Inside Snapchat’s content creator incubator Yellow

For years, Snapchat had a horrible relationship with creators. But with a three-month incubator called Yellow, which ran from September to December, Snap has found another way to improve its relationship with creators.

Snap announced Yellow in May 2018, inviting “creative minds and entrepreneurs who are looking to build the next generation of great media companies” to apply. It immediately intrigued publishers and creators — though they also questioned what Snap’s endgame is and how much equity the company would take. Yellow received about 1,300 applications and selected nine companies to participate, which ranged from a mobile journalism network in South Africa to a prison-style fitness boot camp in New York.

Yellow’s program included a $150,000 investment from Snap, and — like many other startup accelerators — provided mentorship, networking events and access to partnerships with Snapchat itself as well as Snapchat Discover partners. The program also included office space within Snap’s headquarters, as well as daily support from a team of five within Snap, including Yellow director Mike Su and Yellow lead Alexandra Levitt. Other Snap executives, including CEO Evan Spiegel, made appearances throughout the program.

One direct benefit of the program? Access to new capital, according to some participants. The program ended on a demo day for investors on Dec. 5, which participants said was one of the most productive parts of Yellow. The event included 130 investors, agents and media executives along with Snap’s leadership team. Rachel Jo Silver, founder and CEO of Love Stories TV, a video platform for wedding planning, said her team got a meeting with Disney and some venture capitalists through the demo day, some of whom are now investors.

“Demo day was a really powerful moment because we had a large audience of potential partners in the audience, and as a result, I’ve had back to back meetings for the last two weeks. I am making money, and I’ve raised enough money to get to the next phase of the business,” said Matt Monahan, founder of SelfieCircus, a startup focused on building pop-up experiences.

John Attanasio, CEO of digital animation network Toonstar, said he got a new investor, former professional basketball player Baron Davis, and a new advisor, The Dodo president YuJung Kim, through Yellow.

Yellow’s program also gave participants the opportunity to learn more about what it’s like to actually publish on Snapchat and what the benefits can be, the creators said. For Love Stories TV, access to Snap’s product team was one of the most important benefits of being in Yellow. The startup had already raised a $1.7 million seed round and was looking for ways to grow their reach on the platform. Love Stories TV had joined Snapchat shortly after its launch, inviting wedding attendees to do a takeover of its channel. Soon after, the publisher moved onto Instagram Stories after it surpassed Snapchat in reach, said Silver. Thanks to the Yellow program, Love Stories TV is investing more time in Snapchat as one of the launch partners for Curated Our Stories.

The Curated Our Stories format is now generating “meaningful” revenue for Love Stories TV, Silver said. In December, it accounted for 50 percent of Love Stories TV’s revenues on Snap; January numbers will be close to that, Silver added.

Success on Snapchat with Curated Our Stories has also helped improve Love Stories TV’s sales outside of Snap, Silver said. Company revenues quadrupled in the fourth quarter as Love Stories TV grew to 150 million video views across platforms. “It’s changed the trajectory of our business completely, partially because of the time they gave,” Silver said.

Toonstar, meanwhile, now has a channel on Snapchat Discover thanks to participating in Yellow. The company had been interested in joining Snapchat prior to Yellow but had focused its earlier efforts on Facebook, Instagram and (now TikTok).

“We think Snap as a platform has a lot of potential. The reach has been really strong. It’s a material piece of our [70 million monthly views across networks] after only being on the platform for a month,” Attanasio said.

K. Adam Bloom, chief operating officer of Space Oddity Films, said his team benefitted from conversations with Snap’s team on where to distribute their content. “There were a lot of questions we were asking each other back and forth. You can tell every platform is a slightly different experience so where do we want to be? Yellow grabbed us by the shoulders and turned us in a direction,” Bloom said.

Space Oddity has also had conversations with Snapchat’s Snap Originals team to create something exclusively for them, according to Bloom.

Snap plans to host another class for Yellow this year. According to Yellow’s website, Snap will soon be updating it with “information on our Spring 2019 class.” A Snap spokesperson declined to provide additional details.

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