This NYC Startup Just Raised $1.3M To Bring A Distributed Workforce to Journalism



With digital media consumption tripling in the last 10 years, it is no surprise that competition between media outlets has been at an all time high with every publisher vying for the same eyeballs. Talented freelancers from across the globe have always looked for a central marketplace to showcase their talents with the world’s leading media publications.  Storyhunter connects these creators with some of the top news organizations in the world including CNN, Al Jazeera, and National Geographic.  The open platform has freelancers in 180 countries serving as story hunters that provide original video content in a seamless, efficient fashion and fast for publishers on the platform.

AlleyWatch chatted with cofounder Jaron Gilinsky about the company and it most recent round of funding.

Who were your investors and how much did you raise?

Draper Associates led this $1.3M seed round which includes Frontier Ventures and Altair.VC.  Also participating were previous investors NFX Guild and 500 Startups. This brings the total amount of funding raised to $4.2M.

Tell us about your product or service.

Storyhunter is a talent marketplace of more than 20,000 freelance video producers and journalists across 180 countries.  Since transitioning from a production studio to an open platform and workflow solution for freelance media production, some of the largest news organizations in the United States are using the platform.  Digital media companies like AJ+ (the digital arm of Al Jazeera) and Great Big Story (the digital storytelling brand of CNN) rely nearly exclusively on Storyhunter to manage their talent and source original video stories across the world.

What inspired you to start the company?

I was a freelance video journalist roaming the globe for Current TV, The New York Times, and TIME magazine in search of stories. I loved the freelance life and journalism and honestly wanted to do it forever. But I saw what was happening in the news industry with foreign bureaus getting shut down and wondered how media would be produced internationally. At the same time, I saw the incredible freelance video talent that was emerging across the planet. I understood that the future of media production would be based on distributed, vetted freelancers, empowered by great software tools.  When TIME magazine shut their bureau down in Jerusalem, I decided that if nobody else was going to build this solution, then I had no choice but to do it.

How is it different?

We give media companies and brands the opportunity to tell original video stories anywhere on the planet. We have helped lots of media companies go from nothing to become the some of the most popular video channels on Facebook in months. And most importantly, we have given hundreds of freelancers the ability to reach new clients and make a living doing what they love.

What market you are targeting and how big is it?  

Original video is a big market.  We estimate it to be around $50B.

What’s your business model?

We charge service fees on each transaction through the platform.  Enterprise clients pay a subscription fee to lower service fees so they can scale on the platform.

What do you think the future of the on demand economy is when it comes to talent?  

I think that in general companies who understand how to leverage on-demand talent will have a massive advantage over companies that do not.  This is especially true for media or video production, where there is already a long standing tradition of freelance labor.  For freelancers in our industry, the future is very bright.  The key is to understand your value, keep improving your skills, and follow your passions.

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

I think that freelance journalism prepared me well for raising capital.  It’s all about persisting until you meet investors who share your vision of the future.

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

Storyhunter has become an indispensable tool to a growing number of companies for managing freelance video projects.  We’re most proud to become the primary source of revenue for so many freelancers around the world who depend on our platform for income.

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

We will use the additional capital to expand our freelance management system (FMS) launched earlier this year.  We are also building out a dedicated offering for brands, who are using our platform more and more for content marketing and internal communications.

What advice can you offer companies in New York that do not have a fresh injection of capital in the bank?

Focus on one thing only: creating value for your users.

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

We will offer our freelancers many more gigs as well as more and more lucrative gigs. We are really excited about expanding our 360 video, drone, and livestreaming services in the near future.

Where is your favorite bar in the city for an after work drink?

No brainer. Botanic Labs.  It’s this weird underground lounge downstairs from Casa Mezcal with a big screen.

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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