Wigo, an app that’s gone crazy on college campuses, has landed some financial backing from the guys behind the funniest feed on Instagram: Elliot Tebele and Elie Ballas.
And the app, which helps people plan party time with their friends, is no longer exclusive for college students but is being opened for everyone, a Tinder-like version of Meetup.
A story of InstaFame
Tebele runs a popular Instagram feed with a name that we can’t fully share on our family friendly site (we’ll bleep the naughty part): F–kJerry. He got the name while watching Seinfeld.
About a year ago, he hit 100,000 followers on Instagram and things ballooned from there.
He now has 4.5 million Instagram followers and 12 million followers across all channels (Tumblr, Twitter, Snapchat, and so on). Tebele’s fame has grown so big, he recently took on a partner, his childhood friend Ballas, both 24.
Although Tebele didn’t go to college, his buddy Ballas joined his friend after graduating from Stanford with a degree in human/computer interaction (aka “Symbolic Systems”). It’s a perfect background for life as an InstaFame comic.
The two are almost doppelgangers. Not only do their first names sound alike — “Elie” is pronounced like “Ellie” (think “Elliot” without the “t”) — they also look alike, and they clearly have the same sense of humour.
Both of them work full-time collecting the humour posts and memes that have made their feeds so popular.
And together have a vision for turning F–kJerry into a bigger comedic empire including launching a line of clothing with a “comedic edge to it, while being tasteful,” Tebele told us.
Until now, they have been making their living from advertising via sponsored posts, “when we believe in the company or products. And the spot has to be hilarious. We can’t sacrifice content to promotion,” Ballas says.
And they say they haven’t quite become gazillionaires yet.
“We’re making a living off of it. We pay rent. We eat. We drink,” they say.
Could they buy a Porsche? “Maybe a cheap Porsche or maybe not even a cheap Porsche,” they joked.
Word is that the team charges up to $US30,000 to companies for a sponsored post campaign.
Plus, they are producing original comedy videos which will be hosted on Funny or Die. And they have made their first investment in a tech startup, Wigo.
Hooking up with the party app
The pair met Wigo when Ben Kaplan, the co-founder of Wigo, contacted them about marketing.
“All six of us full-time Wigo employers are huge fans of the account. We followed it and we reached out see if they would reply,” Kaplan told us.
To his surprise, they did, and instead of a sponsored post arrangement, they decided on more of a partnership.
That includes a small equity investment by the comedians into Wigo (they wouldn’t disclose the actual dollar amount). And Wigo will become the app the team uses for another of its expansion plans: live comic events.
For instance, the InstaStars will appear next month at the huge comedy festival Just For Laughs in Montreal.
The partnership coincides with the big news for Wigo, which is that the startup is opening the app up to anyone, not just students that go to particular colleges.
As we previously reported, Wigo built a company valued at $US14 million in 13 months by making their party planning app uber exclusive.
They have raised a bit more money and now claim a $US15 million valuation.
The app made college students practically beg to use it. First, they had to get hundreds to thousands of their schoolmates to sign up on a waiting list.
Only then would Wigo “unlock” the app at their school.
Kaplan originally built the app in his dorm room to help him find his own friends at parties and bars.
When the app took off, he dropped out of college to work on it full-time, landing a total of $US2 million investment from investors like Paul English, founder of Kayak; Kevin Colleran, Facebook’s first sales guy; Tinder cofounders Sean Rad and Justin Mateen; and other famous names, such as Vince Wilfork, Pro Bowl lineman for the Patriots.
Ironically, when Kaplan dropped out, “I essentially got kicked off my own app,” he told us.
A version of the app, Wigo Summer, is now available to be used by anyone. Kaplan looks at it as a competitor to Meetup that acts like Tinder.
New features include geolocation — “like Tinder, anywhere you are, you can see people [on Wigo] around you,” he says. (Users will be able to set privacy settings so that only their friends can see their location.)
You can also find events in your area (that’s why the F–kJerry guys like it), post pics of the event and chat in the app.
“We have startups hitting us up all the time,” Tebele says, “and we plan on investing in more tech startups. But it’s rare to find a startup that’s aligned so very well with our goals like Wigo is.”
Kaplan won’t say how many total users Wigo has now. He tells us users are “growing by the thousands daily. On Friday we received 21,000 new installs on iOS alone,” he says.
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