20 Flourishing Digital Media Startups

by Josh Howarth - November 18, 2021

The internet has revolutionized the way we consume media.

Instead of the newspaper, there are now hundreds of news sites and apps with content curated by algorithms.

Instead of the radio, there are podcasts on thousands of topics covering every niche interest imaginable.

Instead of expensive cable TV, there are streaming platforms that offer hours upon hours of free or low-priced content.

Digital media, no matter the type, is big business. We’ve researched trending companies in different areas of the media umbrella to bring you 20 diverse digital media startups that are changing the face of news, entertainment, and advertising.

1. Greenfly

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5-year search growth: 114%

Search growth status: Regular

Year founded: 2014

Location: Santa Monica, California

Funding: $22.9M (Series unknown)

What they do: Greenfly helps businesses collect and leverage digital media from brand advocates and other sources. Applications include gathering promotional videos from TV or movie actors, helping brands collaborate and connect with ambassadors, and promoting social causes. The startup, founded by former MLB player Shawn Green and Harvard Law School alum Daniel Kirschner, serves more than 500 organizations and has generated over 2B social engagements. In summer 2021, Greenfly attracted investments from several venture capital firms as well as Chris Paul of the Phoenix Suns.

2. Bluepad

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5-year search growth: 500%

Search growth status: Peaked

Year founded: 2020

Location: Bangalore, Karnataka, India

Funding: ₹18M (Pre-seed)

What they do: Bluepad is a vernacular Indian language content sharing startup that encourages users to distribute news, articles, and other written deliverables with a wide audience. Founders Devakrishna Asokar, Sanjyot Bhosale, and Kishore Garimella created the company to offer speakers of regional Indian languages online resources for sharing and consuming written media. The startup raised nearly $250K from investors in early October 2021 in a pre-seed round.

3. Vietcetera

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5-year search growth: 6400%

Search growth status: Regular

Year founded: 2016

Location: Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Funding: $2.7M (Series A)

What they do: Vietcetera is a news media startup focused on a global audience of Vietnamese readers, amounting to around 20M readers per month. The startup offers written, video, and audio content in two languages across multiple different categories. Investors such as Go-Ventures, Genesia Ventures, and Z Venture Capital contributed to a $2.7M pre-Series A round that the company will use to expand beyond its initial Gen Z/millennial focus.

4. Fanatiz

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5-year search growth: 1000%

Search growth status: Regular

Year founded: 2016

Location: Miami, Florida

Funding: $17M (Series A)

What they do: Fanatiz is a digital media company focused on providing sports content on multiple devices, including desktop, mobile, and TV. Users can view global content and personalize their subscription based on their favorite sports team. The company announced a $10M Series A funding round in early 2020 with plans to expand to a global audience.

5. Podscribe

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5-year search growth: 0%

Search growth status: Regular

Year founded: 2017

Location: New York City, New York

Funding: $500K (​​Convertible Note)

What they do: Podscribe is a startup that offers transcriptions for podcast creators. The company touts accurate transcriptions powered by AI and offers additional features, such as an SEO-friendly feed for transcripts. Podscribe, formerly a podcast player company, pivoted to its current services in 2016.

6. SmartNews

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5-year search growth: 327%

Search growth status: Regular

Year founded: 2012

Location: Tokyo, Japan

Funding: $410.3M (Series F)

What they do: SmartNews is a Japanese news startup that uses technology to deliver impactful and important articles to readers. Popular with readers in Japan and beyond, the app doubled its number of users per month in 2020. In addition, the “double unicorn” startup has raised a considerable amount of over $400M with a recent $230M Series F in September 2021. With this investment, SmartNews leadership is eyeing further expansion into the U.S. market.

7. Data Skrive

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5-year search growth: 0%

Search growth status: Regular

Year founded: 2013

Location: Seattle, Washington

Funding: $6.3M (Series A)

What they do: Data Skrive is a platform that leverages technology to deliver SEO-optimized content for sports media companies, betting businesses, sportsbooks, and more. Founders Greg Bennett and Jordan Nilsen started Data Skrive in 2013 as a media company and publisher and moved into content automation in 2017 as an answer to their own scaling problem. In October 2021, Data Skrive announced a $7M investment from Bettor Capital and others.

8. Curastory

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5-year search growth: 6400%

Search growth status: Regular

Year founded: 2019

Location: New York City, New York

Funding: $2.3M (Seed)

What they do: Curastory helps creators produce and monetize video content by working with brand sponsors like Beyond Meat and others. CEO Tiffany Kelly, former Sports Analytics Associate at ESPN, founded the company in 2019 to make it easier for student-athletes to monetize their content. Her accomplishments include striking a partnership with the NBPA (National Basketball Players Association) and raising $2.1M in H2 2021.

9. Podfund

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5-year search growth: 0%

Search growth status: Regular

Year founded: 2018

Location: Chicago, Illinois

Funding: $2.3M (Seed)

What they do: Podfund, operated by TechNexus Venture Collaborative, is an investment firm that focuses on funding podcast media companies. The company offers investments of up to around $150,000 as well as helpful business resources to creators in the podcast space with a successful track record and a plan for the investment. Podcasts like theNewsWorthy from Erica Mandy, Malcolm Gladwell’s Pushkin Industries, and Stacey Book’s Fugitive Media have received assistance from Podfund, which has received a little over $2M in seed funding for itself.

10. Podchaser

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5-year search growth: 8100%

Search growth status: Regular

Year founded: 2017

Location: Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Funding: $5.7M (Series A)

What they do: Podchaser is a digital media startup for podcast enthusiasts. They offer a comprehensive archive of existing, past, and upcoming podcasts, as well as podcast information and episodes. The startup, known as an “IMDB for podcasts,” also has a B2B service, Podchaser Pro, that’s targeted at marketing and PR professionals. Investors such as Greycroft, Hyde Park Venture Partners, and A.J. Bruno, TrendKite founder, have all taken a financial interest in the company and contributed to a $4M funding round announced in early 2021.

11. Asian Boss

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5-year search growth: 100%

Search growth status: Regular

Year founded: 2013

Location: Seoul, Seoul-t'ukpyolsi, South Korea

Funding: $1.7M (Series A)

What they do: Asian Boss is a South Korean digital media outlet catering to a global millennial audience. The company, which boasts viewers in over 130 countries and more than 4.5M fans, aims to give its audience an authentic view of Asian life, news, and culture. Asian Boss confronted a possible shutdown in January 2021 but later created a crowdfunding campaign to save their business that ended up raising over AU$700,000.

12. Donut Media

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5-year search growth: 1220%

Search growth status: Exploding

Year founded: 2015

Location: Los Angeles, California

Funding: $920K (Seed)

What they do: Donut Media is a digital media startup that caters to an audience of car and motorsports fans. The startup has produced highly shareable content for names such as Nissan and Fiat and participated in Ford’s selective Techstars Mobility accelerator program. The niche company’s most recent $800K investment in 2017 was slated to be put to use in boosting social video and streaming service/TV content.

13. Kinzen

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5-year search growth: 225%

Search growth status: Regular

Year founded: 2017

Location: Dublin, Ireland

Funding: €2.3M (Seed)

What they do: Kinzen is a company that guards against the spread of misinformation and “fake news” through data- and science-backed solutions for policymakers and content moderators. Founded by a former journalist and founder of another news media startup, Kinzen had a former life as a news app before growing into its current state. In late 2020, Kinzen brought in a $2M seed funding round and was eyeing a collaboration with large unnamed content companies.

14. Restream

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5-year search growth: 427%

Search growth status: Regular

Year founded: 2014

Location: Austin, Texas

Funding: $53.4M (Series A)

What they do: Restream is a social video broadcasting startup used by media, brands, public figures, and more to share content. The platform allows customers to share content across multiple networks at the same time, pre-record streaming videos, and more. Restream last raised $50M in August 2020, at which time its valuation was upwards of $17M.

15. Pluto TV

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5-year search growth: 1440%

Search growth status: Exploding

Year founded: 2013

Location: Los Angeles, California

Funding: $51.8M (Acquired)

What they do: Pluto TV is a free TV streaming service that offers hundreds of channels and boasts 50M users worldwide. Rather than launch a subscription service like other popular businesses at the time, co-founders Ilya Pozin and Tom Ryan conceived a free TV service that generates revenue from ads and on-demand media. Pluto TV was acquired by Viacom in 2019 for $340M after raising around $50M.

16. Tubi

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5-year search growth: 223%

Search growth status: Exploding

Year founded: 2014

Location: San Francisco, California

Funding: $26M (Acquired)

What they do: Tubi is a free, no-subscription required service for consuming movie and TV content from big-name studios. Acquired by FOX Entertainment in 2020 for $440M, the startup was originally founded in 2014 by CEO Farhad Massoudi, a UC Berkeley-educated engineer and co-founder of Attracted.com.

17. Artlist

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5-year search growth: 1050%

Search growth status: Exploding

Year founded: 2016

Location: Afikim, HaZafon, Israel

Funding: $48M (Series unknown)

What they do: Artlist provides royalty-free background music and sound effects for advertising, film, and other digital media applications. Works created using Artlist include the travel film 3 Years 30 Countries by filmmaker Sam Newton and a Mercedes-Benz commercial. After a sizeable funding round in 2020, Artlist brought on several new executives in mid-2021. Among them, product veteran Asaf Porat, who formerly worked at Wix and Fiverr, took on the position of VP of Product, and Ilil Livnat, a legal professional with a background in media, signed on as General Counsel.

18. Wondery

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5-year search growth: 500%

Search growth status: Regular

Year founded: 2016

Location: West Hollywood, California

Funding: $15M (Acquired)

What they do: Wondery is the podcast startup behind shows such as “The Apology Line,” “Dr. Death,” and “Dirty John.” The studio’s accomplishments include hitting the top spot in Apple Podcasts for 33 of their creations and landing multiple television adaptation deals. Wondery also gained the interest of Amazon in late 2020 when they were acquired by the company for an unknown sum.

19. Nextup

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5-year search growth: 1328%

Search growth status: Regular

Year founded: 2016

Location: London, England

Funding: $1.9M (Equity crowdfunding)

What they do: Nextup is a British subscription-based comedy streaming platform featuring specials and shows from comedians such as Josie Long, Dane Baptiste, Jordan Brookes, and more. In addition to receiving venture capital funding, the startup overshot its crowdfunding goal of £150K on CrowdCube by over £100K.

20. Zencastr

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5-year search growth: 360%

Search growth status: Regular

Year founded: 2014

Location: Salt Lake City, Utah

Funding: $4.6M (Seed)

What they do: Zencastr is a podcast platform that helps creators produce high-quality audio recordings plus video recordings through a beta offering. Reportedly the podcast choice of 6% of podcasters worldwide, Zencastr was bootstrapped until a $4.6M seed round, announced in early 2021.

Conclusion

While this list features a varied group of companies, there are a few key trends that stick out: international news startups, podcast-related companies, and niche or no-cost streaming services. Based on search interest, there’s a potential for this group of startups to make a significant impact in the digital media space.

Written By
Josh Howarth
Co-founder of Exploding Topics.
548 Market St. Suite 95149
San Francisco, California
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