Over the last 12 months, I have been creating content for dozens of platforms. Perhaps one of the most high profile ones has been Blavity. ‘The digital voice of black millennials’ boasts a readership of over 30m readers a month across all platforms (including social). It is a great example of fast growth and strategic execution.
From inception in 2014, Blavity always positioned itself as a ‘Tech’ company and not only a media player as they had an ambitious vision. They fast grew from a newsletter to attain 1m MAU’s within their first 12 months based on video and editorial news and opinion content. The primary audience was black millennials in the U.S. who were growing in affluence and spending power.
What Blavity began to understand through the data it was collecting was relevant vertical interests from the audience it was serving.
By November 2015, Blavity had secured roughly $800K seed investment by Charles King’s MACRO Ventures among other investors. In the same year, they sponsored Tech808’s event before holding their first event for black females titled, Empower-Her. The team went on to embed themselves in the tech ecosystem by speaking and networking at Disrupt SF in 2016 whilst the community grew stronger. Flying high in 2016, Blavity secured $1m from 500 Startups.
In 2017 the team had a strong understanding of the culture and began to grow through acquisitions to supplement its organic growth to date. They acquired diaspora entertainment news and media site Shadow And Act. This acquisition positioned Blavity well to create exclusive written and video content and find new ways to empower the makers and creators of the future. It won’t surprise me if you see Blavity publish new series on Amazon Prime or Netflix in 2018 through “Blavity Studios.”
After all, 2017 has seen huge returns on budget productions such as Fences, Get Out, Girls Trip and Insecure. The ROI on the culture is strong.
This year a bold and strategic acquisition was Travel Noire, a travel and discovery platform for black millennials. A very strong a vibrant community that proves with data that black millennials are increasing in purchasing power and developing new tastes as they rise in wealth and break into middle-class status. This is a move that enables Blavity to diversify away from just Ad revenue and hone in on transactions related to trips and holiday bookings. At the stage of acquisition, Travel Noire boasted a community of over 2m millennials and now Blavity can see the commonality between the audiences across Blavity, Shadow and Acts and Travel Noire, with a precise understanding of their interests and differences.
Blavity is fast becoming a lifestyle brand with both online and offline experiences geared toward underrepresented millennials. This week was a pivotal week as the Blavity team, Morgan DeBaun, Jeff Nelson, Jon Jackson & Aaron Samuels are developing new media platforms and creating a highly engaged community at a speed that I haven’t seen before. The offline experience was enhanced further with the inaugural #AfroTech conference which had speakers such as Backstage Capital’s recent startup founder and RnB sensation, Kehlani as well as Chamillionaire from Upfront Ventures, Michael Seibel from YC and dozens of others. Tech is another vertical that clearly complements the culture.
Given the in-depth understanding the company is gaining on the culture, I predict that Blavity will look to acquire an underpriced asset that allows it to grow its wallet in transactions from black millennials. The next vertical in my eyes should be in the eCommerce space. I think Zuvaa, the African Fashion Marketplace would be a great steal. The clothing retailer started by Kelechi Anyadiegwu, last year boasted revenues of over $2m in just 2 years of trading. However, it has been reported that the startup has suffered from cash flow issues and operational inefficiencies and therefore are ripe for a buyout and turnaround. This would, of course, be a more hands-on job and require the Blavity team to roll their sleeves up, however it would be a great bridge to merge both online and offline experience and complement their current portfolio.
Main Image Blavity Founders: photo credit: https://blavity.com/about