Find out Why This NYC Startup Sold for $100M


NYC Tech Week in Review.001

No one likes being held back by what the newspaper decides to report on. People want interesting and inspiring videos and stories to show them what happened. ViralNova, the web’s go-to site for powerful stories, news, and cat videos, did just that. Only two years after this site went viral (and made things go viral), they are being bought by Zealot Networks. With Zealot Networks taking over, we take you through the acquisition as well as what is happening to your favorite content provider.

Today, we chat with Sean Becker, CEO, about the acquisition

Tell us about your service.

ViralNova is the leading destination for the web’s most fascinating, inspiring, and emotionally striking stories. Launched in May 2013 by viral content visionary Scott DeLong, ViralNova has more than 100 million monthly visits across mobile and desktop, and a dedicated social following of more than 3 million.

In short, we’re one of the web’s top destinations for interesting content.

sean-becker1-Who acquired you and what was the acquisition process like?

We were acquired by Zealot Networks, a digital-first media and entertainment company that empowers entrepreneurs by delivering multi-platform revenue, distribution and content development opportunities.

The process began with a simple e-mail from Zealot Networks asking for a meeting. When we did finally sit down, there was an immediate recognition that we both had similar visions for how the web was developing and that our companies were bringing the complementary abilities to the table necessary to bring that vision closer to becoming a reality.

It’s important to note that we weren’t actively looking to be acquired. What made this so interesting was the chance to be part of the vision that Danny Zappin and the Zealot Networks team were laying out. It’s one thing to speak to a company that has a great vision, it is another entirely to see such a clear plan for how to make it a reality. When you combine this with the impressive background of Zealot Networks’ team, we knew it was a journey we wanted to embark on together.

What factors about your business led Zealot Networks to consider the acquisition?

I think there were a few key factors that made ViralNova attractive. Firstly, we had developed a strong and profitable business. They weren’t just acquiring our potential – which is enormous – they were getting a proven entity. Secondly, we had developed a technology that has played a critical role in our success and growth. This separated us from most of the digital publishers out there, in that we had a proprietary system that we could bring to Zealot Networks to help them scale their other digital assets. Finally, there was a real fit in terms of the team. Zealot Networks saw us not just as a new digital asset, but as an infusion of expertise to help them continue to grow and thrive. Their appreciation for what we brought to the table was a huge part of making this deal happen so quickly.

What factors about Zealot Networks influenced your decision to be acquired?

Danny Zappin and his team have an incredible vision and a real game plan to make this vision a reality. We were excited to be part of something that could have such enormous potential.

The other factor that was very enticing was the nature of their company and their deep appreciation for ViralNova and our team. We weren’t being acquired and pushed to the side, we were being brought into a wider network that now gives us the opportunity to have a much larger impact.

What are your plans going forward?

We are going to continue to develop ViralNova into the top online destination for amazing content. Alongside that mission, we are going to bring our expertise to the wider Zealot Networks family to help create one of the strongest media and entertainment brands.

It’s been reported that ViralNova is a one-person shop. How did you build the company with no employees?

ViralNova was started by one man, but it has taken a team to bring the company to the heights it has reached over the last year. In early 2014, I acquired a majority stake in the company and worked with Scott to build out an editorial team and a product team focused on developing a proprietary technological foundation. Scott is a true visionary in web content and digital publishing. By surrounding him with a team that could complement his skill set, we were able to develop an incredibly powerful and profitable digital company.

What advice can you offer companies in New York that are building their businesses?

New York is special for a myriad of reasons, but the biggest factor for us is the incredible quality of the people. There is such a strong talent base in New York, and it is a huge asset when building a company. The key is not to just look at employees as people who work for you, but to make a concerted effort to really bring them into the fold and utilize their unique perspectives and knowledge to build your company.

About the author: AlleyWatch

AlleyWatch is the destination for startup news; opinions and reviews; investment and product information; events reported, experienced, seen, heard and overheard here in New York. But it’s who we are that makes us different: we’re the writers and the entrepreneurs; the investors and the mentors; the lawyers and the marketers; the realtors and the recruiters – the people who work in the industry.

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