President of Allrecipes.com since 2007, Lisa Sharples’s experience reads a little like the history of the consumer Internet. Garden.com—a classic dreamy biz school/garage idea in 1995—goes all the way to IPO. There’s the stint at classmates.com (we shoulda been Facebook, must go the refrain, with real Marlon Brando backseat passion). Oh and besides the MBA from Northwestern’s Kellogg School, there are the hardcore tech bona fides: time in the trenches at Silicon Graphics and Sun Microsystems, which guarantees no one pooh-poohs her when the conversation shifts from casserole to code.
Her company profile claims “Lisa has grown Allrecipes from a single US focused site to a global, multi-platform brand with 17 sites and 9 mobile apps serving 22 countries in 11 languages.” Not bad—media conglomerate Meredith liked her data dish enough to order it off the Reader’s Digest menu in 2012. The profile also says that on busy nights she’ll cook up some tomato basil tagliatelle. Doesn’t that sound so much better than pasta with red sauce? Specifics with a touch of the exotic: that’s the lingua franca of two Sharples familiars, venture capitalists and chefs. Sharples knows another language too, like the back of her spatula: it’s SEO, or search engine optimization. SEO is the subtle stylistic idiom that underpins all successful web writing and makes Google pluck your page from ignominy the way a doorman parts the velvet ropes for the girl in the highest heels. SEO is the recipe for success—probably the only one you can’t download from the untold millions at allrecipes.com. By all accounts Lisa Sharples is also disarmingly nice, and loves to laugh.