OZY was an innovative news and entertainment company focused on profiling “the new and the next” in politics, business, foreign and national affairs, technology, arts and culture.
Carlos & Family Found OZY, A Cutting Edge New Media Company
Carlos moves back to California to take care of his ailing mother (Dr. Rose T. Watson) and with her help and encouragement founds OZY (Photo: Mom + Dad building furniture). Strong early investors help OZY get off the ground.
OZY Builds The Most Diverse Team in Media
From the very beginning, Carlos and OZY very intentionally built a broad and inclusive team. Over the next decade, OZY hired nearly 1000 people full-time and part-time – 90% of whom were women or people of color. That rich diversity is orders of magnitude better than almost every major mainstream media company and allows OZY to thrill and inform its readers, viewers and listeners in broader and more cutting-edge ways.
OZY.com & OZY Premium Newsletters Launch
OZY launches its website and first daily newsletters with a commitment to profiling “the new and the next”
"In an interview with the new magazine Ozy published Tuesday, former president Bill Clinton identified three problems with the fall rollout of the Affordable Care Act, "only two of which the administration can fix."
– Published in Washington Post
Bill Gates Becomes OZY's First Guest Editor
Smart Investors Back OZY
Leading investors celebrate OZY’s strong global vision and content and provide Series A financing.
OZY Builds A Unique Global Network Of Freelance Reporters
OZY builds a powerful and diverse global freelance network that over the next few years employs more than 500 journalists across more than 100 countries.
Global Media Powerhouse (Axel Springer) Backs Ozy
OZY secures Series B financing as leading global media powerhouse Axel Springer doubles down on OZY’s bold vision and premium content
NPR, USA Today and more Partner With OZY
OZY builds powerful content partnerships with NPR, USA Today and others. Later partnerships include the FT, NYT, iHeart, BBC, A+E and Univision. OZY’s smart, forward-looking reporting is coveted across different channels including digital, audio, tv, festivals, foundations and more.
OZY Genius Awards Launch
OZY debuts The OZY Genius Awards that present up to $10K to 10 top college students to pursue big ideas including writing new books, doing innovative scientific research, build new companies and launch non-profits.
More than 50 students will win the award over the next few years including Amanda Gorman, Brandy Starr Merriweather, and Dyllen Nellis
🚀 OZY TV LAUNCHES
OZY expands beyond digital to TV with the debut of its primetime series on PBS, “The Contenders.”
The 16-episode series also airs globally on the BBC. Quite a strong start for a new company that has never done TV!
OZY will go on to build out a robust tv portfolio including 14 premium tv shows for 9 networks including Hulu, Amazon, A+E and OWN. OZY’s premium tv shows include “Defining Moments” (Hulu), Breaking Big (Amazon), Take on America (PBS), Torn From Her Arms (Lifetime) and Sneaker Fiends (YouTube).
OZY Fest Debuts
Not only does OZY move into TV, but into festivals as well with the debut in NYC’s Central Park of a new kind of music and ideas festival – OZY Fest.
Described as “TED meets Coachella”, over the years, OZY Fest features speakers like Malcolm Gladwell, Mark Cuban and Hillary Clinton, musicians like Common, H.E.R., Andra Day and John Legend, top tier chefs like Eddie Huang, Padma Lakshmi, Alex Guernescelli and Marcus Samuelsson, comedians like Chelsea Handler, Issa Rae, Trevor Noah and Michael Che, literary figures like Salman Rushdie, Adam Grant and Roxane Gay, athletes and entrepreneurs like Alex Rodriguez, Jillian Michaels and Tony Gonzalez and many others.
Thousands enjoy the vibrant festivals in person and online. And in 2017, now President Joe Biden surprises everyone and invites himself to the party!
OZY Podcast Debuts
While better funded media companies like BuzzFeed remain stuck as digital only players, OZY further diversifies its offering by launching its fifth platform – podcasts. OZY’s first podcast, The Thread, becomes an Apple Top Ten hit and ultimately wins millions of downloads across multiple seasons. Several OZY podcasts crack Top 100 lists including Flashback, The Food That Built America and the Future of X.
States of the Nation
Following a seismic presidential election, OZY commits to send dozens of curious reporters to each of the 50 states to understand the new and future normal.
Looking at rising stars, new trends and big ideas, OZY’s yearlong series helped a divided country and world get a better sense of what was happening on the ground throughout the US.
The series was later submitted for consideration for a 2018 Pulitzer Prize.
"Around The World" Series Debuts
OZY hires more than 100 freelance and full-time reporters to profile “the new and the next” from every country in the world leading to a dynamic year long series with more than 500 profiles from nearly 200 countries.
The series was later submitted for consideration for a 2019 Pulitzer Prize.
Global Investors Back OZY Again
Global investors support OZY’s premium content and diversified platform vision.
OZY uses Series C to invest in more reporting, original tv shows, premium podcasts, top tier awards and world class festivals.
One of the first shows that is launched is future Emmy winner, “Black Women OWN the Conversation” for OWN. OZY also partners with Hulu for a terrific show called “Defining Moments.”
Black Women OWN The Conversation Debuts!
OZY partners with Oprah Winfrey and the Oprah Winfrey Network to debut a powerful new townhall show called Black Women OWN the Conversation.
From motherhood to economics, from relationships to faith, the series elevated the ideas, feelings and insights of cutting-edge black women.
Based on another original OZY series (Take on America), Black Women OWN the Conversation would go on to win OZY’s first Emmy!
Buzzfeed Tries to Buy OZY
Struggling to maintain relevance, an ailing BuzzFeed tries to buy up and coming OZY which has successfully diversified beyond digital in ways that BuzzFeed covets.
After board and investor discussions, OZY ultimately bets on itself and turns down BuzzFeed.
Over the next few years, OZY increasingly beats BuzzFeed in head-to-head battles for key advertising deals and new media partnerships.
In the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder, OZY commits to help reimagine what America’s next chapter can and should look like, digging deep into questions about race, fairness, innovation, and the next century during a yearlong series.
Navigating the Pandemic
OZY joins the entire world in trying to make sense of the new reality. Without the ability to film some expected tv shows and podcasts or hold in person OZY Fest, OZY creatively launches new remote programs to help our readers, viewers, and listeners “see more, be more and do more” including “The Carlos Watson Show” (YouTube, Amazon), “Flashback” (Apple, iHeart, Spotify), “Whiskey in Your Coffee” (bold new newsletter) and more.
OZY Wins an Emmy!
OZY’s breakthrough tv show, Black Women OWN the Conversation, wins an Emmy – validating OZY and Oprah’s important commitment to telling stories that are not often heard.
OZY Signs More Than $200M in Advertising Deals
With a growing multi-platform offering (tv, podcasts, newsletters, awards and festivals), OZY begins to win meaningful advertising partnerships including more than 30 Fortune 500 companies including Coke, Target and Walmart.
OZY also signs meaningful ad agency partnerships including with WPP and Dentsu. Thanks to its diverse, cutting-edge content, customer service and audience, OZY begins to routinely win deals against former top competitors like VICE and BuzzFeed as well as large players like the NYT.
Google Offers to Invest in OZY
For the second time in the last few years, Google offers to invest in OZY given the company’s unique content, creative multi-platform approach and forward-looking vision.
Global Investors Back OZY Again
Having turned down Google, OZY agrees to accept investment from other top early-stage investors who also believe its premium content and forward looking approach to news and entertainment.
With this round, Carlos becomes perhaps the first black entrepreneur and CEO in Silicon Valley history to raise more than $100M – not nearly as much as the $1B that competitors like BuzzFeed and VICE are able to raise (with narrower businesses), but still meaningful given the racial realities of venture funding.
Former Competitor Attacks OZY
Former BuzzFeed editor Ben Smith who had previously failed in his attempt to buy OZY writes an attack piece against the company that nearly drives it under.
He does not tell his editor that he had sought to buy OZY and still held shares in BuzzFeed (an OZY competitor who was desperately trying to go public).
Remarkably and sadly, the NYT still lets him write the piece and coordinate more negative coverage with his former colleagues at BuzzFeed and elsewhere.
After the Ben Smith attack, most of OZY’s team, investors and partners depart.
But OZY does not go under. Carlos and a small team stick together, apologize for mistakes and pledge to learn and get better, and get OZY going again.
It’s not easy, but they eventually rebuild a network of 50+ reporters, editors, producers and videographers and get OZY content flowing again – including new newsletters, tv shows, podcasts and award programs.
OZY Begins to Regain Momentum
With new content flowing again including Sneaker Fiends (TV), the Rick Ross Car Show (TV), She-roics (podcast), a new season of the OZY Genius Awards and the debut of The Drop newsletter, OZY starts to catch fire again and wins back a variety of Fortune 500 advertisers (both direct and programmatically).
Legendary Investor and OZY Board Chair Mike Moe Pens Important Note
“Why I am Sticking with OZY” laying out why despite mistakes, he believes in the fundamental idea and importance of OZY and the OZY team and knows that second chances have been central to helping some of the best companies overcome much more dramatic challenges.
“Every great company has a near death experience including Apple, Netflix, Tesla and more.”
The Watson Family helps OZY Survive
Carlos, his sister Beverly and several family members as well as a few supportive partners help OZY meet payroll week in and week out despite great difficulty.
Against all odds, the Watson family liquidates its remaining savings and borrows yet more money to keep a rare and special black owned media company alive.
OZY Picks Up Steam and Announces OZY Fest 2023
With COVID having ebbed and a strong new team in place, OZY announces plans for its first in person OZY Fest in several years. Excitement grows and Fortune 500 sponsors and top agencies begin to inquire and sign on.
3 Brooklyn Prosecutors Target Black-owned And California-based OZY
In late February, three Brooklyn prosecutors (Jonathan Siegel, Gillian Kassner, Dylan Stern) who have targeted black and brown people 90% of the time in increasingly white Brooklyn surprise indict Carlos and OZY despite neither being remotely based in Brooklyn or New York.
All of this happens while they ignore OZY competitors, VICE and BuzzFeed, who have reportedly engaged in truly serious and likely criminal conduct including misleading investors about financials, impersonation scams, lying about employee stock option plans and overseeing cultures of rampant sexual assault and harassment.
The indictments threaten to destroy young OZY which was on the verge of a compelling comeback.
Iconic Harvard Law Professor Asks U.S. Attorney General To Intervene and Stop Racist Prosecution
Harvard Law Professor Ron Sullivan, who has been credited with helping to overturn more wrongful convictions than perhaps any lawyer in history, agrees to represent Carlos and asks the US Attorney General Merrick Garland to look into the racial record of white Brooklyn prosecutors Jon Siegel, Gillian Kassner and Dylan Stern. The three prosecutors have targeted black and brown people with their indictments 90% of the time in increasingly white Brooklyn.
Professor Sullivan also asks US District Judge Eric Komitee to dismiss the charges: “Entrepreneuring while black cannot be a crime.”
Too Black for Business launches with insights from distinguished Harvard Law professor Ron Sullivan and others, shedding light on the systemic racial barriers faced by Black and Brown entrepreneurs in business startups and funding endeavors.