else.
Elie Ayrouth:Maybe you don’t belong there. And that must have been awful for someone else who let that get to them. It got to me for a week. And then, I got over it. But those are … Now I meet great people just everywhere. And it doesn’t have to be at a networking event. There’s people all around if you just keep your eyes and ears open.
Kara Goldin:So if you’re listening and you don’t like those networking events …
Elie Ayrouth:You’re not alone.
Kara Goldin:You’re not alone, right. No, I think that that’s super awesome. So community is a super big part of Foodbeast and where do you think … I’m guessing you think that community is important but I’d love to get your perspective as people start to grow their own communities on websites. What should they be thinking about?
Elie Ayrouth:Being very transparent with whatever audience you have whether it’s three people, three million, 300 million. The more you can talk to them, the better the content is. And content is a very universal thing. Content could be the product that you sell. It could be the media that you create. And so, Foodbeast has had its ups and downs. When our content is really, really good, we are very active with our community. We listen to them. They like this. They hated this. They want to see more of this.
Elie Ayrouth:When you get malaise, there was a year on YouTube where we genuinely got malaise to it and it was a transition between YouTube and Facebook where we weren’t listening to our YouTube audience and the same content we would have put on Facebook, we would put on YouTube which is a huge no no. Because our YouTube audience didn’t want what the Facebook audience was getting. And once we course corrected that, we realized the thing that we course corrected wasn’t more money at content or anything that kind of infrastructure could fix. It was just talking and listening to our audience, read the comments.
Elie Ayrouth:All of our news leads come from our audience. We have a very active tip line. Direct messages to Facebook. I know on Facebook we might get hundreds of leads a day that we have to filter through. But we enjoy reading every last one because we never know someone in Wisconsin’s going to tell us about this new gold cheese. And if we didn’t open that direct message, we’d never learn about it.
Elie Ayrouth:So in terms of building a direct community, it’s actually talking to them. It can’t be talking down which is a big reason we wanted to start Foodbeast to begin with was Food Network had all this great content personalities on their channel but the way that it was disseminated to an audience was you would watch TV and someone essentially with more experience than you was telling you how to do things.
Elie Ayrouth:Where our whole ethos with recipes, with news, is that it’s a conversation. So we obviously fact check news but if a visitor wants to update it or let us know a new place to get it or want to share a recipe that we essentially go and share that with our community, it’s a two way street. And so, we don’t position ourselves as authorities in the old school way but we just … We want to learn together. Foodbeast is for the every person. So we’re learning together. And so, if we’re going to go to a high end restaurant and cover that, you’re going to cover it from the person who doesn’t have a culinary background. So we’re going to mention a cooking tip to you, you’re going to know what we’re talking about and you’re not going to hear sous vide without an explanation of what sous vide is.
Elie Ayrouth:That’s our goal, that’s my goal for building community is just …
Kara Goldin:Make is simple.
Elie Ayrouth:Make it simple and just keep talking with your audience.
Kara Goldin:So what’s next for Foodbeast? Where are you going in three years from now? What’s Elie doing?
Elie Ayrouth:We want to continue to build bigger, better shows. Longer form beautiful shows. We’ve already towed it there. We have some great series on Facebook Watch and YouTube. And we’re going to keep doing it. And that’s what I’m really excited about. And you should see those on the new platforms, Apple TV and Roku and so forth. And hopefully, you see a festival in a town near you.
Kara Goldin:You’re going to do more of those. That’s awesome.
Elie Ayrouth:Yeah. We started in LA. Now we do them in the Bay area and maybe look out … We actually just came back from a festival in Florida that we threw in conjunction with Playlist Live. That was a lot of fun.
Elie Ayrouth:So I hope people continue to come to our events and we continue to build a new kind of Food Network together.
Kara Goldin:That’s super, super cool. And so, do you … you touched briefly on this, platforms. Like Apple TV and Roku. Where do you think … What’s the new hot one that people should be looking out for in your opinion?
Elie Ayrouth:I think what Facebook’s doing with Facebook Watch is pretty interesting. The idea of having two plus billion people on a platform that can watch something together is still I feel in its infancy. I couldn’t tell you exactly how it’s going to look but I’m excited to be a part of that and watch programming like that.
Kara Goldin:And they just announced that you can date too.
Elie Ayrouth:[crosstalk 00:36:33].
Kara Goldin:So you could watch videos, you could watch food videos on your first date.
Elie Ayrouth:That’s cool. Yeah, a little Facebook viewing party.
Kara Goldin:Yeah.
Elie Ayrouth:On your new Facebook Tinder.
Kara Goldin:Right? That would be awesome.
Elie Ayrouth:So yeah, more shows on more platforms and we’re going to keep trying. If a new platform comes out, we want to respect it enough to give it a shot. And just being authentic and trying to bring more food personalities to the forefront. I think we as an internet have a lot of work to do, not just Foodbeast. I think everyone that’s doing really good content in food has a lot of work to do in bringing new and great food personalities to the forefront. And I’d like … That’s my mission over the next 12 months is who’s out there that’s doing something cool in food that wants a TV show? Because it’s a lot more easy now to do that than it was previously. And so, how can Foodbeast help do that? So that’s what I want to be a part of.
Kara Goldin:That’s awesome. That’s super, super cool. So what else? What else are you up to? You live in LA?
Elie Ayrouth:I live in Orange County actually. Yeah, which LA gives me anxiety. I come here once a week when Jake is like hey, Kara wants you on the podcast. I’m like okay, I’ll face the anxiety of LA. I play soccer on Wednesdays. I’m not very good. And I play basketball on Saturdays.
Kara Goldin:That’s awesome.
Elie Ayrouth:I keep it simple. I like keeping it simple. I like consuming content. I love watching other people’s content all the time. And that’s my life.
Kara Goldin:I love hearing about how you started this company but you brought in people to do roles that … I always encourage my team to hire people that are better than you. And it’s actually a very complicated thing. I actually think that men have a harder time hiring people that are better than them than women. And so, I’m always cracking the whip on this whole topic. And then, when they do, I’m like your life will be easier if you hire people that know more than you do on this particular topic.
Elie Ayrouth:It’s such an ego thing. If you don’t check your ego at the door and I’m nowhere near perfect on that front either. I was very fortunate that I had people around me that were just better at things than I was. Even at content, I feel like I have so much to learn but business wise, how do I interact with the brand? How do I do this? How do we do payroll? How do we update the website? The people around me were better at that and as soon as you … It’s not letting go of a piece of your company. It’s just like how do you [crosstalk 00:39:25].
Kara Goldin:Yeah, when you go and hire really good people. And it’s hard to find good people too but if you hire people that are doing those things that call it better than you, that you don’t want to do, whatever it is. I think that that’s a really … I think that’s half the battle of growing a company. One thing that we talk about a lot, or I talk about a lot with entrepreneurs, is that being an entrepreneurs today is this sexy I’m going to be an entrepreneur. And then, if people don’t have an idea I’m like well, that’s sort of the first part is actually coming up with an idea. But it’s especially kids getting out of college or getting out of high school, they’re like I’m going to go be an entrepreneur. And I’m like being an entrepreneur is super hard. And it’s lonely. It can be … I always say there’s a lot easier ways to make money.
Elie Ayrouth:If you want to make money out of college, do not be an entrepreneur. It’s so tough because people come up and they’re like oh, tell me about being an entrepreneur. I don’t even associate really, I’ll be honest with you. I don’t associate with being an entrepreneur. My dad he runs his own business. A really great, small, eight employee wood shop. And I just looked at him and I just didn’t know any different. I saw him going to work, providing for our family. And I was just like I don’t know any better other than other than … I didn’t know that was an entrepreneur. I just thought that’s what people did.
Kara Goldin:Yeah, it’s a small business.
Elie Ayrouth:When people come up and they’re like what do you do? And I’m like I’m an entrepreneur. I was like well, what do you do? What are you in? Oh well I’m between things right now. Well, what do you like? What do you care about? Because I can’t talk with other entrepreneurs that are just they have business plans but they don’t have a brand. They don’t have things to do. Because if I wanted to do that, I would just go work for a company and fulfill awesome roles. And there’s … I love that and I worked for amazing companies and fill those roles. They’re so fulfilling. You can make a great living and be very content in your life. But this sexifying of entrepreneurship needs to come with the balance that it’s not that sexy sometimes. And let an idea lead you and not the other way around.
Kara Goldin:Totally. And having the right idea. You talked about your dad and I’m sure he’s a creator, right? And he loves what he’s doing. And doing that kind of work is probably not easy every single day.
Elie Ayrouth:He still does it because he loves it.
Kara Goldin:Because he loves it.
Elie Ayrouth:He still does it and he loves it and he goes to work every day because it’s his place. My mom loves it. She’s very supportive and she does that. But that’s where I got if there was an entrepreneurship gene, it was from him. And I got the put your head down and work. Go out and make money. They didn’t understand what Foodbeast was until their friends and family were sharing it on Facebook. They still, to this day, I don’t live at their house or anything like that. And they’re like oh, we get it now. You’re okay.
Kara Goldin:That’s awesome. That’s awesome to hear that.
Elie Ayrouth:That was funny.
Kara Goldin:It’s funny. I was talking about a year ago, long crazy story, but the founder of Soul Cycle, one of the founders, Julie, I was chatting with her and her mom had met actually my mother-in-law in a crazy situation. And she came back to Julie and said so I met this woman and she sounds like her daughter-in-law’s a lot like you. She created this water company, Hint. Have you ever heard of it? And she said yes Mom, I’ve heard of it. And she’s like yeah, it’s really crazy. And I told her that you had created this bicycle company where people go and they go on bikes and I just think it’s so crazy. Two females entrepreneurs create these things that I don’t know and I can’t believe she knew about your company. And she said yeah, no Mom, we were like acquired by Equinox. We have them in every city. It’s not just in New York.
Elie Ayrouth:That’s so funny.
Kara Goldin:Yeah, right? And she’s like yeah, but I didn’t really understand until I met somebody who knew about Soul Cycle. And so she had to call me and tell me this story. And she was like yeah, I don’t know. You just hear these … It’s validity, right?
Elie Ayrouth:You can make millions and until your mom’s friend understand what you do …
Kara Goldin:And then it’s fine. Or it’s talked about on Facebook. Then it’s like you’ve now hit it. You’ve hit the big time. No, it’s so, so true. It’s so funny.
Kara Goldin:But anyway, I really I always encourage people to which I think you’ve done that it’s the whole concept of getting … There’s nothing wrong with being a contributor in terms of if you don’t have a great idea maybe you should go work at Foodbeast, for example …
Elie Ayrouth:And explore.
Kara Goldin:And explore and also especially if you can work in a small company. You said you have 18 people in the company where you can actually you may not be able to talk to Elie every single day but you can actually watch and feel the energy of what he’s going through in building this company. And I think it’s such a great experience for people even before if they’ve come from a big advertising agency before you actually go and do your own thing. Go and work for a startup and go see. Go see the every day stuff.
Elie Ayrouth:There’s so much value in any size company.
Kara Goldin:Totally.
Elie Ayrouth:So if you work in a company with 5,000 people, you’re getting a great look at corporate culture and how that’s structured and that’s valuable. And you can learn how to operate within it. You can know one day when you own your own company that this is maybe you liked how this worked or maybe you didn’t like it and you can fix it. You can work for an ad agency with 50 people which is where I was working at before Foodbeast. Amazing, I can see the co-founders on certain days. I can contribute fundamentally to their business which is extremely valuable and I was proud of the work I was doing. But for when I just don’t love hearing when people are thinking of dropping out of school to chase something before they know what they’re chasing.
Elie Ayrouth:If you have your idea, go full board. But there’s … what I want to be wary of when people talk about entrepreneurial pursuits is that there is fundamental value in working for other people.
Kara Goldin:Yeah, 100%.
Elie Ayrouth:You can create anywhere. You can create at an ad agency. Just because you don’t own the company doesn’t mean anything. You own the work that you did.
Kara Goldin:100%.
Elie Ayrouth:And enjoy it. And so, to think that you can’t learn and the only thing sexy about being an entrepreneur is being your own boss. Everyone has a boss. I have a boss. You have a boss. People stop buying your product, your customers are your boss. [inaudible 00:46:51] want to be here. So as soon as you understand that, you can actually take advantage of the time you’re at these places. If I just moped around the ad agency because, I don’t know, luckily, they had a great culture. That’s valuable and I just kept that. And so, I encourage people to just try go work. Go try stuff. I didn’t stop working at other … I didn’t stop my other jobs until I was very, very sure I was going to be good. Which is not for everyone either. I’m maybe not as big of a risk taker as some. But I loved working for other people too.
Kara Goldin:Yeah, that’s key. Actually, Adam Grant, have you heard of Adam Grant? He’s written a book about that. And talks a lot about that exact thing that there’s definitely a trend towards people managing risk not just going full throttle into starting something but taking baby steps in order to eat and survive and not go raise a pile of money but actually test the concept. So I think that that’s really, really cool stuff. And then also, talking about Julie from Soul Cycle. She just announced that she went to WeWork and so she didn’t go … She didn’t come up with the next Soul Cycle after she sold the company. She was trying to figure out what do I do next and she was doing a little bit of investing but she knew she really wanted to operate. And so, she’s now gone inside WeWork. And they hired her to be the chief brand officer. And so, she’s not the CEO anymore. She’s going in to actually help build the brand of WeWork which is a super cool thing. And I want to get her on our podcast too to talk about that decision. Because people always think I was a CEO of a company. I was the founder. I can’t go back. Why would I do that? But why can’t you?
Elie Ayrouth:[inaudible 00:49:05]
Kara Goldin:I know, right, which is when people say what are you going to do next and then there’s the challenge that you’ve got to go do the next thing where it’s got to be better than even the last thing that you did even if you had a successful sale. You’ve got to go and it’s a lot of pressure. And I’ve talked to entrepreneurs. It’s not really about the money either. It’s about doing … They want that passion back for doing something but I think that Julie will be a great example of somebody who’s jumping into somebody else’s dream and trying to actually put some branding and put some interesting DNA into it.
Elie Ayrouth:What a valuable pursuit for her though. Especially for a company like WeWork that does good … You provide working offices for folks that were like her, months prior, years prior. And so, if she can fundamentally help that company, what a great challenge to overcome. What a thing to have on your personal resume. I’m really excited to check out that podcast when you do it. I hope that’ll be soon.
Kara Goldin:Yeah, I don’t know. Definitely I would love to do it. Anyway, super cool. Well, this was so fun, Elie.
Elie Ayrouth:I had a lot of fun.
Kara Goldin:Yeah, lots of fun. And we’ll … Foodbeast. Go check it out and coming soon a lot more stuff. So definitely check out what Elie is up to.
Elie Ayrouth:And thank you, Hint. You made our festival. I appreciate it.
Kara Goldin:Yeah, totally.
Elie Ayrouth:[inaudible 00:50:37]
Kara Goldin:We’ll always do that all day long. We’ll always do that. And are you … What’s the best way for people to get hold of you? On Twitter?
Elie Ayrouth:People want to get hold of me, I’m @bookofelie on Twitter, Instagram, or Spawn. Or you can just email me, [email protected] I love answering my emails there too.
Kara Goldin:Cool. Right on.
Elie Ayrouth:There you go. Thanks Kara.
Kara Goldin:Thanks.