Quiet giant Woven rides 90M monthly millennial male uniques to an $18M Series A from IVP

By Michael Carney , written on December 11, 2014

From The News Desk

When we last heard from Woven Digital, the little-known Los Angeles media giant behind Uproxx, BroBible, theChive, and other hit millennial male-oriented lifestyle and entertainment sites the company revealed that it had grown to a staggering 85 million monthly uniques with just a fraction of the attention of publishers half its size. That was in August. Fast forward to today, and the spotlight couldn’t be shining more brightly.

Today, Woven announced $18 million in Series A financing let by Institutional Venture Partners (IVP), the firm behind media giants like Twitter, Snapchat, Dropbox, Netflix, Soundcloud, Supercell, and Business Insider, among others. The round also included participation from Advancit Capital (led by Viacom vice-Chairwoman Shari Redstone), The San Francisco 49ers, United Talent Agency, senior partners from entertainment law firm Ziffren Brittenhanm LLP, MySpace and SGN co-founder Chris DeWolfe, Buddy Media co-founder Mike Lazerow, and former NBA players Baron Davis and Jermaine O’Neal. IVP Principal Somesh Dash will join Woven’s board of directors.

The four-year-old company has accomplished a staggering amount on just $4.5 million in prior angel funding, including building, buying, and a partnering with the more than a dozen Web properties that today make up the Woven network. Woven owns UPROXX, BroBible, Animal, Brotips, and Guyism outright, and partners with theChive, NiceKicks, DatPiff, and Dime Magazine, among others.

Collectively, these properties see more than 90 million monthly unique visitors – more than Vice and nearly as much as Vox and Buzzfeed in October – with 60 percent of all traffic coming via mobile device. UPROXX alone has grown more than 180 percent year-over-year, and now reaches 26 million monthly uniques.

But what has contributed most significantly to Woven’s success, according to founder and CEO Scott Grimes, is the company’s proprietary Thred technology platform, which encompasses, publishing, commenting, ad-serving, commerce, and payment. Like so many other new media giants including Buzzfeed, Gawker, and Vox, Woven turns to technology to deliver efficiency at scale. Expect to see additional emphasis on this part of the business now that the company has some real resources to work with.

Woven declined to reveal its revenue figures, but Grimes and President Colin Digiaro, who co-founded MySpace and SGN, say that the company has seen triple-digit year-over-year revenue growth for three years running. The bulk of this income comes from the company’s work with premium brands like Boost Mobile, EA, and Miller/Coors, Sony Pictures, FX, Comedy Central, AT&T, Anheuser Busch, Motorola, and Bacardi, among others to create branded programming and original video.

Woven is in the midst of three new original video series, according to Grimes. The titles and concepts include: “Underbelly,” an exploration of the dark side of sports and the athletes who risk everything for the sports they love; “Uncharted,” taking undiscovered music artists from every genre and breaking them tot he world; and “Luminaries,” a back stage pass into the world of cutting edge science and invention.

Woven reaches more than 5 million men aged 18- to 34-years-old daily, and more than 50 percent of all US men in this target demo each month. The only entertainment properties to reach more young men on a monthly basis are YouTube, CBS Interactive, and Pandora, according to ComScore. As I’ve discussed previously, the parent Woven brand has flown under the radar among many consumers, as the company’s individual online properties continue to gain popularity. Although deliberate, this B2B umbrella brand strategy runs counter to that of many new-media giants like Gawker and Vox whose parent brands are largely consumer facing.

“Our parent branding strategy is something we discuss internally all the time,” Grimes says. “But, right now, there's not an immediate need to divert away from our parent corporate brand structure. That was one of our initial challenges during fundraising, but we think keeping Woven as a B2B brand has its own advantages, and IVP agrees.”

With the new financing, Woven plans to double its team from 77 to approximately 150 over the next year – with the bulk of this growth coming in LA, as well as New York. The company will also increase its focus on original editorial and video content production, further develop its Thred platform, and explore further M&A to increase its online reach.

“I didn’t think four or five years ago that a media company like us would ever be able to raise capital from the old guard of Valley VC firms,” Grimes says. “But the way people are looking at media and content today has changed. I think Vice has helped us all, not to mention Buzzfeed and Vox. But we've been doing this for so long without much money, that I’m not worried about keeping everyone motivated and hungry. Even dipping into the red for the first time in a while in recent months while focusing on growth has felt like it’s counter to our DNA. People here want to win, even more so now that IVP is backing us. We don’t want to be that company in their portfolio. I don’t think anyone’s going to get lazy.”