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Expand chart
Data: Pitchbook; Table: Axios Visuals

Media upstarts are attracting far less cash compared to the venture-backed media boom of 2014 and 2015, according to new data from Pitchbook.

Why it matters: Investors are no longer willing to shell out hundreds of millions of dollars on new digital media sites, given how long it's taken for some of those investments to materialize and drive major returns.

Be smart: A handful of media companies have successfully raised money recently, helping to fuel the growth of new upstarts.

  • Puck, a splashy new digital media company launching in September, raised $7 million in a Series A funding round earlier this year led by 40 North Media, a related investment business of Standard Industries, and private equity giant TPG Growth.
  • Recount Media, the two-year-old startup founded by veteran journalists John Battelle and John Heilemann, raised $18 million in a series B funding round led by Foundry Group in May.
  • An unnamed company made up of a group of D.C.-based veteran journalists said in July it raised more than $10 million to launch a new politics and tech website.

Yes, but: The raises are relatively small — especially compared to the hundreds of millions of dollars that companies like BuzzFeed, Vox Media and Vice Media attracted years ago — and have come early in these startups' trajectories.

  • Some companies that show high growth potential have been able to draw bigger investments over time.
  • The Athletic has raised a total of $139.5 million since its launch in 2016. Group Nine Media has raised $190 million since its launch in 2016.

What's next: Digital media giants that raised a fair amount of cash years ago are now looking to go public via SPACs (special purpose acquisition companies).

  • Some, like Vice Media, are reportedly struggling to raise enough capital to finance such deals.
  • Others have been able to successfully raise enough money to acquire other companies to give them the scale they need to trade on a public market. BuzzFeed, for example, is acquiring Complex as part of a SPAC deal worth $1.5 billion.

What to watch: Many of these startups gain enormous traction leveraging the nimble freedoms of the startup world, only to wind up selling to corporate titans when growth slows down.

  • Parenting publisher Some Spider Studios, for example, raised $10 million in 2017, and recently sold to BDG Media for around $150 million.

Go deeper

First look: Senate GOP's campaign arm raises $8 million in August

Sen. Rick Scott (second from left) and other Senate Republican leaders. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Senate Republicans' campaign arm raised $8 million last month, a new record for the group during the August of an off-year, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: The National Republican Senatorial Committee saw a spike in donations following criticism of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and amid the rising cases in COVID-19. It's also reporting a record number of new donors, and saw the biggest digital fundraising month so far this cycle.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Sep 15, 2021 - Energy & Environment

Clean energy startup Arcadia raises $100 million

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Arcadia, a startup that provides people avenues to access renewable energy without having to change power companies, has raised $100 million to fuel its expansion.

Driving the news: New investors Tiger Global Management and the Drawdown Fund led the Series D round for the company founded in 2013 that has now raised $180 million overall.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
Sep 15, 2021 - Economy & Business

Canva raises $200 million at $40 billion valuation

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Canva, an Australian design software company, raised $200 million at a $40 billion valuation led by T. Rowe Price.

Why it matters: This makes Canva the world's fifth most valuable private startup, behind Klarna and ahead of Instacart. It also stands apart by being profitable, led by a woman CEO and based in Sydney.