3 Things: AI Media Company, ZoomInfo for Founders/Investors, Peer Group SaaS
Happy Sunday and a very warm welcome to all the new subscribers! I’m thrilled and honored to have you as readers and truly appreciate your thoughts and feedback 🙏. Each edition of 3 Things will contain a dive into 3 rabbit holes I’ve found myself going down recently. Subscribe to get each week’s edition straight to your inbox and if you enjoy it, please share (I suck at self-promotion so can use your help)! This past week I’ve been thinking a lot about:
AI Media Company
ZoomInfo for Founders/Investors
Peer Group SaaS
1. AI Media Company
It feels like we have now crossed the chasm when it comes to synthetic media. OpenAI’s GPT-3 can write compelling long-form text that can imitate an individual person’s style and sentiment. Between Google’s TTS (text-to-speech) engine, Amazon Polly and companies like WellSaid and Unreal Speech, it’s easy to clone your voice or use an off-the-shelf one and have AI generate amazing sounding audio. Companies like Synthesia and Pictory can go one step further and fully generate AI videos, and Papercup can then localize those videos using AI to auto-dubb. It’s truly incredible (and somewhat terrifying) what technology can now do when it comes to content generation.
While historically, media companies have not been the easiest or most lucrative types of companies to build, it’s clear that the leaner and more data-driven the media company, the better the outcomes in modern times. Axios just got acquired by Cox for $525m, Morning Brew was bought by Business Insider for $75m, JP Morgan purchased The Infatuation, and Hubspot snagged The Hustle. The next successful media company could literally be built by only a handful of people and be constructed (almost) completely using AI. The tech is finally good enough, there are enough companies who offer APIs for various types of media (text, imagery, audio, video), and there are so many relevant channels to get in front of all types of audiences using a variety of assets. I’d focus on an affluent/lucrative niche to begin with and then clone whatever works and tailor the content to other lucrative audiences.
2. ZoomInfo for Founders/Investors
There have been many large companies modeled on the core premise of building lists of target contacts and companies. For sales use cases, there were 3 primary companies in this category: Rainking, DiscoverOrg, and ZoomInfo. In 2017, DiscoverOrg acquired RainKing for over $100m. Then in 2019, DiscoverOrg acquired ZoomInfo for an undisclosed price that was estimated to be north of $500m, decided to take the ZoomInfo name, and then went public in 2020 trading initial at an ~$8B market cap. The company currently does over $1B in annual revenue and has a market cap of $19.7B. The core product is a gigantic database of 220m B2B contacts and 100m companies that is continually updated and presented in a searchable platform that can push data to a CRM, Marketing Automation System, or other sales/marketing tool.
For both entrepreneurs (who have taken or plan to take VC money) and investors, it is extremely difficult and also imperative to find the right people to get in front of at the right time. For founders, they want to know which investors target their sector, stage, check size, traction, are not conflicted out, etc. They want to know not just firm but which investors in particular they should speak with. They’d also love to know what each individual is excited about or digging into at any given time. On the investor side, they’re on the hunt for the best founders who fall under their investment criteria/mandates. Enough data exists and most people have enough of a public presence to piece this information together and create real-time, searchable databases with both contact and company information for founders and investors to build their own “lead lists”. Both parties have an incentive to pay for this so monetization would be relatively straightforward charging for access to the database and for the ability to connect to respective systems of engagement.
3. Peer Group SaaS
The concepts of cohort-based courses, programs, and communities have exploded over the last few years, especially during the pandemic as people were looking to connect and learn from peers in a digital setting. For founders, there are programs like Y Combinator, Alchemist Accelerator, Techstars (which now has cohorts in many cities across the globe), and dozens of other options. There are courses like Reforge for growth, Flatiron School for data science, or Angel Track for angel investing. This has been a divergence from the previously popular MOOC (massive open online course) format which took off in the early 2010s with providers like Udacity, Coursera, and edX. There are groups like Chief for female execs, TIGER 21 and YPO for high net worth individuals, Bravado for salespeople, and so many more.
Nowadays, I hear about multiple new peer groups each week for every demographic under the sun. Black founders in NYC, bootstrapped business owners making over $1m, product designers, CTOs, etc. The gist is that it’s a paid community with regular moderated sessions and some larger annual events with a group of your peers. There are now thousands of Mastermind groups, a term coined in 1937 by Napoleon Hill, author of Think and Grow Rich, but there is no software platform to help people manage Masterminds or other forms of peer group. Maven built a platform and software to help individuals create and launch cohort-based courses and capitalize on that trend. We’ve seen the rise of “community” as a large component of businesses (and now very core to web3), which has lead to the growth of companies like Commsor (SignalFire portfolio company), Orbit, and Common Room. There is an opportunity to provide similar purpose-built tech for spinning up small cohort based peer groups for whatever purpose you want. It would manage applications, members, communications, payments, LMS, documentation/knowledge base, and both virtual and in-person events.
That’s all for today! If you have thoughts, comments, or want to get in touch, find me on Twitter at @ezelby and if you enjoyed this, please subscribe and share with a friend or two!