Blavity Raises $6.5M Series A, Plans New Atlanta Office To Focus On Engineering, Data

Written by Dana Sanchez


Blavity, a Los Angeles-based digital media company that targets Black millennials, has closed a $6.5 million Series A funding round led by GV, and the money is earmarked for technology.

Most of the funding will go towards opening a new office — probably in Atlanta — that is strictly focused on engineering and data, Blavity CEO Morgan DeBaun told Techcrunch in a phone interview.

Launched as Google Ventures in 2009, the renamed GV is the venture capital arm of Alphabet, Inc., the parent of Google. As part of the investment, GV Partner John Lyman is joining Blavity’s board of directors.

Investor participation included Comcast Ventures, which is owned by CNBC parent Comcast, Plexo Capital and Baron Davis Enterprises.

In an earlier seed round, Blavity raised $1.8 million from Macro, New Media Ventures, Base Ventures, Cross Culture Ventures, Harlem Capital Partners, the Knight Enterprise Fund and more. An even earlier seed round led by 500 Startups raised $1 million, giving Blavity a total funding amount of $9.4 million.

An amalgamation of “black” and “gravity,” Blavity started in 2014 with a promise to be “a community of the most exceptional multi-cultural creators and influencers in the world,” according to a 2016 Neiman Lab interview.

Blavity describes itself as creating content for Black millennials who aren’t represented in media despite their multibillion-dollar buying power. It is built for and by passionate Black techies trying to add more balance to the way Black people are represented in media and culture.

“Blavity appeals to an audience between that of Bossip and The Root, seeking an intersection between black popular culture and serious race coverage,” Talyn Washington-Harmon wrote in a 2016 Neiman Lab report.

In an environment that is changing for Black media, Blavity is thinking about Phase 2, DeBaun said. After much speculation, Richelieu Dennis recently bought Essence Magazine, restoring full Black ownership to one of the U.S.’s most iconic media brands.

Blavity plans to triple the size of its engineering team, DeBaun said. The office will likely be in Atlanta, and will be home to engineers working on new products and content-creation tools to facilitate better storytelling.

“A lot of innovation will come out of that office in the next six to nine months,” DeBaun said.

The media company has 30 people full-time employees and 60-to-80 contractors across its five brands. Since launching, Blavity has strengthened its own offering with two new acquisitions — Travel Noire, a travel startup for black millennials, and media platform Shadow and Act.

DeBaun worked on product management and business development at Intuit before launching the site with co-founders Jonathan Jackson, Aaron Samuels, and Jeff Nelson.

The entire Blavity founding team is based in technology, DeBaun said in a 2016 Neiman Lab interview. “All of my cofounders worked at big tech companies.” Here’s more from DeBaun on the role of technology at Blavity:

“You guys can’t see it, but what we spend most of our time doing is building apps. I think that’s the future. I think that we need to have a black media collective. We have to continue to not just consume products and be first-adopters. Black people were the first adopters to Twitter and Vine and Instagram. Then they become viral and other people start using them. And then we move to the next platform. What will be really impactful, and how we’re moving, is actually to build our own platforms and to be able to own our own audiences.

… the future of Blavity, it’s really about combining technology with culture and content and entertainment to create something special that hasn’t been done before.

… Black millennials specifically spend a lot of their time online and engaging with each other, and forming relationships with strangers in a lot of ways — through Twitter, Reddit, or Instagram — and kind of following the influencers that they like and having conversations back and forth about topics that they care about.”

Black millennials
Blavity founder and CEO Morgan DeBaun speaks at TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2016, Sept. 12, 2016, San Francisco. (Photo by Steve Jennings/Getty Images for TechCrunch)

Reflecting in 2016 on some of the Black media companies seemingly fighting for survival, DeBaun said they didn’t make the transition to digital fast enough:

“The work structures and business models weren’t transitioned to match the times of what advertisers wanted, which was integrated brand campaigns across platforms: access to digital, access to apps. I don’t think that Black media is going anywhere. I don’t think that advertisers are not going to be interested in Black audiences. It will just look differently, and part of what it will look like is bigger, niche blogs and sites and individual influencers who have created their own communities, getting more of an opportunity to get those big brand deals that were going to magazines 10, 15 years ago.”