Apr 05, 2017

The Outliers 12: In his trek from an 'accidental' company to a 'deliberate' one, Rafat Ali learnt to have a voice

Meet Rafat Ali of Skift, the digital media warrior who is questioning established media platforms on one hand and taking on the rising dominance of newer ones on the other.

BYPankaj Mishra

As a rookie media entrepreneur, I have always looked up to Rafat Ali, who sold his first media startup paidContent to The Guardian, and is now in the fifth year of building Skift, a new-age travel media startup.
Ali has been a long-time digital media warrior. He maintains a no-nonsense profile across social media platforms, questioning the incumbent, large media platforms on one hand, and taking on the rising dominance of newer media products such as Facebook on the other.
He doesn’t believe a media startup has to necessarily position itself as a positive or negative storyteller. “If we cover the good parts, we also cover the bad parts. And the companies and people we cover appreciate that,” he says.
No matter what sector or product, a startup’s biggest existential battle is to survive. “It doesn’t get talked about as much, but really, the biggest job you have (as a founder) in the first three years is to make sure you survive, and you don’t die as a company. We’ve done that, and now we have the luxury to build a long-lasting business.”
“The founders who say they never build for exit are essentially lying, either to themselves or to the outside world,” he adds.
His mission is to “create a media company with a culture that people want to be at and stay at, and create something meaningful.”
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Pankaj Mishra is a writer of FactorDaily.