March 4, 2016
Atlas Obscura raises $2.5 million in new funding
by Julia Fleischaker
Billing itself as the “definitive guide to the world’s wondrous and curious places,” Atlas Obscura has raised an additional $2.5 million in another round of funding, following its initial $2 million round in 2015. According to Steven Perlberg at The Wall Street Journal, there are a number of returning investors, among them New Atlantic Ventures, investors Thomas Lehrman and Kevin Ryan, Henry Blodget (Business Insider co-founder), Bryan Goldberg (Bustle founder), and The New York Times.
Atlas Obscura was founded by Joshua Foer and Dylan Thuras in 2009. The site is run by David Plotz, former editor-in-chief of Slate, and as of this writing, the front page includes pieces on secret rooms built to hide priests, a story on Edwardian police chases, and a video called “Elvis Kissing Every Girl.” The content is featured alongside reader-generated travel listings of “curious places and events.”
The mix of curated and user-generated content seems to be working—AO’s funding increase is commensurate with a surge in traffic, from 775,000 a year ago to 2.4 million unique visitors in January of this year. And while Plotz is pleased with the growing audience, he told Perlberg, “We want to have a gigantic audience, don’t get me wrong. But the core of it needs to be a very engaged community.” This engaged community is vital to the website’s popular “Atlas” section, which showcases things to do in about 9,000 locations.
Plotz explained to the Journal that he envisions Atlas Obscura to be “like if National Geographic and Vice had a baby.” And though their audience has to grow to catch the likes of National Geographic, his goal of being the “defining media brand around discovery and exploration” doesn’t seem that far-fetched.
Julia Fleischaker is a former director of marketing and publicity at Melville House.