IMM: DIGITAL MEDIA MASTERS: BO PEABODY: TRIPOD

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Bo Peabody took fear and turned it into a thriving Web site.

As a senior at Williams College, Mr. Peabody noticed most of his classmates shared the same trepidation about life after graduation as he did.

"In the old days you graduated, you got a job, and you were set," Mr. Peabody said. "What I was seeing showed me that wasn't true anymore."

Mr. Peabody conducted a market research survey on campus, and found 85% of Williams students were anxious about their futures after school. Then he conducted a similar survey across the country with the backing of Dow Jones & Co. and Roper Starch Worldwide. The results were similar.

From this Tripod was born (www.tripod.com), a site dedicated to practical advice for 18 to 34 year-olds on key topics such as careers, money and health.

Mr. Peabody's prescience is paying off. This June Tripod received $10 million from seven investment groups, including Interpublic Group of Cos. and investment bank Cowen & Co. The site now has 375,000 registered members, with 40 million page views a month. Mr. Peabody said the company, with a staff of 40, will be profitable by yearend. Tripod has also launched a magazine and is working on a book deal and other spin-off publications.

The 26-year-old CEO deserves credit for hitting a nerve with Gen Xers, but Mr. Peabody admits his success on the Web has as much to do with being in the right place at the right time.

When he graduated in 1994, he was working on his own proprietary network to carry Tripod when the Web burst onto the scene less than a year later.

Tripod went live in April 1995.

"The only reason we're successful is timing," Mr. Peabody said. "It would take $50 million to start up a site like this now."

Charles Waltner

Betcha didn't know: Mr. Peabody originally approached Steve Case, CEO of America Online and a Williams alum, about carrying Tripod on AOL. Mr. Case rejected the idea.

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