What are we looking for?

by: | Oct 01, 2013

We get a lot of questions about what makes a great New Media Ventures application. NMV itself is an experiment. And as a startup ourselves, we are continuously refining our funding assumptions and parameters. The best examples of great applicants are the companies and organizations we have funded so far.

Here are some lessons we’ve learned from our experience thus far and additional thoughts on our selection criteria.

Scale quickly and effectively.

Media and technology enable people to advocate and organize around the issues they care about at a scale previously unimaginable.

We often receive applications from start-ups tackling pressing challenges, but in a way that is neither scalable nor shows a clear plan to scale. These usually take the form of consulting businesses or start-ups not based on any technology or media innovation. While they may be impactful, they are not a fit for New Media Ventures funding.

Generate revenue.

We are structure agnostic– meaning that we fund both for-profits and non-profits. We believe that change comes in lots of different forms, and we’re excited by a new generation of entrepreneurs who aren’t limited by old models. We look for startups with paying customers, traction and a clear plan for growth. Non-profits should have a substantial and growing user base, a diversified funding model, and a plan for financial sustainability.

Start-ups with a sizeable user base frequently fail to present plans to generate revenue, or present unreasonable revenue forecasts. We are looking for revenue models that demonstrate a path towards financial sustainability and/or profitability with sufficiently detailed supporting data. We are looking to get a strong sense of the assumptions underlying your projections.

Drive progressive political change.

This is a hard one. What do we mean by media and technology startups that drive progressive change?

The entrepreneurs we fund are working to create a future of social justice, enviromental sustainability, and economic opportunity and equal rights for all people. To create that future, they are unafraid to be political — working to engage more people in our democratic process, bringing in voices that have previously been left out.

Progressive change looks different for different startups. For some, entrepreneurs are creating new ways to organize people around issues. For others, they are making it easier for more people to vote. And still others are creating and amplifying media content that educates and empowers people to be more civically and politically engaged.

As our portfolio grows, it demonstrates an increasingly diverse set of examples for what we are looking for as entrepreneurs find new and different ways to create this kind of future. Hopefully, we can’t even imagine the kinds of ideas the next generation of progressive entrepreneurs have up their sleeves.

A note on stage: We typically fund at a very specific stage of a development– a startup is past the idea stage, has a proven business model, and needs financing to scale their impact.

Start-ups are too early if they cannot demonstrate traction through paying customers and/or a sizeable user base.

What makes a successful application? Here are a few particular things we look for:

  • Startups that are teams rather than individuals
  • Organizations with a strong mission and culture of progressive empowerment
  • Technology solutions that cross progressive issues
  • Ventures that are net-native rather than tech initiatives from existing organizations
  • Startups that have sustainable revenue/funding models.
  • Catalytic funding opportunities where NMV investors can make a difference.

Our Process:

New Media Ventures is a matchmaker between progressive donors/investors and start-ups. The process begins when a start-up submits an application to us through our online application form. The New Media Ventures team, comprised of successful progressive entrepreneurs, investors and advisors, evaluates submitted plans and shares a small number with the broader network of investors.

If an opportunity garners enough member interest, we will assign a lead investor to manage the next round of due diligence and potential funding. A typical New Media Ventures investment ranges between $100,000 and $1,000,000 in one-time seed capital.

Applications are accepted on an ongoing basis. We are unable to respond to the hundreds of applications we receive. We will be in touch with select applicants within a month of submission.