Over the nearly two decades that BuzzFeed founder Jonah Peretti has spent inventing things, he’s figured out that one of the most important ingredients of new ideas is something closer to play—experiments taken on not to profit immediately, or to develop a product, but because they’re flat-out fascinating. It’s what he figured out at MIT Media Lab, where he first became Internet Famous after his correspondence with a Nike customer service representative over getting the word “sweatshop” stitched into his sneakers went viral. And it’s what he promoted at the Brooklyn art and technology nonprofit where he built Eyebeam OpenLab, an open-source research and development space for artists.
Heck, it’s how BuzzFeed got started: Peretti didn’t start out to build an $850 million media company; While he was working at The Huffington Post, which he also helped start, Peretti started BuzzFeed as a side project to experiment with viral content. Now, as BuzzFeed hits 200 million views a month, Peretti is launching a new research and development lab to foster that type of serendipity internally. Says Peretti, “I think sometimes just having people who are doing undirected work as part of an organization, even if it’s a small percentage of our team, is something that will lead to good things.”
'Ideally, we’ll have some people who are a little bit feral and are obsessed with something they’ve been hacking on.' Jonah Peretti