Media has taken interesting forms in recent years and in turn has shaped a generation who is contributing more and more in spreading media without quite being the creators of it. These millennials are far from a homogenous group and want to share their nuanced voices with anyone who cares to listen. Odyssey, the social content platform that displays this wide range of voices, is allowing their true colors to show in a world where extreme positions are way too common.
Today, AlleyWatch touches base with CEO Evan Burns about their most recent round of funding as well as what this newly funded platform aims to accomplish.
Who were your investors and how much did you raise?
Odyssey raised $25 million in its first institutional investment round, Series B. The round was co-led by Columbus Nova managing partner Jason Epstein and serial entrepreneur Michael Lazerow.
Tell us about your product or service.
Odyssey is a social content platform for millennials.
What inspired you to start the company?
Odyssey was founded at Indiana University by Adrian France and myself. We felt that news and content were either too generic or highly politicized. We looked at the media industry and realized that there was a huge lack of diversity of perspectives and ideas, especially from the millennial generation. We asked the question: could they flip the traditional top-down editorial model to harness thousands of ideas from real people to truly democratize content creation, and provide people the opportunity to express themselves and be heard? Yes. So we embarked on building a technology platform to enable the data-driven capture, creation and discovery of relevant content. Our vision brought together the best of social media and publishing, supported by editorial guidance to creators, enabling content creators to share their perspectives on topics that reflect their passions and interests. In June 2014, Odyssey launched out of beta.
How is it different?
We consider ourselves a tech company. Everything we do is built on proprietary technology. Most industry peers have sites where people go directly to consume the content. In contrast, 87% of people encounter Odyssey content via people’s social channels because someone they know shares an article with them, and not by directly visiting our site as a destination. In addition, Odyssey is not a typical editorial model because rather than dictating what people can write like in a top-down style, we establish communities of local creators and give them the freedom to write about what matters most to them. We crowdsource all types of content from them, to offer a variety of perspectives and opinions.
What market you are targeting and how big is it?
We target millennials all around the globe.
What’s your business model?
Odyssey makes money through national and local advertisers, who are eager to reach the millennial demographic, as well as programmatic advertising revenue.
Odyssey offers brands the same opportunity to crowdsource insights from our audience to reach and resonate millennials. Our focus groups generate original ideas and we can tap into creators to create native content and different activations in ways others can’t.
What do you believe is special about the millennial generation?
Their voices. They have so much to offer and want to be heard.
What was the funding process like?
Myself and the CFO were heavily involved; we traveled to California to meet with some of the top VC folks in the world, as well as held meetings in New York City. We received multiple term sheets and ultimately decided that Lazerow and Columbus Nova were the best fit for us.
What are the biggest challenges that you faced while raising capital?
Deciding which VC partner to choose.
What factors about your business led your investors to write the check?
We’ve flipped the top-down editorial model and provide a diversity of views and perspectives that our target audience actually wants. Odyssey crowdsources content, which allows for a lot of creators with original ideas and share that content organically. We’re growing our presence in many new communities and have creators that can offer local perspectives.
What are the milestones you plan to achieve in the next six months?
Continue to scale across the entire business. Our company creates new missions every few months, and each employee does the same. It’s to ensure we all align ourselves and work towards success.
Where do you see the company going now over the near term?
We’re scaling incredibly fast across the entire company, so in the near term, we plan for our full-time staff to be even larger.