Matter Brings More Media Startups and Expansion Plans to New York
Last Friday, the Matter Five class visited New York, showcasing another round of startups with aspirations of bringing change to the media world.
As accelerators go, Matter tends to have smaller classes of graduates, though they are all focused on some aspect of the media industry. There was an overarching theme among the latest graduates, centered on sharing content and stories through digital means—including one team’s plan to show people other parts of the world through virtual reality. In addition to demos from this round of media startups, the folks from Matter also shared some plans of their own.
Corey Ford, managing partner of San Francisco-based Matter, said the accelerator recently grew its own team from two to five, and by the end of 2016 Matter will set up a permanent New York branch. Ford spoke with me and said New York had been in the running, back when Matter launched, to be the original home base.
The plan for the East Coast version of the accelerator, he said, will draw some inspiration from Stanford University’s fellowship program called Stanford Biodesign. “The fellows work in teams to build companies, and they open up Stanford hospitals to them,” Ford said. “Their job is to observe, find needs to solve, and found companies around that.”
The concentration of major media companies in New York, he said, could lead to comparable opportunities for startups from Matter to get a direct feel for what the industry needs.
Three-year-old Matter tries to nurture startups that develop new models to bring change to media, Ford said. So far, some 35 companies and 83 entrepreneurs have come through the accelerator. Early this month, New York-based Stringr, a graduate from 2014, raised $1.5 million. Exits among Matter alumni include GoPop, acquired in February by BuzzFeed, and Louder, acquired in October by Change.org.
Metta, Motherly, Huzza, Mingyian, Redivis, and Verbatm comprised the Matter Five class, each with very different plans to disrupt the media scene.
Co-founder Jill Koziol presented for Motherly, an online guide for millennial women who are about to be, or already are mothers. In an era where many women are used to documenting their lives, new mothers might have questions and concerns not reflected in their social media updates, Koziol said. Motherly offers advice and information from experts and other mothers that is personalized to each user, based on their daily lives. The site includes blogs and tips on balancing work and family from the likes of PowerToFly and Lean In.
Meanwhile, Metta is taking people to other parts of the world—through virtual reality. Ceci Mourkogiannis, co-founder, showed the audience how user-generated virtual reality video combined with devices such as Samsung Gear VR can give people a more immersive perspective of another locale and events—such as the plight of refugees waiting long stretches for access to even the most basic services.
Helping musicians better connect with their audience, and make money along the way, is the plan at Huzza. Justin Womersley, CEO and co-founder, said his startup lets musicians stream live video performances from their own homes or studios to share with their fans. Musicians can also respond to fan questions during the streams, to create a personal and interactive experience with the audience.
CEO Iain Usiri said Verbatm is a way for millennials to create, publish, and share stories, which can be a combination of video and other media, from their mobile devices. This can include artistic endeavors, news commentary, and personal stories they want to spread quickly for other mobile users to see.
Connecting with the large audience of Chinese millennials is not that simple for Western celebrities and brands, according to Jenny Bai, co-founder of Mingyian. Copying and sharing the same messages used in other markets might not get the same level of interest in China, where fan interaction can take on a different dynamic. Mingyian developed a platform that lets celebs conduct online events specifically for fans in China. The startup already has M. Night Shyamalan and RRE Ventures among its seed-stage backers.
Data-driven stories, which use facts, figures, and infographics to form a narrative, are a growing part of the media landscape. Ian Mathews, co-founder of Redivis, said his startup’s platform crowdsources public data from around the world for activists, journalists, and researchers to use in the development and presentation of stories they create.