In July 2012, Carly Zakin and Danielle Weisberg quit their jobs at NBC to launch an email startup, theSkimm. Now theSkimm has raised a $US1.1 million seed round led by Hunter Walk and Satyal Patel’s investment firm, Homebrew.
Patel was an early Googler. He later became VP of Product at Twitter. Walk was also an early Googler who joined the company in 2003. RRE Ventures also invested alongside Lady Gaga’s manager Troy Carter, MTV founder Bob Pittman, and other angel investors.
The funding round was the result of an enjoyable lunch between Weisberg, Zakin, Walk and Patel.
“We chose Homebrew as our lead for Satya Patel and Hunter Walk’s unprecedented knowledge of product building at Twitter and YouTube and because of their obvious desire to help us build the company that we envision,” Zakin and Weisberg wrote in a blog post. “We knew we had found the right partners when the four of us had lunch and each knew what the other’s co-founder was ordering.”
theSkimm tells its readers what news they need to know every morning. It was originally founded with women readers in mind, although a number of men have subscribed to theSkimm as well. Zakin and Weisberg say their one-year goal for theSkimm was to have 100,000 subscribers, but they reached that milestone “very early on” and have grown “exponentially” since.
By comparison, guy content company Thrillist had 30,000 email subscribers after its first year. But that was in 2005, before Twitter or Facebook helped startups attract users quickly.
Investors may have been attracted to theSkimm’s unusually high email open rates. According to a 2013 Silverpop study of email marketing, the average unique open rate in the media and publishing industry is 16.4%. Zakin says theSkimm’s daily open rate exceeds 45%. 80% of its daily readers consume the newsletter first thing in the morning.
It’s hard to know how big a business theSkimm can become. Thrillist is now worth more than $US150 million but it has become an e-commerce company first and a content company second. Comcast purchased Daily Candy, another women-targeted email newsletter, in 2008 for $US125 million. One of Daily Candy’s founders is an advisor to theSkimm. Catchy subject titles may contribute to the high open rates. Today’s Skimm email was titled: “If I could turn back time.”
“We are reaching a sponsor’s dream demographic at the most intimate time of their day,” says Zakin. “Millennial women are engaging with theSkimm before they’ve had their coffee.”
Here’s today’s newsletter, below (click to enlarge):