Michael Sikand was a disappointed student when the University of Michigan sent him home in April 2020 as COVID raged. But the words of a mentor changed his perspective: “Never let a good crisis go to waste.”
Sikand used that opportunity to start a podcast. Noting how business podcasts can often be long and sometimes even dull, Sikand wanted to create fun and energetic 15-minute episodes, interviews with business leaders that would engage listeners and stand out from competitors. A hundred and fifty episodes and a lot of cold emails later, he moved his format to a new social media platform that was blowing up: TikTok.
Sikand’s 30-to-60-second videos on the platform gained tens of millions of views and attention from the mainstream media. Then it was time, he decided, to turn this success into a fully-fledged media business.
How Our Future launched
Sikand hired fellow student Simran Sandhu as co-founder and COO and together they launched Our Future, a digital media startup that produces short-form business news video content to help large companies thrive on emerging platforms — much like Sikand did for himself on TikTok.
“Our biggest challenge was depending solely on advertising deals as revenue,” Sikand said. “As views fluctuated atop algorithms, we needed to find a way to detach from what we couldn’t control.”
This challenge led Sikand and Sandhu to build an agency, licensing their skill set and abilities to larger companies that had the resources to invest in emerging social media platforms. That approach helped the team create the recurring revenue they needed to build a more stable and sustainable operation.
Looking for a buyer to enable further growth
Our Future’s soar to success was significant – in just 18 months, it amassed over 1 billion views, with an average of 30 million views per month, 1 million followers across social media, and signed deals with advertisers including Warby Parker, Shopify and HubSpot.
As a bootstrapped business, the co-founders initially looked for funding, but soon decided selling was the right move instead.
Sikand had a connection to the founders of Morning Brew; they all went to the University of Michigan. Initially, Sikand contacted Morning Brew CEO Austin Rief asking him to invest. But Rief said, “I know better than to invest in media,” Sikand tweeted. He wanted to buy the company instead, which led to the sale of Our Future to Morning Brew in December 2022 — the same year he graduated. The deal terms were not disclosed.
“After months of back and forth with the MB team, we reached a deal that made sense for all of us,” Sandhu wrote in a tweet.
“You can build a good business with only short-form video, but you can’t build a great one,” said Sikand. “The main reason is because you rely on mysterious algorithms and don’t own the audience. The risks of short-form video are gone now we are integrated with Morning Brew.”
Morning Brew itself was acquired (majority stake) by Insider Inc. in October 2020, a deal that valued the company at around $75 million, Axios reported.
“Bringing Our Future under our umbrella increases our reach on social platforms while expanding our audience into Gen Z,” Rief said in a press release.
Top tips for fellow founders
At Morning Brew, Sikand continues to lead Our Future’s content, expanding its short-form video content, getting into long-form YouTube, and gearing up to launch a podcast. Sandhu leads the Our Future agency, also now within Morning Brew, with the aim to help large companies become content powerhouses.
Sikand’s advice for young founders? Getting an early win can be fruitful for the rest of your career.
“The benefits of an early win are immense and open so many doors,” he said. “If you have any hesitation about the long-term risks or prospects of your business, consider locking in that win and positioning yourself for the next big thing.”
“Sale talks can go on for many months and sometimes you feel like you aren’t making any progress,” said Sikand. “It’s particularly hard balancing the odds you get acquired with the need to keep building on your own —– but if you’re set on the sell, grind for it, position yourself as best as possible, and really aim for that outcome.”