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100 billion impressions and counting: Meet the 22-year-olds aiming to be bigger than backers LADbible

Kit Chilvers and Iyrah Williams - Pubity Group

From 14-year-old Instagram influencers to building a social media company that now boasts over 100 million followers and 100 billion impressions across its brands, we met the 22-year-old founders behind Pubity Group who now have their eyes firmly on US domination.

As I’m waiting to meet Kit Chilvers and Iyrah Williams, the duo behind Pubity Group, I’m greeted by a receptionist who has worked at 20 Dale Street for more than a decade. He recalls how Manchester, and the occupants of the Grade II listed building, have transformed over the years.

He reminisced about initially meeting the then young ambitious founders of LADbible who were yet to visualize just how successful their own venture would become – completing a £360m float on the London Stock Exchange’s AIM market last year.

Now with Pubity Group, there’s a new generation in town. Through LADbible’s 30% equity share in Pubity Group, Chilvers and Williams are able to tap into support and office space as well having LADbible CEO and co-founder Alexander ‘Solly’ Solomou as their mentor.

If you’ve ever scrolled through Instagram or TikTok, you’re likely to have stumbled across some of their posts whether it be a viral video about a TV news fail or a cute snapshot of a pet. Some of their most popular pages include Memezar, Dadsaysjokes, Girlyzar and Pubity Sport.

“We want to be the future of LAD. Better and bigger in the way we want to be in America,” Iyrah Williams told Prolific North. “It’s now about turning it up a level.”

From 14-year-old Instagram influencers to apprentices at LADbible

School in Worcester was where it all started for Chilvers and Williams. They became friends after sharing the same classes and playing football together.

At 14-years-old, Chilvers started an Instagram page called Footballnewz which initially was a page about sharing football updates. 

“I was a big gamer,” said Kit Chilvers.“I just thought of it as a game on your phone, a game of trying to get followers, get likes, engagement.”

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Kit Chilvers, Pubity Group.
Kit Chilvers.


The game eventually accelerated into something much bigger. He was on his way to becoming an Instagram influencer, taking advantage of ‘shoutouts’ by promoting pages on the platform. 

“My dad used to tell me off for going on my phone,” he laughed. “At night I’d be on my phone late at night, just basically doing Instagram.”

Growing the accounts from 1,000 to 500,000 followers, it was clear it was something he needed to take seriously as the pages started to make money. He eventually persuaded Williams to jump on the trend and encouraged him to start up his own account.

Starting out, Williams had to use his mum’s phone until his account “started to blow up over the span of a few months” – eventually leading to him investing in a phone of his own.

“We hadn’t even done our GCSEs yet”

After gaining over two million followers by mid-2016 across football focused pages, the duo attracted the attention of LADbible.

“We were approached by LADbible,” said Chilvers. “We hadn’t even done our GCSEs yet! So we talked to them and we had to choose between going to college or coming here and doing an apprenticeship.” 

The duo, who were both 16-years-old at this point, moved up to Manchester to take up the apprenticeships and were supported by the team at LADbible with the move.


Iyrah Williams, Pubity Group.
Iyrah Williams.


Although Williams sold a few of the pages he had built up, Kit’s dad Andrew Chilvers stepped in to take over the management of his. “I thought it was really exciting because I didn’t know anything about this stuff,” said Andrew Chilvers, who is now Publishing Director at the company.

At LADbible, the pair went from posting on Facebook and sourcing videos and articles, which moved into overseeing the main Instagram account and discovering popular memes such as Big Shaq’s Mans not Hot.

“We grew the Instagram [account] from about two million to about seven million [followers]. With Instagram and with all social media, you just have to be on top of all the trends.” 

Although they enjoyed working at LADbible and were working on a number of exciting projects, they spotted a “niche in the market for pictures and posts that we were seeing that weren’t being posted anywhere”.

Leaving LADbible and growing US audience

Viral posts the duo were discovering on Reddit or Twitter were “edgier” and “not as brand friendly” for LADbible’s audience.

“We knew that there would be an audience that could resonate with that content. That’s where we started the pages, it was mostly UK pages to start with, with Memezar and Pubity.”

As the pages started to gain traction with the same techniques the pair used at 14 with shoutouts as well as cementing a growing US audience, they soon saw a boom of up to three million followers. “That’s when we decided to leave LADbible,” said Chilvers.

In the middle of 2018, they went full-time focusing on the accounts. “We just put all our time and effort into making sure these accounts grew. We sacrificed, we didn’t try to make too much money off it because we knew our followers didn’t want to see that,” added Williams.

With a demand for viral videos and memes from followers, the duo continued to curate popular content either by obtaining permission from the copyright holder or by purchasing content from licensing agencies.

At the end of 2019, Chilvers then reached out to LADbible co-founder and CEO Solly Solomou. “I just said to him, ‘look we’ve got this massive audience being mainly in the US, would you like to do something?’ That’s when we came to the agreement that it’s a place that he’d like to step into, which is that American target audience and we have that.”

Pubity Group, which now has a total of 12 staff, are now able to tap into LADbible’s assets whether it be staff, mentorship or office space in Manchester or London. “We’ve grown a really sizable amount,” he added.

Key to success and the future

The key to their success is rooted in understanding who their followers are and keeping on top of the latest trends, explained Williams.

“Consistency is the main and most important part. That’s certainly what sets us apart from other accounts. For example, on Pubity Sport we’ve really focused in on the football aspects and how much people love that.” At the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, users were turning to TikTok in their droves but Pubity Group had already jumped on the platform months beforehand.  

 

“We started on that quite early,” he explained. “We worked with TikTok at the very, very early stage to actually promote them,” added Chilvers. “We had our own TikTok, which was verified. We would post videos on TikTok and borrow them from our Instagram to tell people to download TikTok so we sort of helped.”

As well as establishing partnerships with global brands including dating app Hinge and fitness brand Gymshark, the duo have been working on building a new venture called No Brainer TV. “We had a bit of an idea and an epiphany in a way six months ago,” said Williams. “Because of the way that the platforms are going, we really want original content. We want stuff that hasn’t been seen before elsewhere.”

The street interview channel has already grown to more than 10,000 followers on TikTok and 40,000 on Instagram, tapping into the demand from Gen Z users who are now consuming their news on social media.

They have seen success with movie-related content to questions about who should be the next Prime Minister following Boris Johnson’s resignation. “What we wanted with No Brainer is to have a whole unique audience without us putting anything behind it, so we didn’t push it from any of our other pages. It’s completely new and organic.”

For the future, they have big ambitions. “I think for us, it’s being able to leave a legacy. Being able to build a brand that we can look back on in 10 to 20 years.”

Whether that be through charity work or initiatives on social media, they want to be able to utilise their audience as a tool for good. But it doesn’t end there.

Catering to their growing audience across the pond, their vision is to eventually set up their own offices in both the UK and America as well as becoming a billion pound company.

“It’s not going to be easy!” laughed Chilvers. “It’s obviously great working out of the LAD offices, it’s a lovely office. But the only way to go forward is to obviously have it yourself. That’s obviously the way that we can get bigger.”

“We want to be in America as well as dominate America in terms of content and making the best stuff,” added Williams.

The ultimate goal? To become “one of the biggest youth publishers or Gen Z publishers”.

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