Founder of a billion-dollar company: Here's what it takes to succeed as an entrepreneur

Shortly after co-founding the Huffington Post in 2005, entrepreneur Jonah Peretti started working on a side project to figure out how content and ideas spread.

That project evolved into the billion-dollar media empire BuzzFeed, which reaches hundreds of millions of readers and employs 1,300 people around the world.

While Peretti's journey — which started with a viral email chain with Nike that landed him on the Today Show — may appear seamless, making it in the start-up world is anything but easy, he tells Guy Raz at a live taping of NPR's podcast "How I Built This."

Jonah Peretti speaks to Guy Raz at a live taping of NPR's "How I Built This" in New York City
Courtsy of Ebru Yildiz/NPR
Jonah Peretti speaks to Guy Raz at a live taping of NPR's "How I Built This" in New York City

"First of all," says Peretti, "it's not a good way to make a lot of money. Sometimes, people are fortunate and make a lot of money in start-ups, but most of them fail.

"When I think about the New York tech scene and the people that I knew over the years, lots of really smart, creative people put so much effort into building start-ups that for various reasons — often outside of their control — didn't succeed."

The numbers tell a similar story: About 75 percent of start-ups fail.

While, "in general, there's a huge amount of luck" involved in making it big as an entrepreneur, Peretti tells Raz, if you want to succeed, "you have to love the struggle." In fact, if you want to succeed in anything, you have to accept and embrace the fact that it's going to be hard: "When you think about any worthwhile endeavor, it's hard. Exercising: If you want to get in shape, it's hard. Or playing video games: Certain levels are really hard."

The trick is chipping away at the goal: "With video games, if you started on level 26, it would be terrible. You would get destroyed. But if you play your way up to level 26, then it's fun that it's so hard."

Nobody gets everything right the first time, but "if you stay at something long enough and you learn as you're doing it, a little bit of initial luck can be turned into something much bigger over time," says Peretti.

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