Millennial-Focused Media Startup Mic Raises $17M, Hires Executive Editor From NPR

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It was a big morning for Mic — the company announced that it has raised $17 million in new funding, and that it’s hired Madhulika Sikka, previously executive editor at NPR News, to take on the same title at Mic.

As is contractually required for any digital media company raising a big round of funding, Mic is aiming for an audience of millennials. At the same time, the tone’s a bit more serious than a site like BuzzFeed. (The site was originally called PolicyMic, and while it has rebranded to reflect a broader scope, politics is still a big part of the mix.)

The company has had some bumps (it fired news director Jared Keller after Gawker reported multiple instances of plagiarism), but it says its audience tripled between January 2014 and May 2015, from 9 million to 30 million, with 70 percent of those readers under the age of 35.

Co-founder and CEO Christopher Altchek has big plans for expansion — he told me the 45-person newsroom will grow to more 100 people in the next 18 months. Altchek suggested that Sikka is the ideal person to lead this growth.

“She did a great job transforming NPR and bringing it into the 21st century,” he said. “She also did a great job at NPR of hiring new stars and making it a much more diverse place to work. That’s … part-and-parcel with Mic’s DNA.”

As for why Sikka wanted to join Mic, she said in the hiring release, “Millennials are a vast, engaged audience and I am excited to join an organization that is committed to growing a vital, relevant news brand for the nation’s largest demo.”

Naturally, the Series B funding will play a big part in that growth, too. The round was led by previous investor Lightspeed Venture Partners. European media giant Axel Springer also participated, as did existing backers Lerer Hippeau Ventures, Jim Clark, Advancit Capital, Red Swan Ventures and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. The company has now raised more than $32 million total.

Altchek said the money will allow Mic to grow its brand partnership team, namely people who work with advertisers to create branded content.

And yes, there are plans to increase spending on video. Mic launched its first video series, Flip the Script, back in March, and Altchek said it has seen 33 million views across its eight episodes.

“We’re going to become a text and video brand, and we’re going to be fluent in both,” he said. “And it’s going to work on any screen. Whether it’s on your phone, laptop or tablet, Mic is going to be there.”