Lemonada Media announces $8 million in Series A funding, led by BDMI, to expand its mission to make life suck less
The podcast network and creator of the audio reality™ podcast genre, which sees millions of downloads a month, will grow its slate and partnerships this year
Lemonada Media, the podcast network that presents humanity unfiltered, announces today it has raised $8 million in Series A (second-round) funding led by BDMI, a wholly owned subsidiary of the global media, services and education company Bertelsmann. Also included in this round are Madison Wells, Greycroft, Spring Point Partners LLC, Intuition Capital, and Owl Capital Group. New and existing individual investors include Wenda Millard, vice chair of MediaLink, and Stephanie Hannon, CTO for Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign, as well as Blue Collective, Lemonada's lead seed investor and largest outside investor to date.
Co-founded by Jessica Cordova Kramer and Stephanie Wittels Wachs, Lemonada's mission is to present authentic first-person narratives that highlight the diverse human experience and make us all feel less alone. Lemonada is entering its third year of operation with a growing slate of 20 original podcasts, reaching millions of listeners per month. In 2021, Lemonada tripled its revenue, added 10 new shows, designed and trademarked an audio reality studio (BEING Studios) led by reality TV veteran Kasey Barrett, and co-created original shows like Written Off with Jay Ellis' Black Bar Mitzvah and Believe Her with publishing house Spiegel & Grau, which launched at the top of podcast charts. The network also has its eye on continued global expansion, after notching No. 1 shows in Europe with In Giro con Fra (Italy) and As Me with Sinéad (Ireland).
"Anyone working with Lemonada gets out of bed in the morning to help make the world a better place. This funding will allow our independent, diverse, women-led, audio-first network to not only grow our slate, but to expand our team, brand and organizational partnerships, and creator community," says Lemonada CEO Cordova Kramer. "In addition to our KPIs around audience and revenue, one goal during this time is to keep a keen eye on diversity, with the intention of reaching new audiences in the U.S. and beyond."
"This is a thrilling moment for Lemonada, allowing our staff, hosts and partners to keep innovating, reach larger audiences with our podcasts, and find ways to bring our community together at live and virtual events," says Chief Creative Officer Wittels Wachs. "More podcasts, yes, but also expanding our reach and bringing more diverse talent and staff into the network, and more partnership with brands who are also looking to make life suck less with us."
Lemonada was founded in 2019 after Jess (an early producer with Crooked Media) & Steph (an author, voice actress and theater director) connected over learning they had both lost their beloved little brothers to opioid overdoses. The company's first podcast, Last Day, chronicles the opioid crisis in America by zooming in on the last day of Stefano Cordova Jr.'s life, and evolves to take a broader view of the complex epidemic. While co-creating that series, Wittels Wachs and Cordova Kramer saw a broader opportunity to make life suck less, one podcast at a time, by building a network. The now-41 person full-time staff is concentrated in NYC, LA, Twin Cities and working flexibly across the country.
"BDMI was inspired by Lemonada's rapid growth, unique voice in the market, and ability to repeatedly create high-quality content that audiences are passionate about. Lemonada is making a positive difference in people's lives and building a successful business while doing it," said Keith Titan, Partner at BDMI.
"Madison Wells is thrilled to invest in a female-founded media company that is dedicated to telling transformative stories in an entertaining manner that make life a little bit better along the way. We share core values in storytelling and that's a wonderful rarity," adds Gigi Pritzker, founder and CEO of Madison Wells. Titan and Pritzker will join the Lemonada Board of Directors, alongside Wittels Wachs, Cordova Kramer, and Michael Buman.
"We got to know Jess and Steph and the Lemonada team, and what we're excited about is Lemonada being a strong audio-first network with great content, coupled with its potential to be a real anchor-point in the lives of large numbers of listeners. Potentially a household name," shares Alan Patricof, founder of Greycroft partners which has invested in Wondery, Veritonic, Sonora, Podsights and a number of other audio-centric start-ups.
Lemonada's current lineup features a uniquely diverse roster of hosts, including White House advisor Andy Slavitt (In the Bubble), Former HUD Secretary Julián Castro (Our America), author and grief expert Claire Bidwell Smith (New Day), comedian Kulap Vilaysack and journalist SuChin Pak (Add to Cart), and actor Jay Ellis ("Insecure", "Top Gun: Maverick"). Other weekly favorites include Here Lies Me, Untold Story, and No One is Coming to Save Us. Among the new programs will be the forthcoming first season from its audio reality™ studio BEING Studios, where reality TV meets podcasting, as well as season 3 of Lemonada's flagship show Last Day. Lemonada's roster of guests has included an array of luminaries from across the entertainment, media, politics and science worlds, such as Dr. Anthony Fauci, Tina Fey, Stacey Abrams, Kristen Bell, Elizabeth Warren, Sarah Silverman, Mark Cuban, Kara Swisher, Issa Rae, Florence Welch, and John Legend.
Jennifer Fonstad, founder of Owl Capital and Broadway Angels investor network, and Stephanie Hannon, now CPO of Waze, will join Lemonada's advisory council, currently made up of attorney Jamillia Ferris; Dr. Nzinga Harrison, co-founder of Eleanor Health and host of Lemonada's In Recovery podcast; Patrick J. Kennedy, former U.S. Representative and founder of the Kennedy Forum; Wendy Kopp, CEO and founder of Teach For All; activist and author DeRay Mckesson; Andy Slavitt; Kulap Vilaysack; and Melinda Wright, global head of diversity for Cambridge Associates.
Lemonada is represented by Josh Lindgren at CAA.
ABOUT LEMONADA MEDIA
Lemonada is a podcast network founded in 2019 by Jessica Cordova Kramer and Stephanie Wittels Wachs. The company's podcasts share an unfiltered version of the human experience in a time of increasing polarization, in an effort to make life suck less. For sponsorship opportunities, contact: [email protected]. For press inquiries, contact: [email protected].
BDMI is a wholly owned subsidiary of the global media, services and education company Bertelsmann. As a financially driven corporate venture investor BDMI draws upon Bertelsmann's global reach to provide not only capital, but also access to their network of businesses within Bertelsmann and across the media industry. BDMI has invested in over 100 startups since 2007 and is currently focused on the categories of online video, ad tech, SaaS, content, fintech and e-commerce. For more information visit: www.bdmifund.com
Bertelsmann is a media, services and education company that operates in about 50 countries around the world. It includes the broadcaster RTL Group, the trade book publisher Penguin Random House, the music company BMG, the service provider Arvato, the Bertelsmann Printing Group, the Bertelsmann Education Group and Bertelsmann Investments, an international network of funds. The company has around 130,000 employees and generated revenues of €17.3 billion in the 2020 financial year. Bertelsmann stands for creativity and entrepreneurship. This combination promotes first-class media content and innovative service solutions that inspire customers around the world. Bertelsmann aspires to achieve climate neutrality by 2030. For more information visit: www.bertelsmann.com
ABOUT MADISON WELLS
Madison Wells is an award-winning, independent entertainment company that partners with creatives to bring overlooked stories and storytellers to life. Founded by award-winning producer Gigi Pritzker, Madison Wells develops, produces, and funds projects predominantly in the film, television and theatre space, while incubating content with partners who are aligned in the belief that good storytelling sparks important conversation. Visit www.madisonwellsmedia.com for examples.
Greycroft is a leading venture capital firm focused on investments in the Internet and mobile markets. Greycroft leverages an extensive network of media and technology industry connections to help entrepreneurs gain visibility, build strategic relationships, bring their products to market, and build successful businesses. Greycroft manages in excess of $1 billion and has made over 150 investments since inception in leading companies including Acorns, App Annie, Boxed, Braintree, Buddy Media, Everything But The House, Extreme Reach, Huffington Post, Icertis, JW Player, Maker Studios, Plated, Scopely, Shipt, TheRealReal, Thrive Market, Trunk Club, Venmo, WideOrbit, and Yeakha.
ABOUT BLUE COLLECTIVE
Blue Collective, founded in 2015, is an early-stage venture capital firm headquartered in Brooklyn, NY with $100 million in assets under management. Blue Collective's overall strategy is to invest as early as possible in phenomenal founders building phenomenal businesses. Blue Collective invests in pre-Seed and Seed rounds across category and industry. The firm has been early investors in companies such as ZocDoc, Tecovas, Unqork, Revel, Catalina, MediaMath, and more. If you're interested to learn more, check out www.bluecollective.com or email [email protected].