Lifestyle Site PureWow Raises $2.5 Million

PureWow FundraisePureWow, a women’s lifestyle website, raised $2.5 million in Series Seed Preferred funding Tuesday. It’s the second pre-Series A round of funding for the profitable property, which raised seed funding when it launched in 2010.

PureWow’s audience tripled in the past 12 months. Advertiser RFPs have increased 200%.

“The demand is there,” CEO Ryan Harwood said. “Now we need to build the infrastructure.”

The company will spend the money on improvements that include increasing the size of the editorial staff and investing more in technology and sales support. It will also expand video production, though its plans will likely be less ambitious than developing multi-episode series.

PureWow earns more than 80% of its ad revenue from native placements with brands like H&M, Sephora, Nordstrom, L’Oreal and LG Home Appliances. With the native ad market projected to skyrocket, PureWow’s focus on native enticed investors.

“We’re going from a display/pre-roll world to a native content world,” Harwood said. “The one knock on native is that it’s expensive to do, but the margins [on native], the way we’re able to do this in a cost-efficient way, fascinated people.”

Technology helped fuel PureWow’s recent growth as the company shifted to a “data-driven culture,” Harwood said. The missing piece for PureWow was not analysis, but getting people who could put rigorous testing in place.

“Being able to set it up properly is the most complex, difficult part,” Harwood said. Eventually, PureWow plans to use multivariate testing or data for every decision it makes. “We want to get to the point where everything we do can be tracked so we’re making the best decisions possible and not an ounce of ROI is wasted.”

One beneficiary of its increasing data focus has been social referrals, where optimization can have big payoffs. “This is the first month that social was our highest traffic driver,” Harwood said. “It’s good to see [referrals] diversified between search, social, email and syndication partners.”

PureWow’s funding puts it in the midst of a wave of investment in the media space, with companies like BuzzFeed, Vice, Vox, Refinery29 and PlayBuzz raising funds.

Harwood sees the path to success through brand building. “You have to be a true voice and true brand” to succeed, Harwood said. “You can’t be an overnight viral sensation. One of our main KPIs is brand awareness, where users are loving the content because it’s PureWow, and not some random aggregator.”

In contrast to Refinery29, which Harwood says focuses on fashion-forward millennials, PureWow attracts a slightly older audience, with a median age of 34. Its content encompasses broader lifestyle categories including fashion, beauty, lifestyle and home. It will further invest in travel content with the additional funding.

Raising money puts pressure on companies to offer up bigger returns, but PureWow’s growth trajectory means Harwood is not too worried about hitting his next goal: $50 million in revenue. PureWow is growing 100% year over year, with revenue in the solid eight figures.

“Everyone’s in the rat race right now for reach and scale,” Harwood said. “Even for Google and Facebook, TV is bigger than them. We want to focus on the brand first and staying true to the audience. Then we know we’ve built ourselves a very stable company.”

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