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Sybel: 5 Reasons We Invested

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Mangrove recently led the Seed round* of Sybel, the world’s first platform for high-end audio content. With smart speaker adoption skyrocketing, tech giants such as Amazon and Google are making significant investments in voice betting that the technology is poised to become the next primary interface for consumers and businesses. As a firm we believe there is also a content play as consumers adapt to this new paradigm. Entertainment such as music or fun questions are already popular use cases. Podcasts will be next.
(Featured Image: Yannick Oswald, Principal at Mangrove Capital Partners / Image Credit © Silicon Luxembourg / Anna Katina)

Sybel is the creation of Virginie Maire and Matthieu Viala. We met them in October 2018 in Paris after having spent more than a year scouting for podcasting startups globally. Podcasting has been around longer than YouTube, and yet it is still considered an “emerging” medium. Many have tried to bring it to the mass market but in vain…

This team is different. Sybel has a unique vision. They spent months developing a world class product to make their dream become reality – to finally bring podcasting to the mass market by offering high end quality content and a superior user experience. I realised they were onto something big the first moment I opened their app and listened to one of their shows. Here is why we had to get involved:

1. Podcasts have finally come of age

Awareness of the podcast medium was flat for nearly a decade. But, since 2015, it has risen sharply by 30% and is nearing two-thirds of the U.S. population. This increase is also driven by the rapid adoption of smart speakers. People can now access audio content everywhere. We have witnessed these hardware-bolsters-a-medium moment in the past with broadcasting and television, AM/FM and the radio or the web and PC / browsers.

“We believe that the growth of podcasting from basic talk shows into a broader entertainment medium will be driven by high end content.”

2. Content is king

While many are familiar with the term podcast, most do not listen to them. Why? Most don’t know that they have a podcast app on their phone and half don’t think the content is compelling. We believe that the growth of podcasting from basic talk shows into a broader entertainment medium will be driven by high end content. What made Netflix successful are shows such Orange is the New Black and House of Cards. Killer shows will ultimately drive people’s curiosity to discover and consume podcasts.

3. Podcasts are the future of storytelling

Once people have the podcast bug, they listen to a lot of them. They consume nearly 2 hours of audio more per day. Podcast fans already spend over a quarter of their audio time listening to podcasts, roughly the same amount spent on AM/FM radio and only a bit less than the time spent on music. Just under 20% of the population is already listening regularly to podcasts and many more will do so in the coming years. Could podcasts eventually become bigger than music?

“Sybel is also our first investment in France in a long time.”

4. Big data will revolutionise audio content discovery

Sybel understands at a detailed level how individual consumers are accessing their content and uses its platform to help them discover and find exactly the right content for them. It is the combination of this power of detailed customer data and killer shows that will help podcasts go mainstream.

5. A world class team

Virginie and Matthieu are not new to the media world. With Makever, a leading French TV production group, and FinderStudios, the second biggest multi-channel network in France, they already have 2 successful 8 digit exits under their belts. This time they want to build something really big…

It is an honour to work alongside such great founders. And we are in good company with some of Paris’ best angel investors joining us. We will bring Mangrove’s ‘out of the box’ thinking and consumer experience to the table. I will also be the company’s greatest cheerleader. I can’t wait to discover their next killer shows! Sybel is also our first investment in France in a long time. We are back…


*Led by Mangrove, Sybel raised €5 million seed round from Business Angels: Frédéric Montagnon, Nicolas Steegmann, Julien Romanetto, Thibaud Elziere and Eduardo Ronzano.

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