From the very start, Matter has been guided by a mission bigger than any one of us as individuals: Change Media for Good, supporting early stage media entrepreneurs and established media institutions who are helping to create a more informed, empathetic, and inclusive society.
This year, we learned what it looks like to drive toward that goal when the mission is actively under threat. From having a partner labeled “enemy of the American people” by the sitting president to a revival in public advocacy of white supremacy and anti-immigrant sentiment, the stakes of what our entire community seeks to create have never been higher or more stark. And that’s before we even talk about the rise of the weaponized AI propaganda machine and active disinformation measures hitting the social media platforms so many turn to for their news in this time.
It’s a dark moment. But in the darkness, we have been tending the flame and providing fuel for other fires. Before the calendar turned, Matter Managing Director Corey Ford had already declared this the “Year of the Rebelpreneur”, writing that “the seeds of the next great media institutions will be planted this year by courageous entrepreneurs who make the leap to build ventures that speak truth to power, close the empathy gap, and take a radically inclusive approach to amplifying the voices of all people.”
As this year comes to a close, we take pride and satisfaction in what this community of rebelpreneurs has wrought together.
Matter Seven: Radical Inclusion, Digital Security, Trust in journalists, and Emerging Tech for the Rest of Us.
In January, we convened our first-ever Partner Day, bringing together leaders and thinkers from across our partner network to discuss how to widen our impact and, especially, which challenges in the media landscape were most worth solving in this moment. Over the course of hours, we debated passionately and with principle, eventually selecting to directly seek out entrepreneurs focused on security, emerging technologies, diversity and inclusion, trust in media, fake news and truth, and those pursuing new business models.
We couldn’t be prouder of who we found — and the impacts they’re starting to have on the world: Building intimate, safe conversations on the Internet (NameTag). Connecting readers and journalists together closely through chat (Purple). Creating radically inclusive future for the media landscape (The Establishment). Offering powerfully simple email encryption (Rewire). Bringing social sharing and search to spoken audio (Gretta). Bridging communication divides among diverse populations (CivNet). Shaping the outer reaches of data gathering and intelligent cities (Multimer). Making records searches fast, easy, accurate, and comprehensive (Vigilant). Building infographics and data visualization as easily and accessibly as Instagram (Grafiti). Connecting visual artists and their audiences around the globe through shared inspiration (DADA). Using location and community to connect people in real life (In the Room). Providing parents guidance and assurance to find content of all kinds that match the values they want to instill in their kids (SmartFeed).
We could write entire articles about each of these remarkable teams and their founders (and have), but it’s in their totality that the power of the mission and the moment that brought them together makes itself known. We haven’t accomplished all our goals yet — far from it. This is merely the end of the beginning. But we found, funded, and worked deeply with 12 incredible teams of rebelpreneurs, and we can’t wait to share their great work and visions today at our Demo Day.
But we’re playing a long game here, and the hard work of our existing portfolio companies began to pay off, too. NewsWhip raised more than $6M in a Series A round early this year, led by Tribal.VC, which they’re using to continue scaling their tools for data-driven content strategy. In February, Huzza, the high-resolution live streaming company from Matter 5, announced their acquisition by KickStarter, the launch of Kickstarter’s first office in Vancouver, and that their tech would help power the platform’s engagement suite, KickStarter Live.
The History Project has successfully transitioned to being a business platform helping companies to capture their stories digitally, increase institutional learning, transfer knowledge, and create compelling projects that help to hold up the culture of the business. They recently rebranded to Enwoven and also raised additional funding. Aconite and Motherly also closed new financing in 2017 from outside investors.
As excited as we are by the progress in business and fundraising (and there are many other highlights to share in the category), as a mission-driven fund, we cherish impact just as much. And there’s much to highlight there, starting with Matter Two’s Creative Action Network running an influential art campaign starting on inauguration day called “What Makes America Great” that celebrated immigration, equal opportunity, protest, and education as part of an inclusive view of America.
Scout from Matter Six made a huge impact on the “more informed society” arm of our mission, documenting the “Weaponized AI Propaganda Machine” that has used social media to disrupt information and elections worldwide, including in the U.S. As a result of their reporting and analysis, founder Brett Horvath wound up testifying before multiple congressional panels and the investigation led by Robert Mueller about the potential role social networks played in Russian interference campaigns.
We can’t stop here. Even as the leaders of Matter Seven complete their time in our accelerator and move onto greater impact, scale, and success, Matter will find the next great collection of mission-driven media entrepreneurs who will help to create a more informed, empathetic, and inclusive society. Applications for Matter Eight are open today, and the program will launch early in 2018. If you or someone you know is ready for the challenge, there’s no time like right now to take action. We’re waiting for you.
Matter is an SF & NYC-based startup accelerator and venture capital firm grounded in the principles of design thinking that supports early-stage media entrepreneurs and mission-aligned media institutions building scalable ventures that make society more informed, inclusive, and empathetic.