By John Egan
If you’re seeking to invest in a startup in the media space, including TV, then you might want to keep your eye on where millennials are consuming content.
Web and video content produced by digital media companies like BuzzFeed, Mic and Vox Media holds great appeal for millennials, and investors are placing bets on the millennial audience propelling growth among media startups.
Mic, for instance, collected $21 million in venture capital in April, putting its total VC haul at $52 million. The Wall Street Journal says the startup is now valued at hundreds of millions of dollars.
Not every media startup rises to the level of Mic (and not every media startup caters to millennials), but it’s very possible for investors to buy into the next big thing in media.
In advance of NAB Show New York, here are five ways to assess a potential investment in a media startup, whether it’s millennial-focused or not.
1. Pay attention to startups trying to disrupt the future of TV.
There are plenty of them to monitor. According to Venture Scanner, nearly 780 startups around the world are immersed in the future of TV, with more than 500 of them having raised about $25.6 billion in VC.
Stay tuned into what’s happening with these startups. It very well could pay off down the road.
2. Watch which media startups are attracting big-name investors.
If well-known investors are sinking money into a certain sector, that sector might be worth a look.
For instance, a startup called WinView, whose platform lets fans bet on sporting events while watching live TV, picked up $12 million in VC this spring from high-profile investors like Graham Holdings, former owner of The Washington Post; Discovery Communications, owner of the Discovery Channel and other cable TV networks; and investor Ted Leonsis, whose holdings include five professional sports teams.
With that in mind, you might ask yourself: Are there any other startups in the live-TV sports-wagering space that might be a smart bet?
Another consideration: How crowded is the sector? If a lot of big-time players are throwing money at it, you might want to steer clear.
3. Find out whether the startup is on the right track.
A startup’s business model might sound like the coolest thing ever, but if the business isn’t showing signs of growth—both in terms of revenue and expansion opportunities—you might be throwing away your money as an investor.
A close examination of the startup’s metrics will offer some guidance. In digital media, those metrics could include unique visitors, pageviews, employee growth and customer growth, according to Entrepreneur. “Simplicity and focus is key, so if you can boil things down to [a] single metric that encompasses the most important parts of your business, then that is a big win,” Entrepreneur says.
4. Don’t buy the hype.
Startups are hungry for attention from the news media, and many of them are adept at getting it from newspapers, TV stations, radio stations, websites and blogs, particularly around the time they’ve launched. However, you have to ask yourself whether there really is meat on the startup’s bones.
“If you’re seeing media about a sparkly new group acquiring their first million [dollars], it doesn’t mean their chances of being successful are any better than the next guy. Getting talked about when you’re new isn’t a sign of success—it’s actually just closer to a rite of passage,” Fred Schebesta, co-founder of Australian credit card comparison site Finder.com, tells The Next Web.
5. Dig into the industry.
Before you invest even one penny in a media startup, get to know the sector in which the startup operates and the startup itself. Don’t blindly pour your money into a startup or business sector.
“Most of investing into companies comes from intuition and learning about the companies and their founders,” The Next Web says. “Whether it is working your network to see if there are investment opportunities, doing your homework on a particular founder or company, or simply weeding yourself through the media hype around particular companies, every investor has their unique way of finding and investing in companies that have proved fruitful to them.”