True-Crime Content Studio Solve Expands Into Podcasting After Raising $20 Million From Elisabeth Murdoch, Other Investors

Solve, the interactive true-crime and mystery studio that spun out of Elisabeth Murdoch’s Vertical Networks, is diving into podcasting with plans to develop content in other media formats in 2020.

The L.A.-based startup has raised $20 million in funding from Elisabeth Murdoch, Lightspeed Venture Partners, Upfront Ventures and Shari Redstone’s Advancit Capital. The funding came in two rounds, the first in October 2018 with an additional round in June 2019.

Solve first debuted as an original Snapchat Show in May 2018 as an interactive murder mystery show, in which the audience takes on the role of the detective. Viewers interview suspects and analyze key evidence to try to solve cases inspired by true crimes. So far, about 150 episodes of “Solve” have been produced for Snapchat, with new installments premiering weekly.

On Snapchat, the show has garnered over 30 million viewers to date — only about one-third of which have successfully cracked the cases, according to Solve founder and CEO Tom Wright.

The company’s core thesis: there’s a big opportunity to create narrative content that the audience interacts with. “We’ve really dug into what we see as the intersection of entertainment and gaming,” said Wright.

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Solve’s new podcast series premieres Monday (Dec. 16) on the iHeartRadio and Apple Podcasts apps. Season 1 of the Solve podcast comprises 10 half-hour episodes, each covering its own true-crime-inspired case for the audience to figure out. Listeners are invited to decipher clues embedded in leaked audio files, voicemails, courtroom testimony, and other evidence to try to find the killer.

The Solve podcast series was produced in partnership with iHeartMedia and SALT Audio, the production company that has worked on top scripted podcasts “Blackout,” starring and executive produced by Rami Malek (from QCode and Endeavor Content) and “Carrier” (from QCode).

Next year, Solve plans to launch projects in “every other media you can think of,” including video games, Wright said.

Wright was formerly CEO of Vertical Networks, where he led the company for about 18 months to create programming for Snap (which also was an investor). He exited in September 2018, remaining managing partner of Freelands Ventures, Elisabeth Murdoch’s early-stage investment firm, and carved off the intellectual property from “Solve” to form a separate company. Separately, this fall, Vertical Networks was acquired by New York-based Whistle.

Mark Suster, managing partner at Upfront Ventures, said in a statement, “We believe that Solve can fundamentally change how we interact with narrative video storytelling. When we heard Tom’s vision for short-form video that you not only watch but also must ‘solve,’ we knew that it had enormous potential.”

Solve has 40 employees, with a studio production team based at its headquarter in Venice Beach, Calif., and an engineering team in London.