The Sequence of Events
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”

President Clinton makes the news on OZY

"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 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.

Reset America

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 played a role in BuzzFeed's failed attempt to acquire OZY, writes an attack piece against the company that nearly drives it under.

Smith, is alleged to have still held shares in BuzzFeed according to Slate:

"But Smith also has options to buy shares in a competitor of both his own employer and of every company he writes about. It’s even possible that as other media companies get dinged, BuzzFeed’s value rises."

Remarkably and sadly, the NYT still lets him write the piece and coordinate more negative coverage with his former colleagues at BuzzFeed and elsewhere.  

OZY Restarts!

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.

February 2023
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.

February 2023
3 White 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,

The prosecution went to the other side of the country to find yet another black person to prosecute. (Read Harvard Law Professor Ron Sullivan's Letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland.)

Of note, OZY's white competitors – who they have not prosecuted despite questionable and even potentially criminal activity detailed in New York Magazine and Wired respectively

"A Company Built on a Bluff" – NYMAG
"The Snarky Vice Squad Is Ready to Be Taken Seriously. Seriously" – WIRED
February 2023
Arrest and Illegal Seizure of Watson's Phones and Computer
February 2023
Racist and Biased Public Statements from US Attorney Breon Peace Published Across Multiple News Networks That Normally Disagree with Each other
March 2023
Motion to Force Removal of Slanderous Government Press Release
March 2023
Motion to Return Watson’s Phones/Computers (Illegal Search & Seizure)
May 2023
Harvard Law Professor Ron Sullivan takes over as Mr. Watson’s Lawyer
June 2023
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.”

August 2023
Watson/Sullivan File Motion to Dismiss

"Carlos Watson is a Black man and Ozy Media was majority-owned by people of color.

This fact stands unremarkable in the context of the three prosecutors on this case. Usingdata from the Bureau of Prisons, we have demonstrated that they have a grossly disparate chargingrecord with regard to racial minorities."

- Professor Ron Sullivan Jr.

September 2023
Government Response

“Lastly, the defendant’s comparison of the racial breakdown of the overall population of the Eastern District of New York is an inappropriate benchmark, as it ignores the well-documented fact that crime rates vary among racial groups.”

Basically, Black people inherently commit more crimes – they really wrote this.

October 2023
Watson/Sullivan Reply

“...the well-documented fact that crime rates vary among racial groups”

It is deeply disappointing that in 2023 the United States Department of Justice (“DOJ”) responds to an allegation of racially discriminatory charging decisions by arguing, in part, that Black people commit more crimes than whites.

It is this very form of ignorant and bigoted logic that itself causes the over-representation of African Americans in the criminal legal system. Black and brown people in the United States are over-policed, over-prosecuted, and over-sentenced at alarming rates.

All responsible scholarship points to these documented systemic factors as what causes the crime rate disparity between Blacks and whites, not the flat-footed government assertion that some races simply commit more crimes than others.

– Professor Ron Sullivan Jr.

November 2023
Komitee Ruling on Press Release

"Federal Prosecutor Benchslapped Over 'Gratuitously Hyperbolic' Press Release. The judge said it could jeopardize the defendant's right to a fair trial."

December 2023
Ozy Media Inc vs Ben Smith, Semafor Inc., and Buzzfeed Inc.,

"At its core, this case is about Defendant Ben Smith’s willful misappropriation of OZY’s trade secrets—in knowing and direct violation of a mutual nondisclosure agreement—to create, launch, operate, lure investors and advertisers to, and ultimately generate significant revenue for his own media company, Semafor. But this case is much more; it is also about a total disregard for journalistic ethics and integrity, corporate greed and profiteering, large-scale public deception, and the willful taking of another man’s dream."

December 2023
Ozy sues Ben Smith and BuzzFeed, claiming the media executive stole trade secrets to create Semafor

"Did Ben Smith sabotage Ozy only to plunder its ideas for Semafor?

That's the question at the heart of a lawsuit filed Thursday morning in Brooklyn Federal Court, alleging that Smith, the Semafor co-founder and former editor-in-chief of BuzzFeed News, violated a non-disclosure agreement and stole trade secrets from Ozy in order to build his own media company."

December 2023
Ozy Media sues rival Semafor and accuses founder Ben Smith of stealing 'trade secrets' when BuzzFeed explored a merger in 2019

"The lawsuit filed on Thursday in Brooklyn federal court claims that Semafor is 'a spitting image of the media company that Carlos Watson had formed a decade earlier: OZY.'

Smith launched Semafor in October 2022 after stints as editor-in-chief at BuzzFeed and a media columnist for the New York Times, where he reported on Ozy executives' attempts to deceive investors in September 2021."

The DAily Mail