Patrick Yee was recently named one of 2014’s most influential buyers, sellers, and marketers by Adweek. He joined Refinery29 as an early partner in 2009 and has led the company through 1000% audience growth, making it the fastest growing media company in the US per Inc 500. It is now the #1 style media brand online. Patrick took time out of his busy schedule to talk to me about the success he has helped R29 build as well as some of his favorite NYC spots.
JD: You have helped make Refinery29 the huge success that it is today. Please tell us about, how you got started with R29 and about how you’ve watched R29 grow into the media giant it is today.
PY: I met the founders of Refinery29 while exploring a joint venture with my shopping site back in 2007. After I sold that company in 2009, I joined the Refinery29 Board of Advisors and then soon joined full-time as an early partner. At Refinery29, we’re growing an iconic media brand focused on smart, provocative and progressive content and video programming at the intersection of style, culture and independence. We’re now the #1 style media brand online and are obsessively focused on providing resource and inspiration to our readers 24/7, wherever and whenever.
PY: My partners are creative, authentic, brave and uncompromising. And we’re focused on developing a brand that not only inspires and entertains but is truly meaningful. I’m constantly focused on people and product.
JD: According to your LinkedIn profile, one of your current areas of focus is audience development. It’s pretty obvious that you’re a success—your audience has doubled each year for the last 5 years! To what do you owe that success and especially, how do you maintain it?
PY: Our growth has always been fueled by our culture of experimentation, distilling winning formulas, and adapting and innovating on those formulas over time. Despite our exponential growth, it’s never come easy and we’ve had to reinvent ourselves and leave a lot behind over the years.
JD: R29 is all about women; what are your top sources for inspiration about men’s fashion and lifestyle?
PY: I always get super inspired from travel (recently Mexico City), my home Williamsburg (and also the L-train) and my co-workers at Refinery29.
JD: Your online presence is impressive. You blog, you tweet, you have a LinkedIn account, among others, and of course, you work on media every day. What is your secret to staying on top of it all and still being able to disconnect?
PY: FOMO is the secret ingredient! I’m fascinated by the projected life vs real life, and how self-expression has exploded so visually. I truly believe in the power of technology to enhance people’s lives and I have an incurable curiosity.
JD: You gave a talk on the media panel of SXSW this year about “Booming Media Trends Holding onto Identity.” Can you tell us a bit about what you discussed?
PY: A big topic we discussed was reach vs depth: our focus on meaning more to a loyal and passionate audience versus meaning less to a mass audience. Engagement is everything.
JD: What do you love most about living in Williamsburg?
PY: Samurai Mama!
JD: What are your favorite NYC restaurants?
JD: Where would you like to see yourself in 5 years?
PY: Investing locally in a number of the right retail or restaurant concepts.