“As the tide went out it became clear that we had been swimming naked…” — Jack Rivlin, founder of the Tab

The Tab founder on his biggest mistake — and what he learned from a pivotal meeting with Rupert Murdoch

Back in 2016, the week after Britain voted to leave the EU, I sat opposite Rupert Murdoch for the most important meeting of my life.

 A year earlier we had taken £2 million in venture capital funding and pitched up in New York to spice up the earnest world of college journalism, just as we had done back home. We hired 20 people, got an office in Brooklyn and toured the country recruiting students. 

 This American adventure yielded plenty of scoops, readers and funny stories, but precious little in the way of revenues. We burned through the money at an alarming rate, and soon The Tab was down to its last few months of cash. I’d spent most of the spring going up and down Manhattan with my begging bowl, trying to persuade venture capital funds that a graph which was flat was in fact going up, but to no avail.

The Tab takes America (sort of)

There was still time for one last Hail Mary, in the shape of Mr Murdoch. One of our investors had met with him and mentioned The Tab and its red top credentials, to which Rupert replied: “Great, I want to buy it”. 

You’d think this was the perfect opportunity to sell, defying the odds to cash in on a loss-making tabloid with no real business model and a precarious future. Indeed, that was my co-founder, George’s view. He reckoned we could get £5-10 million for the company – enough to make us both millionaires.

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