19 media startups that VCs say are poised to take off in 2021, as trends like newsletters and sports betting surge
Insider asked 11 top venture-capital investors which media startups they’re bullish on for 2021.
We told each VC to pick two companies, including one they weren’t invested in.
Here were the picks, which reflect trends like livestream shopping, newsletters, and sports betting.
Audio-only chat room apps. Twitch livestreaming tools. Virtual events platforms.
It’s hard to look at this year’s high-flying media startups without seeing the many ways that life in a global pandemic has transformed the media world.
Some upstarts, like the audio company Clubhouse, launched just as shelter-in-place policies were put into eect in the US and abroad. The app has since garnered millions of users and raised over $100 million from investors like Andreessen Horowitz. Other businesses, like Fable, the social-reading app that Padmasree Warrior launched this year, are creating new online communities to help people connect when they can’t gather in person.
Insider asked 11 venture capitalists from rms including The Chernin Group, Redpoint Ventures, and CRV, which media startups they thought would surge this year as the economy recovers from the pandemic and investors try to assess its long-term eects. We asked the investors to pick two companies, including one they weren’t invested in.
Some said they were betting on startups that mixed media with commerce, like Popshop Live and The Landing. Others spotlighted companies focused on social issues or mental wellness, such as A Kids Book About and Fable. A few were bullish on media companies close to sports gaming and gambling, and several are betting on businesses that bring in-person experiences online.
Players’ Lounge Co-Founder and CEO, Austin Woolridge
Total funding: $5.5 million, according to the company.
What it does: Players’ Lounge is a matchmaker for gamers who want to play against others for money. Players’ Lounge sits at the intersection of trends including the growth of video games and esports. The startup made headlines in 2019 when hip-hop started to invest in it.
Sharp Alpha Advisors founder Lloyd Danzig, who is also an investor and a regular user, thinks the next few years will be big for Players’ Lounge because of the increasingly social nature of video games, as well as the growth in esports and sports betting.
“The combination of post-Covid behavioral shifts, simultaneous to the growth in sports betting mixed with gamification in media, I think makes it an amazing time to be a peer-to-peer video-game wagering network,” Danzig said.
Founded in 2014 by Austin Woolridge, Zach Dixon, and Dan Delaney, Players’ Lounge says it aims to give more people the opportunity to make money by playing video games. A gamer who wants to play Call of Duty against someone for money can get matched up on Players’ Lounge with another player of their skill level, connect with that user on gaming networks such as the Playstation Network, and win prize money through the startup’s app, for example.
The startup told Team Whistle it paid out $45 million in 2020.
Players’ Lounge focuses on skill-based games so it’s not considered gambling in the eyes of US regulators the way luck-based games like slots or roulette are. Still, Insider has reported on concerns that kids could sneak onto platforms like Players’ Lounge.
Ryff Founder and CEO, Roy Taylor. Source: Ryff.
Total funding: $8.6 million in seed nancing, according to the company.
What it does: Ry built technology to dynamically insert products into videos, bringing the concept of product placements into the digital age.
Why VCs like it: Founded in 2018 by Roy Taylor (who previously ran Nvidia Europe), Ryff’s tech opens up a new revenue stream for digital media companies.
The company said it recently signed deals with Coca Cola, Peroni, Diageo, Intel and ad- holding company WPP to use its platform, Placer.
“For content owners, networks, and streaming platforms, Ry oers a way to monetize old content,” said Marlon Nichols, managing general partner at MaC Venture Capital, which is an investor in Ry. “Streaming platforms are on the rise and will not go away, and Ry oers the industry a model that properly scales and adds flexibility.”