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Russell Simmons’ All Def Digital Raises $10 Million

Allen DeBevoise's Third Wave Digital leads funding round in urban-youth media company

All Def Digital, the urban youth culture, music and comedy media company founded by Russell Simmons, announced that it has closed $10 million in Series B financing led by Allen DeBevoise’s Third Wave Digital Partners.

Other investors in the round include advertising giant WPP through WPP Ventures and venture-capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, as well as ADD’s previous investors Nu Horizons Investments, Greycroft Partners, e.ventures and Shari Redstone’s Advancit Capital. The funding brings ADD to $18 million raised to date, including a $5 million Series A round in 2014 led by Greycroft.

All Def Digital, which claims to have more than 100 million fans monthly across YouTube and Facebook, produces and distributes original content through its own media properties, social channels, TV, theatrical motion pictures, live events and brand partnerships through its newly established in-house creative agency, ADHD. ADD also operates a network of emerging and established talent including social stars, stand-up comics, writers, actors, poets and hip-hop artists.

“For the next phase of growth, we chose investors who understand what we are building at All Def across all media — from digital series to live events, from Facebook to premium series and feature films,” Simmons, ADD’s chairman and co-founder, said in a statement.

ADD said it will use the financing to accelerate cross-platform audience growth and distribution efforts; invest in its original programming in comedy, music, sports, news and poetry; and expand branded entertainment and sponsorship deals.

“With hugely impressive growth, retention and engagement metrics, All Def Digital is quickly scaling and poised to become the most important and influential brand for urban youth culture in America, and around the world — that’s the reach of hip hop,” DeBevoise said in a statement. DeBevoise, founder and chairman of Machinima, has invested in more than 70 companies through Third Wave Digital including AwesomenessTV, Tastemade, StyleHaul, Mitu, Vessel, Wevr, Jukin Media, Tubular Labs and Canvas Media Studios.

ADD is producing several new cross-platform programming franchises. The company expanded its long-term collaboration with HBO to include a first-look deal, and ADD is currently in pre-production on “All Def Comedy Live” for HBO slated to air this fall.

In addition, ADD inked a distribution deal with Spotify for original hip-hop reality series “Rush Hour” and landed a pact with Seeso, NBCUniversal’s direct-to-consumer online comedy subscription service, covering original and licensed programming. The company’s newest franchise, the All Def Comedy Roast, is set to feature Snoop Dogg as the inaugural roastee later this year. ADD’s expansion into social justice programming includes its first “Town Hall” series, hosted by Melissa Harris Perry and Nick Cannon, which ADD broadcast exclusively through Facebook Live.

ADD’s programming strategy, pegged to cultural and demographic shifts, is aimed at reaching younger audiences across online video, social and mobile channels, said CEO Sanjay Sharma. “Millennials and Gen Z are the most demographically diverse cohorts in history, incredibly influential and equally hard to reach through traditional media,” he said.

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