Ozy goes down in history as 2021’s biggest media scandal

About Fatu
By Fatu Ogwuche

Top of Mind. Happy Sunday!  

September will go down in history as the worst month for Ozy Media. Poor judgment from its CEO Carlos Watson and COO Samir Rao led to a loss of investors, staff, and credibility in the space of a week. Tragic.  

3 big things: 

  • Ozy media shuts its doors 
  • Andela is a unicorn 
  • Nigeria’s President Buhari says Twitter must do as he says

Ozy goes down in history as 2021’s biggest media scandal

Ozy CEO Carlos Watson (L) & COO Samir Rao (R) | Credit: BOB

The short: Ozy, a Silicon Valley digital media company, was closing in on a $40 million raise from Goldman Sachs. Sensing something off during a conference call, Goldman Sachs representatives took the initiative and found they were conned.

Ozy’s origins: In 2013, Ozy was founded and modelled as a Gen X media dream. Founders Carlos Watson and Samir Rao started Ozy with investments from a list of blue-chip friends, including Steve Job’s widow Lauren Powell Jobs.  

Products: Ozy owns several media verticals, including a seemingly engaging website, podcasts, TV, newsletters, and events.  

Lies & deceit in Silicon Valley: As media outlet Verge aptly put it:

Ozy Media had funding, events, and writers, but where was the audience?

Ozy repeatedly shot up (engagement) numbers to provide the public with a representation of a successful media company. They even overstated their relationships with media outlets such as YouTube and Amazon. 

Poor judgement and curtain calls: Ozy raised $83 million by April 2020, at a $159 million valuation, according to PitchBook. Goldman Sachs, the biggest bank globally, seemed convinced enough in Ozy’s sandcastle to invest $40 million. The bank set up a meeting with Ozy’s CEO Carlos Watson and YouTube to gauge Ozy’s digital influence. 

It turns out YouTube did not know about this meeting. So instead, Ozy’s COO Samir Rao digitally altered his voice and dialled into the meeting impersonating YouTube’s Head of Unscripted Programming Alex Piper. 

This singular incident accelerated Ozy’s demise. 

Goldman Sach’s followed up with YouTube, and YouTube said they never had this meeting. YouTube investigated, Ozy apologised and blamed Samir’s actions on “mental health”. YouTube called the FBI to investigate. 

Final thoughts: This case makes you wonder why Ozy’s leadership was willing to get their hands dirty for more money, why they thought they could get away with this, and what other questionable choices they’ve made to raise money.  

The media must hold itself to ethical standards and be accountable when they fall short. Ozy’s demise is its own making. They’ve decided to shut down operations, and I believe it’s the start of what’s to come.

Andela is a unicorn!

Andela Logo | Credit: Techpoint Africa

The Short: Andela, the 7-year-old developer outsourcing company, attained unicorn status after raising $200 million at a $1.5 billion valuation. Japan’s Softbank Group led the investment.  

How Andela works: Andela operates a fully remote model and focuses more on matching senior tech talents to opportunities, with operations across 80 countries on five continents, including Eastern Europe, Latin and South America.  

A new drift: Andela has AI software in its roadmap– making hiring quicker for the company by providing millions of data points to guide companies on where an individual would be most successful.

Why this matters: This announcement comes a few weeks after Wave, a Senegal-based fintech company, reached unicorn status. This makes Andela Africa’s fifth unicorn, West Africa’s fourth.

While Wave attained this status notably in a Series A funding round, and Flutterwave and Opay became unicorns in Series C, Andela making it in Series E doesn’t take from its astounding achievement.

‘Andela mafia’: Andela has done a lot to democratise [high-end] tech opportunities. Its initial focus was on building African talents for this purpose, which caught the eyes of big names such as Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, former US vice president Al Gore, and tennis superstar Serena Williams.

Former Andela employees have gone on to be influential voices/founders of tech startups. 

Sued by competitors: Toptal, a freelancer marketplace, sued Andela and several of its employees and alleged Andela was creating “a perfect clone of its business,” using a former employee to achieve this. Andela CEO Jeremy Johnson played the incident down.  Final thoughts: With its investment in Andela, Softbank has led two tech companies’ emergence as unicorns. The Japanese company was at the forefront of OPay’s $400 million Series C round last month. And notably, Andela became the second non-fintech unicorn in Africa. It’s becoming absolute scenes!

Nigeria’s President Buhari gives Twitter conditions

Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari | Credit: TWN

The short: On the country’s Independence Day, Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari said lifting the country’s ban on Twitter is subject to certain conditions.   

Why it matters: In July, Nigeria’s government indefinitely banned Twitter following the platform’s removal of the president’s tweet. Despite the ban, many Nigerians still access Twitter using VPNs.  

Big Picture: Twitter has become a huge part of a new generation of Nigerians. It was used to power one of the biggest protests in history and is an excellent platform for public conversations. The ban is seen as an apt representation of repression by President Buhari’s government. 

By the numbers: This shutdown has a negative economic effect – with around 104.4 million internet users affected and costing the country around $366.9 million, according to an estimate by Top10VPN in August.

Asides from Myanmar and India, Nigeria has had the worst financial loss from an internet shutdown of some form in 2021. 

Twitter’s action: Buhari confirmed that Twitter had reached out to his government in a bid to resolve the ban. A presidential committee engaged them to address key issues, including the tech company establishing a physical presence in the country.  

Will Jack move to Buhari’s beat? While Buhari admits to social media being “a very useful platform”, he maintained the medium also lent an outlet for dissents – which he‘s not a fan of. However, he maintains Nigerian Twitter users only get to delete their VPNs once Jack does as he says!   Final thoughts: It’s unlikely that the Buhari administration cares about the economic strain the lack of legal twittering has caused the economy and Nigerians. This illustrates the resentment reserved for social media by Nigeria’s current government.

Market Trends

Market Trends | Big Tech This Week

Market Watch: Here’s how the stocks of companies, which dominated the news this week performed as of market close:

Twitter (Ticker Symbol: TWTR)

  • On what proved to be an all-around positive trading session for the stock market, Twitter shares recorded a consecutive day of gains outperforming competitors like Microsoft (MSFT) and Google (GOOGL).

New feature spotlight!

twitter.com  •  Share

Clubhouse on Twitter: “There are over 700k rooms opened every day on Clubhouse. Yes, that includes the big moments you see in the news — but it’s also lots of lovely, small rooms between friends. So we built a new feature to make those casual chats even easier! Say hello to Wave 👋… https://t.co/6aqZx2MQ08”

“There are over 700k rooms opened every day on Clubhouse. Yes, that includes the big moments you see in the news — but it’s also lots of lovely, small rooms between friends.

So we built a new feature to make those casual chats even easier! Say hello to Wave 👋 https://t.co/3A24CBbAxW”

New feature alert: Clubhouse officially launched a new way to invite people to audio chats. It’s called “Wave” and is available to iOS and Android users.  

How Wave works: Sending a Wave on Clubhouse means inviting a friend/friends to a live (private) audio room by tapping a waving hand emoji. They get a notification that you’re open to chatting and can join a private room with you or a room that includes the people you waved at.  Verdict: Away from its appointment-based functioning and oft-professional use, Clubhouse is looking to encourage more momentary, casual and private experiences on the app. Let’s see how users love and use the new feature.

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