In late August, San Diego’s ABC 10News aired close-up shots of “monster waves” headed for local beaches. The footage didn’t come from a staff videographer. Instead, it was sourced in a matter of minutes from an independent drone photographer through Stringr, a new media startup. Founded last fall, the service will put out an app next month and eventually let subscribers buy video of “anything, anywhere” within an hour through its online and mobile platforms.
Stringr is one of the latest ventures incubated at Matter, a San Francisco-based media start-up accelerator that launched a year and a half ago. Matter invests $50,000 and five months of mentoring and support in early-stage media companies with scrappy founders and a potential to scale. Six firms graduating from Matter’s third portfolio group made their pitch to an audience in San Francisco’s South of Market district Thursday, including to investors from SV Angel, Google Ventures, DBL Investors and Crosslink Capital.
Matter’s managing partner, Corey Ford, says he’s seen growing interest in media startups among venture capital firms and media organizations.
“When we launched Matter, ‘media’ and ‘content’ were bad words, but it’s starting to take off,” he said. Thanks in part to vocal advocates like Marc Andreeson, whose firm poured $50 million into BuzzFeed last month, “investors are realizing there are really businesses to built within media,” Ford said.
Stringr has raised $550,000 from angel investors so far, including Signia Venture Partners and the Bodley Group. It plans to raise another $1.5 million in a seed round over the winter to fund a national rollout slated for the coming year. Stringr cofounder Brian McNeill predicts a run rate of up to $5 million within a year, thanks to strong demand for video content and the increasing ease of shooting and transmitting high-quality footage. Initial subscribers will be traditional media companies, starting with TV stations in San Diego.
“A lot of people thank that traditional media companies are dying, but they’re the ones that can still invest in new innovation. They still have the money and viewership,” says Lindsay Stewart, who cofounded Stringr last fall with McNeill and another classmate from the Wharton Business School.
But Stringr hopes to branch out beyond journalism to commercial real estate, advertising firms and other industries for a bigger chunk of the $1-billion third-party video content market.
Other startups in the group included LocalData, which has raised $450,000 for its urban data aggregation platform, and EduCrate, which thinks it can save taxpayers $2.6 billion a year through a platform that curates educational videos for teachers. A pitch from crowd promotion platform Louder, which has raised $300,000 so far, generated interest from Google Ventures at the event.
In the short time it’s been around, Matter has groomed some successful ventures. After graduating from the incubator in 2013, GoPop, formerly known as Zeega, raised nearly $1.2 million in two consecutive funding rounds led by Chris Sacca and Matt Mazzeo for its platform that mixes visual content. Contextly, a content recommendation platform that was part of Matter’s second class, now counts Thomson Reuters, KQED and Modern Farmer Media among its customers.
Ford thinks Matter does well at spawning successful new media firms because it encourages experimentation, quick failure and adaptation – what he calls “the drunken walk of the entrepreneur.” Part of that is moving beyond a traditional view of media to anything that informs or connects.
“I wanted to build a place that, if you wound the clock back 10 years, something like Twitter would come out of it,” he said.
Investment, not grant-making, will be the driving force behind successful new media models, Ford says. The Knight Foundation initially offered Matter itself a grant, but Ford asked the foundation and KQED to treat it as a small VC firm and invest $1.2 million each instead.