Celebrity entrepreneurs are nothing new.
But, in the 15-or-so years since the dot-com revolution, only a few famous faces have successfully ventured into the digital industry.
And some of them might surprise you.
Don’t think of MC Hammer, Will Ferrell, or Kim Kardashian as web-savvy? Think again.
These celebs, along with a handful of others, have combined the accessibility of the internet with their star power to launch some very popular online endeavours, most of which are driven by user-generated content. None has gone bust yet.
David Roberts, CEO of Peter Gabriel’s The Filter, gave us some insight into why internet startups are a great entrepreneurial choice:
- “Thanks to powerful and flexible technology and an abundance of developers, it is possible to build a prototype very quickly (within 4 weeks in many cases) and release it.”
- “This enables you to get real feedback and usage data from users and then improve the service iteratively. This keeps risks low and also means that you can adapt your business model as you experience how users react to your service.”
- “… this approach also makes it easier to build the first version of your product without any financing.”
His advice for anyone considering starting a business in the internet space? “Keep focused and be prepared to adapt.”
What it is: Katalyst Media is a media production company that has most recently forayed into digital video.
Success: Katalyst's live-streaming event '24 Hours at Sundance' garnered an estimated more than one million views during the time period. As of September, more than 9 million people had watched 'Katalyst HQ,' a digital reality show of life at Katalyst headquarters broadcast on Facebook. And the animated web series 'Blah Girls' has a loyal cult following, prompting it to move to TV -- CBS picked it up last year to run in between segments of other shows.
What it is: FunnyOrDie is another website devoted to videos, but this one is all about comedy. Created by Will Ferrell and Adam McKay, the site lets viewers vote on how funny they find the videos, which are often created by and featuring famous names such as James Franco, Judd Apatow, and, of course, Ferrell himself. Viewers can also make and upload their own content.
Success: The first video on the site -- 'The Landlord,' featuring Ferrell -- was also the most popular, receiving over 60 million views. According to Wikipedia, the company received funding from Sequoia in 2007, and, in 2008, HBO purchased a 10% stake and agreed to let FunnyOrDie write a series of episodes for them.
What it is: ShredOrDie is a collaboration between Tony Hawk's THI/900 Films and Ferrell's FunnyOrDie. The site's format is the same as FunnyOrDie, but the content is all about surfing, skateboarding, BMX, and other extreme sports.
Success: The website has a very specific audience, and numbers aren't overwhelming. But the most viewed video, featuring Hawk and snowboarder Shaun White, has 499,750 views, and there are over 13,000 members.
What it is: DipDive is a social networking and media site focused on music and the arts. The site features a variety of 'channels,' ranging from concert performances to art exhibits to 'man-on-the-street'-type interviews with celebrities, and it also lets users upload their own content.
Success: DipDive got enormous traffic when Will.i.am debuted 'Yes, We Can,' his video promoting Obama's campaign. Since then, the Black Eyed Peas official website merged with DipDive, and the site just sponsored its first annual 'Data Awards,' intended to honour influential DJs and members of the dance community.
What it is: UK-based The Filter, founded by Genesis lead vocalist Peter Gabriel, offers users a way to discover new music and other media content. Once you register, the site uses an algorithm to analyse information about you (ranging from content you view to your music preferences to your purchases), then recommends new content that it thinks you'll enjoy. It's also being offered as a white-label solution to content providers.
Success: Gabriel's second digital venture was included in the 2008 'Red Herring 100' and also chosen to partake in Webmission08, both UK-sponsored forums for promising startups. And according to Crunchbase, the site saw more than 100,000 unique visitors in December 2009.
What it is: CafeMom is a social networking site for mums, launched by nineties TV star Andrew Shue, of Melrose Place fame.
Success: In a little over a year, the site became the most trafficked site for women, with 6 million monthly visitors and 120 million page views in early 2008, according to Mashable. The site still averages over 100 million pageviews each month.
What it is: ShoeDazzle is an online membership club that offers subscribers access to 'celebrity fashion stylists' and pretty shoes for cheap. It's kind of like Netflix, for footwear.
Success: Exact numbers are difficult to find, but business seems to be good. Kardashian recently broadcast that the site hit the milestone of shipping 1,000 pairs in one day.
What it is: GOOP is a newsletter and website authored by the actress. According to the website, its goal is to 'nourish the inner aspect.'
Success: Paltrow's online endeavour has been called a lot of things (such as banal, new age-y, and elitist), but it definitely couldn't be called a failure; it had more than 150,000 subscribers as of Fall 2009.
What it is: DanceJam is a website completely devoted to, well, dance. The site offers a huge database of videos, ranging from dance lessons, to dance music, to dance competitions. Users can also upload videos of themselves dancing and enter dance contests held on the site.
Success: Due to MCHammer's many financial problems, he ended up selling the site in October 2009 to PureVideo, according to TechCrunch's Michael Arrington (an investor in the company). The site is still in business, though, and the most popular video (the 'Cupid Shuffle') has 237,633 views.
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