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Exclusive: Accel founder Jim Swartz backs journalist Josy Joseph’s stealth mode media startup

Exclusive: Accel founder Jim Swartz backs journalist Josy Joseph’s stealth mode media startup
Photo Credit: 123RF.com

Delhi-based investigative journalist Josy Joseph has raised commitments for a seed funding round from Accel founder Jim Swartz, among other high networth individuals, for his stealth mode digital media startup Confluence Media.

The startup, which will be headquartered in Delhi with offices in Mumbai and London, aims to create an investigative journalism and real- life events-based IP (intellectual property) across verticals such as books, feature films, documentaries, web series, and podcasts. It plans to first establish and create revenue streams for some of the early IPs and subsequently launch a news website for investigative stories, a person privy to the deal told TechCircle. 

London-based journalist and filmmaker Adrian Levy is part of the startup’s core team. 

In the long-term, Confluence’s primary revenue model will be IP licencing and revenue share partnerships. The firm will also provide creative consultancy to production houses, said the person cited above. “The idea is to create a socially relevant and impactful media venture without depending on advertisement revenues or subscriptions,” he added.

Apart from Accel’s Swartz, a number of global and Indian investors, including an Academy Award winner and several prominent entrepreneurs and industrialists have participated in this significantly large seed round, the person said. Swartz co-founded the storied Silicon Valley based venture capital firm in 1983 and is the latest among a number of high networth individuals, overseas and in India, to bankroll new-age media companies.

Owned by Confluence Online Ventures, Confluence Media is currently in the process of negotiating and concluding IP-driven contracts with publishers and production houses in India and overseas.

An award-winning investigative journalist, Joseph’s last job was with Chennai-based English daily The Hindu where he was national security editor. In a career spanning over two decades, he worked across publications such as the Times of India, DNA, Rediff.com, The Asian Age, Mid Day, and the Blitz. 

Joseph is best known for his high-profile investigations into a number of controversial scams including the Mumbai Adarsh Housing scam and the mishandling of finances at the 2010 Commonwealth Games. In his 2016 book -- A Feast Of Vultures: The Hidden Business of Democracy in India -- Joseph unveiled details of links between fugitive underworld don Dawood Ibrahim and Jet Airways founder-chairman Naresh Goyal. Subsequently, Joseph was sued by Jet Airways and Goyal for Rs 1,000 crores.

Joseph holds a Masters in International Relations from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University. He was a fellow at the Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies in Singapore and is an alumnus of the Colombo-based Regional Centre for Strategic Studies.

According to the person cited above, the startup’s potential project pipeline includes a multi-year publishing deal with a global publisher, podcast and web series deal with a Los Angeles-based media fund, and a large documentary contract with a production house based in London. The startup is in the process of finalising a handful of investigative journalism and real-life events-based feature film deals with production houses in Mumbai and South India. It is also exploring collaborations with global production houses to create globally relevant stories with significant Indian angle. 

With an IP creation focus, Confluence Media is attempting to create an alternative revenue model in the news media business which has struggled for a while to find a sustainable business model. 

India has lately seen the mushrooming of digital news media startups, a couple of which have had to shutter operations after running out of capital. Accel-backed digital news media startup Factor Daily shut operations early this year. Factor Daily, which also counts Blume Ventures and Paytm’s Vijay Shekhar Sharma among investors, focused on long-form stories and later pivoted to an audio first storytelling platform. 

A bunch of digital news media startups including The Morning Context, The Ken, News Laundry, The Wire, The News Minute, Scroll.in, Alt News, and DealStreetAsia operate on subscription–based model or seek donations from their readers. Bengaluru-based The Ken is backed by Omidyar Network and a slew of angel investors including Aprameya Radhakrishna, co-founder of TaxiForSure, Girish Mathrubhootham, founder and CEO at Freshdesk, and Vijay Shekhar Sharma. 

The Independent and Public-Spirited Media Foundation (IPSMF), a philanthropic fund that provides financial assistance to digital news ventures in India, has backed several digital news platforms including The Lede, The Print, The Wire, The News Minute, Swarajya, and The Economic and Political Weekly.

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