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Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

The cheap sale of Mic is bringing a lot of press attention to VC-backed media companies, highlighting the risk that comes with raising lots of money to support ad-driven media business models.

The big picture: Digital media companies tend to sell for anywhere between 2.5x and 9x revenues from the previous year, or a little higher in terms of EBITDA. They are valued at what their growth expectations will be for revenue and profit over time. The goal is to bring in money at a percentage higher than what they raised, demonstrating a growth trajectory. But companies don't always bring in revenues in multiples higher than the money that they raise, which can lead to sales, layoffs and unhappy investors.

Valuations

Vox Media (founded 2011)

  • Raised: $307.6 million (latest round, 2015)
  • Revenue: $185 million (est.)
  • Latest Valuation: $1 billion

Vice (founded 1994):

  • Raised: $1.4 billion (latest round, 2017)
  • Revenue: $700 million (est.)
  • Latest Valuation: $5.7 billion

Buzzfeed (founded 2006):

  • Raised: $496.3 million (latest round, 2016 )
  • Revenue: $255 million (est.)
  • Latest Valuation: $1.7 billion

Cheddar (founded 2016)

  • Raised: $54 million (latest round, 2018)
  • Revenue: $25 million
  • Latest Valuation: $160 million

The Athletic (founded 2015)

  • Raised: $67.7 million (latest round, 2018)
  • Latest Valuation: $200 million

Axios (founded 2016)

  • Raised: $30 million (latest round, 2018)
  • Revenue: $20 million
  • Latest Valuation: TBD

(SOLD) Mashable (founded 2005)

  • Raised: $46 million (latest round, 2016)
  • Sold: $50 million, 2017
  • Revenue at sale: $42 million (est.)
  • Peak Valuation: $250 million, 2016
  • Multiple: 1.3x

(SOLD) Mic (founded 2011)

  • Raised: $60 million (latest round 2018)
  • Sold: $5 million, 2018
  • Revenue at sale: $10 million (est.)
  • Peak Valuation: $100 million + (2017)
  • Multiple: - 12x

(SOLD) Business Insider (founded 2007)

  • Raised: $55.6 million (latest round, 2015)
  • Sold: $442 million, 2015
  • Multiple: 9x

(SOLD) The Huffington Post (founded 2011)

  • Raised: $37 million (latest round, 2010)
  • Sold: $315 million, 2011
  • Multiple: 10x

Go deeper

Dion Rabouin, author of Markets
39 mins ago - Economy & Business

Stock buybacks are kicking back into high gear

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

It was expected that with the economy improving and company balance sheets already loaded with cash, U.S. firms would slow down their debt issuance in 2021 after setting records in 2020. But just the opposite has happened.

Why it matters: Companies generally issue bonds for one of two reasons — because they're worried about not having enough cash to cover their expenses or because they want to lever up and make risky bets.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
1 hour ago - Energy & Environment

Japan vows deeper emissions cuts ahead of White House summit

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga. Photo: Carl Court/Getty Images

Japan on Thursday said it will seek to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 46% below 2013 levels by 2030, per the AP and other outlets.

Why it matters: The country is the world's fifth-largest largest carbon dioxide emitter and a major consumer of coal, oil and natural gas.

2 hours ago - Technology

The global race to regulate AI

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Regulators in Europe and Washington are racing to figure out how to govern business' use of artificial intelligence while companies push to deploy the technology.

Driving the news: On Wednesday, the EU revealed a detailed proposal on how AI should be regulated, banning some uses outright and defining which uses of AI are deemed "high-risk."