CAA's Connect Ventures Backs Black Content Startup Blacktag

Blacktag Founders
Courtesy of Blacktag

Left to right Ousman Sahko and Akin Adebowale.

Issa Rae and Common have agreed to release original content on the digital platform, which will launch in 2021.

A new online platform for Black content and creators is set to launch next year with buy-in from a stable of top talent.

Blacktag is preparing the early 2021 debut of its platform, which will include both user-generated and premium produced content, with $3.75 million in backing led by Connect Ventures, the investment group launched by CAA and New Enterprise Associates. The company’s other investors include MasterClass founder David Rogier and marketing veteran David Jones of You & Mr Jones.

The goal at Blacktag is to create a destination for alternative Black content that will attract advertiser interest and drive marketing spend to Black artists and storytellers. Founders Akin Adebowale and Ousman Sahko have lined up Insecure creator-star Issa Rae and musiican Common to help them with that mission by releasing original content on the platform. A deal with Janelle Monae is also in the works.

"Black culture has always been a driver of popular culture and social discourse, but creatives in the Black community have not felt what should be tremendous economic benefits. Black art is Black money and Blacktag is going to help put more of that money back into the pockets of Black artists and creators," Adebowale said in a statement. The Blacktag CEO is an artist and software engineer who has worked with entertainers like Kanye West, Drake and Kid Cudi. "Our mission with Blacktag is to help close the wealth gap afflicting Black communities by leveraging the work and influence of Black creators, giving them a dedicated studio to explore their creativity, and connecting them with world class brands to reach underserved Black audiences," he added.

Blacktag is expected to have both subscription-based and ad-supported offerings for audiences. Additional details about the platform, which will be available via the Blacktag website and app for mobile devices and connected TVs, is being kept under wraps until its 2021 launch.

Sahko, a commercial film director and entrepreneur who serves as Blacktag’s president and chief content officer, said in a statement that Blacktag is launching in the midst of "a Black renaissance and economic awakening." The company, he added, is "not only creating opportunities for artists and creators to monetize their work that is the foundation of our culture, but also creating a place for every fan who has ever scrolled through traditional platforms looking for people who look like them and content that truly resonates, only to come up empty."

In statements, Blacktag’s investors described it as having the potential to create change in the entertainment and marketing sectors. "The era of avoiding political and social issues is over and that is fundamentally changing the expectations that audiences and consumers have for the content they consume. Audiences today demand a certain point of view and transparency that is not found in a lot of age old institutions, but is the kind that is at the heart of Blacktag," Rogier said. "Akin and Ousman will help write this pivotal next chapter in entertainment because they care so deeply about providing economic opportunities for creators and love great storytelling."