Podcast network startup Lemonada Media raises $8m Series A funding to accelerate growth
Lemonada Media, the podcast network that presents humanity unfiltered, 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).
Cordova Kramer, CEO, Lemonada: "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. 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."
Wittels Wachs, Chief Creative Officer, Lemonada: "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. 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.
Keith Titan, Partner, BDMI: "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."
Gigi Pritzker, Founder and CEO, Madison Wells: "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."
Titan and Pritzker will join the Lemonada Board of Directors, alongside Wittels Wachs, Cordova Kramer, and Michael Buman.
Alan Patricof, Founder, Greycroft Partners: "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."
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, 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.