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Digital media startup Semafor raises $19m to buy out FTX’s Sam Bankman-Fried $10m stake

Semafor, a New York-based media startup co-founded by Ben Smith, previously media columnist for the New York Times and editor in chief of BuzzFeed News, and Justin B. Smith, former CEO of Bloomberg Media Group, has raised $19 million in a new financing round, bringing its total raised to $34 million.

Launched in October 2022, Semafor has news bureaus in New York, Washington D.C, London, Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa and will use the funding to return the $10 million in funds from Sam Bankman-Fried, the former CEO of cryptocurrency company FTX whose has been charged with fraud, money laundering and campaign finance offenses.

According to Justin Smith, Semafor’s CEO, “Our investor group represents a diverse range of backgrounds with a shared sense of responsibility to support quality, independent global news and we thank them for their commitment to our mission.”

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New investors include Gallup, Henry Kravis, co-founder and co-executive chairman of KKR; Jamal Daniel, founder, Crest Media and owner, Al-Monitor; Jerry Yang, founding partner, AME Cloud Ventures and co-founder of Yahoo; Jorge Paulo Lemann, co-founder, 3G Capital and Stand Together, a philanthropic network of 700 business leaders founded by American entrepreneur Charles Koch, CEO of Koch Industries.

The 60-employee company has signed up more than 400,000 newsletter subscribers with an open rate of more than 60% (with 30% of its audience outside of the U.S.). Semafor produces nine newsletters, including Flagship, a daily briefing “on the world’s most important stories”; Principals, a daily insider’s guide to Washington, D.C.; Africa, with news and analysis from across the continent; and the weekly Media newsletter. The company also hosts live-journalism events including an annual World Economy Summit, the Semafor Media Summit, and Africa Week and produces original video content.

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“I am very proud of our fast start,” Justin Smith said. “The data tells the story — Semafor has rapidly established a powerful connection with influential readers in the U.S., Africa and around the world. Semafor’s intelligent, transparent and global editorial formula is unique and directly addresses frustrations of news consumers.”

James Musoba
James Musoba
Studying Africa's startup and technology scene. I always look forward to discovering new exciting inventions and vibrant entrepreneurs.

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