Arianna Huffington is plenty ambitious about the future of Thrive Global and is expanding its executive ranks to catch up with her plans.
To fill the role of Thrive’s first global chief business officer, Huffington has lured Ashley Miles away from her six years at Refinery29, where she was most recently chief client officer and head of advertising. In her new position, which she takes up later this month, Miles will lead all of Thrive’s sales and marketing efforts and oversee this year’s rollout of a new “product suite” aimed at changing behaviors that feed into professional stress and burnout, which it’s Thrive’s stated mission to combat. Huffington has also just hired Lars Bengston, publisher of Vice, to lead an expansion of branded content, as well as Laura Casing from Inverse as vice president of client solutions.
Huffington has previously mined more established media brands to make big hires, last year bringing on Anne Sachs as chief content officer from her tenure at Condé Nast and leading digital for W magazine, as well as Marina Khidekel as editorial director from Meredith’s Women’s Health.
Recent and upcoming products, which are essentially corporate programs designed by Thrive and strategic partners, include maternity and fertility, technology addiction and mental health. The latter, for instance, is pitched to businesses as a science-based package in partnership with Stanford Medicine complete with a survey, workshop, multiweek program and a follow-up check-in for employees, that takes “a holistic approach to well-being” and is aimed at “unlocking your people’s mental power.”
It will be the responsibility of Miles, who will report directly to Huffington, to sell these and other products to corporations or “partners,” of which it seems there are no shortage. Huffington said she’s adding corporate and brand partners “every week” (current partners include finance biggies like J.P. Morgan and Blackrock, but also Sleep Number beds) and that she’s seeing “real results” in people’s lives.
“We’re looking at whatever the problems are with solutions,” Huffington said.
And the solutions, however positive they may be, seem to be where the money is. Thrive is technically seen as a media company, because Huffington is the famed founder of Huffington Post but also because Thrive’s web site is full of written content — some on “well-being” and cultivating better work habits, but also some barely disguised posts on beauty and fashion.
“Our science-based micro steps are how you change behavior — the content helps, but it’s not the primary part of the business,” Huffington said. “In media, we’ve basically created a new business model.”
Although Thrive has raised about $50 million in venture capital with a valuation last year of $120 million, Huffington said her focus isn’t on revenue — she is not raising capital, right now — but on expanding partnerships, which is where Miles comes in.
Thrive is clearly some hybrid of media and health research, one thing it does not want to be seen as is just another “wellness” company. Miles in particular seems almost offended at the idea that Thrive could be associated with the current wellness craze in health and beauty.
“Yes, you have the content piece, which is opening up the white space, the information sharing, then we dive deep into these micro steps and it’s all science-backed,” Miles said. “Then you have the tech enterprise part and that brings the action. You have all of these ‘wellness’ companies popping up every day — anyone can be a wellness blogger, but this is science.”
Huffington went a step further in differentiating Thrive: “We want to redefine the wellness category, move it beyond the warm and fuzzy and really connect with health and performance and experiences.”
Miles shares her new boss’ ambition for Thrive’s business, which is primed to seize the “opportunity” of reducing professional stress and burnout.
“What’s super interesting here is the business model,” Miles said. “It’s such a big movement that’s about to happen and we’re going to scale it.”
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