Rafat Ali, MA’01, is an entrepreneur who has spent his career at the intersection of media and technology.
Ali is the founder and CEO of Skift, the most influential media company in the global travel industry. Skift produces daily news, research, conferences, and other events around the world, focused on airlines, hotels, destinations, tourism, online travel, and other key parts of the travel industry, and read by all the top CEOs and executives.
Ali earned his bachelor’s degree in computer engineering from Aligarh Muslim University in Aligarh, India, and began his career as a journalist at Advertising and Marketing magazine in India. He attended graduate school at IU on a Knight Foundation Fellowship, earning a master’s degree in journalism in just three semesters. As a student, he helped design and code the original IU School of Journalism website.
After graduating from IU in 2000, Ali moved to New York City and, amongst other editorial jobs, became managing editor of the Silicon Alley Reporter just two years later. There, he wrote its email newsletter called the Silicon Alley Daily, which sparked his interest in media brand building. He founded his first company, paidContent, the first site to cover the digital media ecosystem, in 2002.
In 2006, paidContent caught the attention of Folio magazine, which named Ali to its FOLIO:40 list of magazine industry influencers. Ali sold paidContent and ContentNext to the Guardian in 2008 for a reported $30 million, and continued to lead it until 2010.
In 2012, Ali founded Skift, a business media company focused on the travel industry, one of the largest sectors in the world. Since its founding in 2012, Skift studies have been cited by The New York Times, CNBC, the Wall Street Journal, BBC, and every other major media company.
The company’s name comes from a Danish verb translating to “shift” — a nod to the act of transformation. Skift started as a business news site but has evolved into a multi-faceted media company that has expanded organically and through acquisitions. It has acquired four companies since 2018 and continues to look for more opportunities.
Skift Live hosts global summits and forums in travel, including the Skift Global Forum — now the biggest and most aspirational conference in global travel — and Skift Aviation Forum, as well as niche events on topics such as sustainable tourism, short-term rentals, and the future of business travel.
Ali serves on the board of the International Women’s Media Foundation and the advisory board of Discover Puerto Rico, the tourism board for the island. He is an active angel investor in travel startups.
Known for his thought leadership on the travel industry as well as the intersection of technology and media, Ali has spoken at many industry events and conferences. He regularly publishes commentary and insights on topics ranging from travel trends and digital media to cultural commentary and personal reflections.