This NYC Startup Raised $2M to Help You Find the Hidden Treasures of the World


Atlas Obscura

Atlas Obscura believes there is something incredible to discover every day around the world, and around the corner, every day of the week.

Think of it as a next generation Nat Geo.

“We are a user-driven media company devoted to finding and sharing the world’s most remarkable places,” said David Plotz, the company’s CEO.

You only thought you’d seen everything, and Atlas Obscura is here to change your mind, and open your eyes to the wonders of the world, including the everyday world, that you might otherwise miss.

Like the only ice runway in the lower 48.

And you wouldn’t believe how many investors lined up to invest, because they just didn’t want to miss out.

Plotz names names…

Who were your investors?

Investors include: Albert Wenger, Alexis Ohanian, Bertelsmann Digital Media Investments, Brad Flora, Bryan Goldberg, Daniel Saul, Graham Holdings, Henry Blodgett, John Battelle, Josh Spear, Kevin Ryan, Kristopher Brown, Lauren Zalaznick, New Atlantic Ventures, North Base Media, Peter Bloom, Scott Belsky, Seth Teicher, The New York Times, Thomas Lehrman; Treemark Capital, Peter Bloom, Jacob Weisberg, Daniel Gross, Todd Pines, Rob Grosser, Trani Capital, John Caulkins.

We raised a $2 million Seed Round.

Plotz headshot square

David Plotz

Tell us about your service.

A user-generated site devoted to discovering and sharing the world’s most remarkable places, Atlas Obscura has already attracted an audience of more than one million active monthly users–most of them millennials. More than 30,000 people have turned out for Atlas Obscura’s real-world events. Based in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, Atlas Obscura was founded in 2009 by science writer Joshua Foer and film editor Dylan Thuras. Foer, the author of the bestselling book about memory, Moonwalking with Einstein, is the chairman and editor-at-large of Atlas Obscura. Thuras, who had been running Atlas Obscura since its launch, will be the creative director and head of video. In late 2014, I took over as the CEO. I was Editor-in-Chief of Slate from 2008-2014, and host its popular Political Gabfest podcast.

What inspired you to start the company?

Josh and Dylan started Atlas Obscura because they wanted to give people a place to share their knowledge, photos, and stories of unusual and wonderful places.

What have you noticed lately that’s new under the sun?

People are looking for ways to connect their digital experiences to actual real-life experiences. Instead of simply relating to the screen, they are searching for ways to connect to actual human beings in real places. (See the Maker movement, for example.) Atlas Obscura, with our mix of digital and real life discovery, connects deeply with that desire.

What market you are targeting and how big is it?

We are aiming for a mostly a millennial audience—a global one—of people interested in discovery, exploration, surprise.

What’s your business model?

We already have strong revenue from native advertising (including travel based native partnerships), traditional brand advertising, and events. We also expect to have revenue from email, brand extensions like books and merchandise, television, and more.

What was the funding process like?

We met with a lot of very, very smart people during the fall, and laid out our vision for Atlas Obscura. In January, once we had locked in a couple of high-profile, trustworthy investors such as Graham Holding Co. and Kevin Ryan, we circled up the round, and closed it in mid-February.

What are the biggest challenges that you faced while raising capital?

Some skepticism remains about media businesses—about any business that is counting on advertising as a key source of revenue.

What factors about your business led your investors to write the check?

They loved the mission of  AtlasObscura—it’s inspirational and fun. They loved the young audience. They loved the mix of UGC and professional content. And I think they liked the team too.

What are the milestones you plan to achieve in the next six months?

Significant traffic growth, a much more user-friendly website.

Where do you see the company going now over the near term?

We’re going to be National Geographic for millennials—the defining media brand around wonder and discovery.

About the author: AlleyWatch

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