From one tiny office to the world
Naudts founded Culture Trip from a tiny office in Elephant & Castle. The global goal was to connect diverse cultures with inspiring multi-media content powered by innovative technology.
While many observers thought his venture was “crazy”, says former academic psychiatrist Naudts, website visitor numbers have skyrocketed over the years.
Culture Trip’s videos and social media are particularly popular. During 2017 and in less than a year its videos scored 1.3bn views. And its Facebook page has four million followers with half a billion impressions – also known as views or ad views – each month.
The company’s potential had been acknowledged before this impressive traffic growth. Forbes named Culture Trip in late 2016 as one of five fast-growing UK businesses to watch.
Great potential indeed that’s attracted substantial financial capital. Having raised £20m of equity, the early-revenue business has excelled at selling its success potential to investors.
The investor domino effect
Pioneer media and technology investor Gordon Crawford led the company’s $2m of seed funding in 2015. “This had a domino effect,” explains Naudts. “We almost had to keep investors out following Gordon’s commitment.” The Culture Trip team grew to 12-15 and user traffic topped two to three million clicks a month.
Less than a year later, PPF Investments invested $20m. What followed was an intense hiring trip – the team grew more than tenfold. And the company opened offices in New York and Tel Aviv.
Culture Trip quickly evolved from a start-up to a “hyper-fast-growing start-up with a global presence”. They achieved success with very little marketing, says Naudts.
It’s mostly been organic user growth.
Kris Naudts, Culture Trip
In April 2018, PPF Investments led an $80m Series B round “to aggressively propel the business forward across all areas, including an immediate bolstering of its executive team and a product redesign”.
Off the back of the raise, Culture Trip will also use the funds to significantly expand its engineering and creative workforce around the world to fuel innovation, drive further audience growth and roll out various monetisation strategies.
Going where others fear to tread
Always believing he and his team could crack online content, Naudts maintains a steely focus. “Not many companies dare enter the online content industry,” he says. “So, that’s exactly why it’s an opportunity.”
Established print news and TV media are still somewhat struggling with the transfer to digital content and its economics. At the same time, new media companies are hitting revenue and profit ceilings and can simply not compete with the internet giants like Facebook and Google for ad revenue, he says.
Naudts believes the Culture Trip’s talent, innovative technology and community of contributors differentiates it from the competition.
Timing the revenue focus
Culture Trip has prioritised high levels of user growth (now at 12-15m monthly unique visitors and 750k app downloads) over revenue growth because high user traffic in the highly monetisable verticals we operate, he says, appeal to early-stage investors.
Naudts has always emulated the Silicon Valley model of scaling, which focuses on prioritising user growth. However, it’s important to find a balance between traffic and revenue. “If you have 100m users a month, of course you can eventually monetise your product,” he says.
Going forward, Culture Trip will crank up its focus on technology, but also on marketing and generating revenue, as well as diversifying its content into augmented reality, virtual reality, and possibly long-form video and television.