Angelica Nwandu, creator of The Shade Room, joined our own Anthony Ha on the stage of TechCrunch Disrupt to discuss the growth of her Instagram-first gossip blog. Despite growing The Shade Room to 9.3 million Instagram followers and profitability, Nwandu says she has no interest in an acquisition.
Nwandu attributes her success to meme culture — the ability for large groups to effect change using the internet as a platform. She first recognized the value of her creation when it started influencing the news its writers were covering. And unlike many of her peers, Nwandu stepped back from complete control early on to allow the community around her to have a voice in the stories being written.
“Social media is about the community, and so are we,” explained Nwandu. “People come for the comments and for fellowship with the other roommates, that’s the main purpose, they want to hear what they have to say, it’s a forum.”
The Shade Room now lives on most social media platforms and has its own website and video team. By sheer numbers, the blog punches significantly above its weight. Unlike other viral media sites like BuzzFeed, The Shade Room has taken very little venture financing. Its only investor to date is Indie VC.
“I’m not completely closed off to investors when the right partner comes,” said Nwandu.
Though Nwandu didn’t name names, she noted that The Shade Room has received acquisition offers from a bunch of major studios. She was very clear that she has no interest in cashing in on early growth and plans to keep The Shade Room independent.
“The block is hot for The Shade Room right now,” asserted Nwandu. “Literally we have been approached by every studio you can imagine in Hollywood. We have all the deals on the table, but I have a huge vision for what I see The Shade Room being in the future and we want to be our own network.”
Studios have also approached The Shade Room with interest in producing a TV show with Nwandu, but she feels that TV is the wrong medium for an audience that consumes content from mobile 93 percent of the time.
The profitable startup plans to keep investing capital back into its business to spur growth, particularly in video production. It’s already locked down major advertisers like GMC and McDonald’s and plans to pursue advantageous partnerships with studios rather than exits.