In conversation with… Peter Cohan of Forbes and Inc.

Posted on July 27, 2022

By Becky Quinlan

It’s not easy to keep up with Peter Cohan.

In addition to writing for Forbes and Inc., he’s a strategy consultant, startup investor, corporate speaker, teacher, pundit, and author.

Cohan has invested in six startups, three of which were sold for a total of $2 billion and a fourth, Sofi Technologies, went public in 2021 at an $18 billion valuation. He has also authored 15 books, including his most recent, Goliath Strikes Back: How Traditional Retailers Are Winning Back Customers from Ecommerce Startups. Meanwhile, he teaches business strategy and entrepreneurship to undergraduate and MBA students at Babson College in Wellesley, Massachusetts.

You can find him regularly contributing to Forbes about current stock and business trends. He also writes “The Hungry Start-Up” column for Inc., where he tackles everything from negotiation strategies to tips for a better hybrid workplace. Offleash managed to catch up with the very busy Peter Cohan to learn more about what makes a good story, how he got into journalism, and his original career goal (hint: it may surprise you).

How do you begin your workday?

I drink a cup of iced coffee, check Google trends, look at the headlines on The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and CNBC.

You teach business strategy at Babson College. You also write for publications such as Forbes and Inc. And you are also a strategy consultant, corporate speaker, pundit, and author of 15 books (!) How + when did you transition to the world of journalism?

I started by talking with journalists after I published my first book. One of them, from Businessweek, invited me to become a columnist when she became an editor at AOL. I wrote there for about five years until Arianna Huffington bought it. In 2011, I started writing columns for Forbes and Inc. From 2011 to 2019, I also wrote a biweekly column for the Worcester Telegram & Gazette (MA). I still do the columns for Forbes and Inc. and have been a full-time professor since 2016.

Of all the stories you have written, which is your favorite?

Here are two of my favorites: 

What do you think are the must-have ingredients for a solid story

Those two stories had the ingredients:

  • A topic that is really interesting to my readers
  • A great source who sheds new light on the topic
  • A story with many surprising and interesting twists
  • In the case of the first one, a fantastic TV series about the main character—I am thinking about Hulu’s The Dropout

What’s one thing people would be surprised to know about you?

In college, I was highly confused about what I wanted to do for work. I wanted to be a poet, then a concert pianist, then an architect, and finally—by my junior year—a strategy consultant to help high technology companies grow.

Follow Peter Cohan on Twitter at @petercohan.

Peter Cohan
Babson Faculty Page
Peter S. Cohan & Associates
LinkedIn Page
Books
Forbes and Inc. columns