Enterprise Fund connects early-stage startups with Knight’s networks – Knight Foundation

Enterprise Fund connects early-stage startups with Knight’s networks

Videolicious 2.0 Demo via YouTube

Matt Singer is a typically busy startup company CEO. He’s also one of a growing number running for-profit businesses in which Knight Foundation has invested as a mission-driven venture capitalist.

Singer is co-founder of Videolicious, an app that allows users to easily create high-definition video. For the last several months, he’s been signing up partners for Videolicious and traveling the country to train journalists to use it. In May his company raised $2.25 million from investors, which included the Knight Enterprise Fund.

“The Knight Foundation has been super helpful in building buzz within the news industry,” he said.

Singer said Videolicious, which had one news client prior to raising funds is now being used by more than 100 newspapers, magazines and television stations including The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times and the New York Daily News. 

“With Videolicious being fully embraced by journalists, the Knight Foundation investment has truly been one of the most impactful partnerships we have,” he said.  

Most of Knight’s work consists of grant-making across multiple program areas, including journalism and media innovation, civic engagement and the arts. Knight, an independent, national foundation with assets of more than $2.2 billion, created the $10 million Enterprise Fund in 2011 to diversify its support for media innovation and to complement grant programs such as the Knight News Challenge. Since then, Knight has invested in more than 20 companies through the fund.

“The premise is simple,” said Juan J. Martinez, vice president and chief financial officer at Knight. “The Enterprise Fund invests in early-stage companies that meaningfully connect communities with news and information. Those companies can take different forms, but the common thread is that they provide tools that allow content providers to better run their businesses, socialize their content or market their companies.”

According to Benoit Wirz, director of business consulting at Knight, the Enterprise Fund serves as a co-investor in its portfolio companies, investing $25,000 to $500,000 alongside experienced angel and venture capital investors.

“For us it’s about more than the capital,” he said. “A key question is, what value can we bring to the company? How can our network assist the development of their business model?”

The foundation, started in 1950 by John S. and James L. Knight, has deep connections that benefit its portfolio companies, both nationally and in local communities where the brothers once owned newspapers.

Their newspaper chain, which was once a dominant player in American media, no longer exists, but the foundation continues the brothers’ philosophy that transparency and the free flow of information are essential to democracy.

“We can help market these companies to our large network of media partners, community organizations and educational organizations,” Martinez said, “and communities benefit from the products and services by expanding their access to sources of rich, useful information.”

For Videolicious, Knight’s investment helped ignite its recent success establishing new partnerships, Singer said.

“Knight’s investment coincided with a massive spike in publisher signups in the news vertical for Videolicious,” he said.

Videolicious was also one of several Knight-supported projects that held office hours and delivered lightning talks during the recent Online News Association conference in Atlanta, which showcased innovation in digital journalism. For three consecutive days, Singer and Mike Lennon, a “video evangelist” at Videolicious, fielded questions from scores of journalists and educators about the app, which can be downloaded for free from the Apple Store.

“ONA was fantastic for generating significant sales interest,” Singer said. “Overall, we’re seeing some exciting examples of journalist growth; whether it’s a journalist producing a significant quantity of videos, or a journalist publishing a video that gets thousands of views, we’re inspired by the video creation successes of our journalist partners and we love to see the new stories they are telling in video form!”

If you have an idea or want to learn more about the Knight Enterprise Fund, email us. You can also learn more about some of the projects funded through Knight’s investments.

Michael D. Bolden, editorial director at Knight Foundation