The Omidyar Network, which has been mentioned in the Paradise Papers revelations, has invested in the websites Scroll.in and Newslaundry.com.
The Paradise Papers revelations have put the spotlight on the Omidyar Network, a US-based early stage investor fund. The network was mentioned in the cache of 13.4 million documents, revelations about which were published by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) Monday.
While the Omidyar Network has invested in over 60 companies in India in less than a decade, and sought to raise its investments in Indian companies to $350 million by 2020, two of the investments closest to founder Pierre Omidyar’s heart are in Scroll.in and Newslaundry.com.
Tracing the Omidyar Network
Omidyar founded the multinational e-commerce corporation eBay in 1995, and then turned maverick philanthropist. In 1998, he co-founded the Omidyar Foundation with wife Pam, with the aim of supporting non-profits. It was only in 2004 that the duo broadened their scope and formed the Omidyar Network to make investments in both for-profit companies and not-for-profit organisations.
Omidyar has routinely reaffirmed his commitment to free and independent media.
Incidentally, earlier this year, the Omidyar Network announced a $100 million commitment to support investigative reporting and fighting hate speech, and invested $4.5 million in ICIJ, which led the Paradise Papers investigation.
Investments in Scroll and Newslaundry
While the Omidyar Network’s investments in Scroll and Newslaundry were announced at the time they were made, they have not been reported so far in the context of the fresh leaks.
We are deeply grateful to our readers & viewers for their time, trust and subscriptions.
Quality journalism is expensive and needs readers to pay for it. Your support will define our work and ThePrint’s future.
Both investments were made after Union minister Jayant Sinha completed his tenure as Omidyar’s director in December 2013. Sinha found his name in the leaks because of his association with the network before he became minister.
Asked by ThePrint to comment on the nature of the investments, Sinha distanced himself, saying: “Omidyar invested in these organisations after I left the firm on 31 December 2013.”
Scroll Media Inc., which runs a news portal under the name Scroll.in, had raised an undisclosed amount of funding from the Omidyar Network in 2014. At the time, Samir Patil, CEO of Scroll, was reported to have said: “We cannot disclose the deal size.”
“Our aim is to provide good quality content to readers across all platforms, including mobile and tablets. So, the funds will go towards enhancing our technology and increasing the pace of the editorial content,” he had said.
Patil declined to comment on the investments in the light of the new leaks, suggesting that Scroll had little to do with the new information.
Newslaundry, on the other hand, received funding from the network in 2016, “to expand its reportage and content production teams, leverage its existing content by increasing its exposure to a larger audience, and experiment with new formats of content creation”.
When approached for a response on the nature of the investment in Newslaundry, its Editor-in-Chief Madhu Trehan said in an email response: “Since you are doing a report on funds and companies, you would be aware that funds raised for equity are used at the discretion of the board of a company for the regular activities of a company from fixing the plumbing to paying professionals and overheads etc.”
“You are confusing tied aid or project grants with an equity investment. If you look at our website, you can see how much stake Omidyar Network owns in Newslaundry. It is up on our website. The amount raised and equity percentage is on what was then the FIPB website, and that is public information,” she said.
At the time of investment in 2016, in a public statement on its website, the Omidyar Network had said: “Our purpose in funding Newslaundry is to invest in a media organisation that is exploring innovative approaches to drive transparency and higher standards throughout the media landscape in India. We also hope that the learnings from Newslaundry’s journey to develop a new business model for independent news production will act as a blueprint for other organisations to follow, develop, and spread.”
News media is in a crisis & only you can fix it
You are reading this because you value good, intelligent and objective journalism. We thank you for your time and your trust.
You also know that the news media is facing an unprecedented crisis. It is likely that you are also hearing of the brutal layoffs and pay-cuts hitting the industry. There are many reasons why the media’s economics is broken. But a big one is that good people are not yet paying enough for good journalism.
We have a newsroom filled with talented young reporters. We also have the country’s most robust editing and fact-checking team, finest news photographers and video professionals. We are building India’s most ambitious and energetic news platform. And we aren’t even three yet.
At ThePrint, we invest in quality journalists. We pay them fairly and on time even in this difficult period. As you may have noticed, we do not flinch from spending whatever it takes to make sure our reporters reach where the story is. Our stellar coronavirus coverage is a good example. You can check some of it here.
This comes with a sizable cost. For us to continue bringing quality journalism, we need readers like you to pay for it. Because the advertising market is broken too.
If you think we deserve your support, do join us in this endeavour to strengthen fair, free, courageous, and questioning journalism, please click on the link below. Your support will define our journalism, and ThePrint’s future. It will take just a few seconds of your time.