NEW YORK CITY — Thrillist CEO Ben Lerer said today at the F.ounders conference that 45 percent of the company’s revenue now comes from its JackThreads iPhone app, a stunning stat that shows a mobile-intensive strategy can sometimes pay off.

“The iPhone app will bring in an incredible amount of revenue this year … mobile will be the majority in Q2,” Lerer told VentureBeat after the panel. “It’s a beast. This is where our guys are.”

We recently put Thrillist on our list of 10 NYC startups we’re crazy about because the company started out as a small email newsletter tailored to urban males, but it now generates over $40 million in revenue a year. It offers a wide array of editorial content and the ability to purchase things through JackThreads and Thrillist Rewards. JackThreads’ iPhone app, however, has become an unexpected huge hit for the company.

Lerer said Thrillist has changed strategies to mobile-first in just the past few months, and the shift is occurring in “real time.”

“Our mobile-first strategy is a reaction to success we were seeing — we didn’t lean into a hot buzzword,” Lerer said. “We were web-first or email-first or not-mobile-first for a very long time, and over the past several months — and it has been this recent — we’ve seen such a shift in audience behaviors that instead of playing catchup, we decided we should be first movers in mobile.”

How to realize this sort of significant mobile monetization, and how other publishers and developers can tap into similar strategies, is one of the biggest challenges of today’s economy. (That’s why it is one of the key areas for discussion at our Mobile Summit in Sausalito on April 1 and 2, where we’ve invited the top 180 executive in the industry. We’re hosting a wide cross-section of the community, from Google and Facebook, across the major carriers like AT&T and Verizon, to Cisco, Intel and the major analytics folks, like Flurry — along with the top 60 or so publishers and emerging startups.)

Thrillist also offers an Android app for JackThreads, but it does not create customer action anywhere near the level of the iPhone app.

“The Android experience is not as robust as the iPhone experience, but we weren’t seeing the same sort of conversations,” Lerer said. “It wasn’t even comprable.”

The company does not offer an iPad app yet, but Lerer promises it will come down the pipeline “in the not so distant future.”

While the company is doing so much on mobile and heavily prioritizes it, he says its brands will continue to get some love on the web as well.

“It’s not a shift away from web, which is an important thing,” Lerer said. “Our web business is doing what we thought it would do. Our mobile business is just doing so much more. So we end up with a business that frankly doesn’t look like what had we expected it to look like a quarter into the year. And the trajectory we are on is different from what we forecasted eight to sixteen weeks ago.”

Ben Lerer photo via Sean Ludwig/VentureBeat

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