Media invention company and podcast creator WaitWhat raises $4m Series A
PRESS RELEASE — February 21, 2019 · 4.3 minutes to read
New York NY, USA—WaitWhat, the media invention company founded by former TED executives June Cohen and Deron Triff, and the team behind the 2018 Webby Award- winning podcast Masters of Scale — announced today that it has raised $4m in Series A funding. This latest round coincides with the launch of the company’s latest media property, Should This Exist? which aims to answer the question: What is technology doing to our humanity?
Ms. Cohen and Mr. Triff, whose combined leadership built TED Talks from a concept to 1 billion views/listens each year, quietly launched WaitWhat in January 2017 as a media invention company that would create its own portfolio of boundary-breaking properties. Where most media companies focus on a specific genre, format or demographic, WaitWhat is betting on a strategy aimed at creating premium quality, original media experiences that can scale horizontally across multiple formats and mediums.
“While some media companies think narrowly about the demographics of their audience, we think about how we want our audience to feel,” said WaitWhat Co-founder and CEO June Cohen. “In everything we create, we aim to evoke ‘contagious emotions’ — awe, wonder, curiosity and mastery. Those emotions open up a sense of possibility — and that’s the world we want to live in. They also make people want to share the content.”
In May 2017, WaitWhat launched Masters of Scale as its prototype for a completely original, media format, born as a podcast, and evolving into other formats that expand how audiences access each episode’s timeless content. With guests like Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, NetFlix’s Reed Hastings, Spotify’s Daniel Ek, Starbucks’ Howard Schultz and Nike’s Phil Knight; 15+ million downloads in more than 200 countries; 2,500 5-star reviews on Apple Podcasts; and a listen-through rate of nearly 90%, Masters of Scale has become one of the most prestigious media properties in the world of business.
In January 2019, WaitWhat began to re-imagine form factors for Masters of Scale and forged a partnership with Harvard Business Publishing. The organizations have created an offering of “Podcases,” which adapt Masters of Scale content into an audio-first version of Harvard’s world- renowned business cases. The first 3 Masters of Scale Podcases are now being licensed to universities around the world.
“In creating the TED Radio Hour and other media innovations during my time at TED, I fell in love with the idea of completely rethinking format. The initial body of content is the ‘first format,” and it acts as a precursor to what ultimately becomes an entire eco-system of media products and experiences surrounding it,” says Deron Triff, Co-founder of WaitWhat. “When June and I think about growth, we think horizontally, not just vertically. With this raise, we’re able to build the kind of team that will continually invent both new properties and format extensions.”
WaitWhat continues to expand: Today, the company launched Should This Exist?, a podcast created in partnership with Quartz, and hosted by Caterina Fake, the Silicon Valley investor and Internet pioneer who’s known as an eloquent dot-connector on technology and the human condition. In each episode, an entrepreneur or scientist with a radical new technology joins Caterina on a journey to peer around corners, and glimpse their technology’s wildest potential to
change human lives for the better — and the hidden forces that might send their vision sideways.
WaitWhat is in stealth mode on two new properties slated for later this year, in partnership with other world-class organizations. In addition, the company will soon announce extensions for both Masters of Scale and Should this Exist? that will extend each property’s relevance beyond the world of podcasting.
In identifying potential investors for WaitWhat, Ms. Cohen and Mr. Triff sought out a diverse, gender-balanced group of backers who think boldly about reinventing media, understand the advantages of building gender-balanced and ethnically diverse teams, and believe in the long- term value of creating premium media properties.
Cue Ball and Burda Principal Investments led WaitWhat’s Series A around. Other investors include Reid Hoffman, Jacki Zehner, Joi Ito, Julia Popowitz, Roy Martin, Julia Popowitz, Will Allen, Maria Thomas, Joshua Schacter, Ann Lovell, Scott Green, and Taryn Fixel. The company has set aside an additional $1.5 million dollars for a “second closing,” specifically for women and minority led investment funds. Victress Capital in Boston will be making the first investment in the second closing.
WaitWhat — founded by former TED executives June Cohen and Deron Triff — is a media invention company that invests in, develops, produces and distributes wholly-owned media properties with the specific purpose of creating new genres, categories and formats of content that scale. WaitWhat creates and owns the Webby award-winning Masters of Scale podcast — hosted by LinkedIn Co-founder Reid Hoffman, and Should this Exist? a new property hosted by Caterina Fake that will unpack what technology is doing for us and to us. The company is founded upon a culture of possibility-thinking, courageous experimentation, originality, integrity and diversity.
About Cue Ball
Cue Ball is a venture capital firm built on a distinct, human capital-centric philosophy. Our mantra is manifest in our unique investor base, the entrepreneurs we back, and our General Partners, who have all been successful business-builders. We seek that rare intersection of extraordinary people, pioneering ideas, and sound business fundamentals. We partner in areas where we hold differentiated experience, sense a cultural simpatico and see a clear opportunity for value-add. We are committed to working tirelessly with such entrepreneurs as we join them in the next chapter of their stories.
About Burda Principal Investments
Burda Principal Investments, a division of Hubert Burda Media, provides long term growth equity for fast growing digital technology companies including marketplaces, direct-to-consumer and digital networks. BPI is a partner for visionary entrepreneurs and internet-centric businesses, leveraging Burda’s capital, brands and sector expertise, particularly in the areas of business expansion, internationalization and localization. BPI has invested in a portfolio of highly successful consumer internet companies in Europe, the U.S. and Asia. Examples include Etsy, Baublebar, M.Gemi, Notonthehighstreet, Vinted, nebenan.de or Zilingo.
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