While most people use Snapchat just to send snapshots of their life to friends, a growing media powerhouse in the hills of Los Angeles has been figuring out how to run a media company on a platform where everything disappears in 24 hours.
So far it’s worked, and Arsenic has both the followers and the funding now to prove it.
On Snapchat, more than 700,000 people watch the budding company’s videos every day. On Instagram, Arsenic’s more than a million followers means it has double the fans of Maxim Magazine and already one-fifth of Playboy’s.
The company’s viral rise has been such a threat that Playboy has already turned around and offered to buy the company outright.
Even with its early success, Arsenic has remained focused on its vision of becoming the crowd-sourced, trend-setting MTV of this generation and is announcing today that it raised $3 million in seed funding to do it.
The money will go toward hiring more full-time staff beyond a handful and building the technology it needs to help its “for the people, by the people” model that lets anyone become part of the Arsenic community.
“They’re really building a connection to a specific type of native user, whether you want to call it the Snapchat generation or whatever else,” said Omar El-Ayat, vice president of Crosslink Capital who co-led the round with CrossCut Ventures. “It’s native to the platform but also to the native to the audience.”
Why it’s turning heads
Arsenic launched in June 2015 with the mantra that no one tells anyone how they should look. Its original channel on Snapchat and Instagram is all about about women wanting to feel beautiful in their own way, whether that’s lounging by a pool or buying candy at a grocery store, and not being told by a photographer or media company what beauty is.
Arsenic doesn’t pay for any of its Snapchat content. The entire platform is crowd-sourced, with people volunteering to take over the account and showcase their lives. The up and coming models want to be discovered. Brands are clamoring to have their products, like cars, show up as photo-shoot props. People tune in because it’s real, raw, and bite-sized for social media — and never the same two days in a row.
But Arsenic’s founders Billy Hawkins and Amanda Micallef are looking to build something bigger than just a Snapchat channel. The pair told Business Insider that they will be putting the money to use by starting to build communities on more platforms, including Facebook, and work on building out its Arsenic Music channel too.
The funding round includes traditional venture capital firms, like CrossCut Ventures, Crosslink Capital, and KEC Ventures, but has also attracted investment from media folks who see its potential to become the next big media company. The other investors include Maverick/LiveNation, Honest Company’s Brian Lee, Broadway Video/SNL, Cooley, Good Universe, Bustle CEO Bryan Goldberg, and Chris Altchek of Mic.com.
“Viacom did everything from MTV to sports. You can have different brands and messages. They started in a place today that is racy edgy,” Crosslink’s El-Ayat said. “I think you’ll see a more diversification of voice. We could diversify into sports and businesses.”
While its founding is unashamedly rooted in the “new sexy,” Clinton Foy, CrossCut Ventures’ managing director, pointed to the early days of companies like MTV, Snapchat, and even Facebook as examples of a company starting out pushing boundaries of what was considered the norm.
“When MTV the idea was first pitched, no one believed in it. This is the history and the pattern recognition we see in other big businesses,” Foy said. “I had belief in the beginning that they were onto something, because of the way it was taking off, because of the viral element.”