Series W Interview

In June, The Daily Pnut launched; it’s a daily news brief that will make you laugh and help you sound marginally more intelligent each day.

This week the Series W team asked The Daily Pnut founding team – HBS grads, Tewfik & Fred, and HKS grad student Alex – about how they got started, and what they gave up to take the start-up plunge:

How did you develop the idea for The Daily Pnut?

We saw that there were a few daily news emails but we saw a gap in making it funny. We realised that people were getting more and more of their news before even getting out of bed, humor was moving from satirical fringes to the mainstream and people were bombarded with different news sites and didn’t have the time to make sense of it.

Considering all of this, we built a product that we thought people might like: The Daily Pnut.

How did your founding team come together?

Fred and Tewfik initially came together around a mutual passion on international affairs that was apparent during RC BGIE. We ideated for a while with two other HBS grads and were fortunate enough to bump into Alexandra Schuster who was at the Kennedy School, shared their passion and actually had a media background. She quickly joined the founding team, honing the strategy and building and growing the Daily Pnut.

What was your professional alternative to the Pnut? Why did you decide to take the plunge?

Tewfik: I had an offer from Facebook for a product marketing manager role after the summer so I had to make a decision early. I decided to take the plunge in November before my offer deadline. I was always passionate about entrepreneurship and international affairs and never thought I could find a way to combine those two passions. I knew we hadn’t yet settled on an idea but I didn’t want to waste the opportunity to do what I love for a living.

Alex: Staying in graduate school — which I’m still doing! I’m completing my degree at the Harvard Kennedy School while also doing the Daily Pnut full time.  

Fred: Management Consulting. Decided to go for it after working with Alex and Tewfik for a few months. I’m very lucky to work with such a good team and I knew that we would hopefully build something that would do well.

What’s been the most exciting moment so far?

Two weeks ago we were looking at the analytics for our open rates and we saw that Noam Chomsky had just opened the email. We had no idea he was even subscribed. We looked further and found that he had opened the email every day and was clicking on links (aka he actually read it). We emailed him and asked what he thought and turned out he really enjoyed it!

What has been your greatest WFIO (we’re f*****, it’s over) moment so far?

When two of us got frozen out of the US because the US visa system broke.

Apart from that it’s been incredible. We were accepted into the accelerator, we learned how to code, and even the visa debacle resulted in us being stranded abroad allowing us to provide great coverage on the Greek crisis which really gave us credibility with our reader base (we hope!).     

What resources (if any) did you use at HBS? Which was the most helpful?

HBS professors have been very helpful at making introductions, challenging our thinking and providing guidance on the project as it evolved. Professor Fuller was particularly supportive and helpful. We also used the Rock Centre’s EIR program and were fortunate enough to get an entrepreneurial grant from the Rock Centre.

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