The Visionaries: Alex Lieberman

Alex Lieberman was all set for a career on Wall Street, but a chance discovery inspired him to choose a different path. Morning Brew, his daily newsletter that provides a fix of business news in an upbeat, five-minute read, has garnered a loyal following since it was launched in 2015. Current subscribers number 700,000, advertisers include Microsoft, JPMorgan, Morgan Stanley, and Dropbox, and the Brew has a notable near 50% open rate. Just as impressive is the fact that Alex and co-founder Austin Rief launched the Brew while they were still studying at the University of Michigan.

The seed of inspiration came from fellow Business students, when Alex was helping them prepare for job interviews. The consistent reply to a simple question about where each student got their business news was revealing—everyone read the Wall Street Journal, but it was generally considered a time-consuming chore by that age group. This led to the Brew, as a vehicle to present business news in a fun, engaging, and digestible way.

While Alex initially took up an offer to work as a Trader at Morgan Stanley after graduation, he continued to work on the Brew in his own time. After a year and a half, he took the plunge from a world he knew well into the less charted waters of media, and has never looked back.

We invited Alex to the Zachary Prell showroom to select an outfit to suit his busy lifestyle. We also talked about taking risks, thinking outside the box, and the importance of curiosity.

You launched the Brew with a college audience in mind, but now your average reader is 28 years old and works in finance, tech, or consulting. Who do you see as your future readers?

While Morning Brew’s average reader has shifted dramatically both in age and level of business acumen since inception, our content and user acquisition strategies have not changed. We have and will continue to write for the 28-35-year-old business professional, who is young, hungry, and has a strong foundation of business knowledge. Our view is that writing for this audience will keep the content high brow enough to attract professional readers, while also attracting college students that aspire to be that 28-year-old professional. Although the college student is no longer the majority within our audience, we still put a ton of emphasis growing this demographic. We are in the business of building habits, so if we can make Morning Brew every college student’s daily fix of business, the hope is that nothing will have to change once they graduate and work full-time.

Alex tried the Lieberman shirt in Teal, the Aster in Grey, and the Plymouth in Navy.
Your family all worked on Wall Street, and you initially worked there too. How did they feel about you taking another path, including the insecurity that a startup presents?

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t scared. After watching my parents and grandparents find success through careers on Wall Street, I just assumed that I’d follow the same path. Once I started my career in Sales & Trading, I knew that things would be different for me. While I enjoyed trading, I also enjoyed the four hours spent on Morning Brew after work and found it far more exciting and thought provoking. It took eight months of ambivalence, but after a year and a half on Wall Street, I quit my cushy trading job to go all-in on the Brew. I knew it was a risk, but I also knew that as I got older this risk would only be harder to take.

Do you think that coming from a background that wasn’t media related is one of the strengths of your brand, in the sense that you didn’t have any preconceived ideas about how business media should be covered?

Yes 100%. I think our naivety to media positioned us really well to think outside the box and constantly build product that we as our own product’s consumers would want. There’s a double-edge sword to relevant work experience, and we’ve definitely seen where backgrounds in media would have been helpful, but overall, I think one of our greatest assets was our lack of exposure to how things have always been done in media.

The word that comes up a lot when you talk about yourself and your business is “curious.” Is curiosity a driving force for you?

Curiosity is everything. I constantly push myself to be more curious and am always looking for deep curiosity and passion when making hires at the Brew. I would way rather hire someone with less relevant work experience but is a lifelong learner, than someone who has relevant experience but lacks curiosity. The latter lacks upside, whereas the former has unlimited upside in my mind.

What’s the next step for Morning Brew?

We want to be the one-stop shop for the current/emerging business leader to have a better, more impactful experience with the business world. Our core product (the daily email newsletter) is the first point of contact to establish trust with our audience, but longer-term, we want to be involved in the business person’s life throughout their day, not just during their morning commute.

You tried the Plymouth jacket, the Lieberman shirt, and the Aster pant, what did you think?

Couldn’t say enough good things about the combo of Lieberman (not just because it’s my name), Plymouth jacket, and Aster pant. The Lieberman fits like a professionally tailored shirt, and the material is breathable and comfortable. The Plymouth was extremely sleek and is flexible enough to use in a variety of social situations, personally and professionally. The Aster was extremely comfortable, slim fit, and rounded out the outfit perfectly. I think the outfit speaks to Zachary Prell’s ability to create items that feel good and look good, where you don’t have to forfeit comfort in order to achieve style.

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