Celebrities and their startups

Bambi Francisco Roizen · June 15, 2008 · Short URL: https://vator.tv/n/295

Norwest's Tim Chang is our guest host; iBeatYou, Yardbarker

Is Baron Davis the new media mogul? In this week's Vator Box, we look at two companies he's affiliated with - IBeatYou, which he co-founded and Yardbarker, which he blogs on. Tim Chang, VC partner at Norwest Venture Partners and our guest host, offers critique and advice for both startups, and chooses one he'd bet on. Tim likes Yardbarker as it's "cleverly using flagship sites and attracting the (long) tail." Tim likes IBeatYou because it reminds him of "YouJackAssTubeBay," a site he wanted to start after being dared to snort wasabi. 

We started with Yardbarker by watching the video pitch of the company's co-founder and CEO Pete Vlastelica. YardBarker is an advertising network for 400 blog sites targeting the male demographic and, for now, mainly covering sports. All three of us - Tim, Ezra Roizen (VB regular), me - like the site and believe in Pete as a CEO who can execute. 

Tim likes the idea of the "verticalization of social media." He believes that aggregating related sites and providing the advertising for them is turning out to be a sound model. He pointed out that Glam is doing this for lifestyle and entertainment sites, and Sportsgenic.com is doing this for sports enthusiasts, ranging from adrenaline junkies to country clubbers. Ezra pointed out that despite what other people say about advertising networks and their low CPMs, Yardbarker may be able to get high CPMs if it can achieve its goal of aggregating a large male audience.

The big challenge for YardBarker, however, is finding and maintaining "anchor tenants" as Federated Media - an ad network for popular bloggers - has lost some key customers, said Ezra. 

Competitions R us 

We then turned our discussion to IBeatYou (aka IBY), a site where anyone can compete with celebrities like Jessica Alba or Baron, who happens to be a co-founder, along with Abdul Khan (also CEO) and producer Cash Warren, Jessica's husband. I give this site a big thumbs up as it's very addictive. I watched a nine-minute video of the winner of "The Stare: No Blinking" contest. Amazingly enough, I was drawn to the suspense and drama of watching how long someone could keep their eyes open. 

Of course, on the downside, once you watch one staring video, they all, well, kinda look the same.

Importantly, the addiction really comes from the fact that there are 20,000-and-growing competitions. Many of which are also seeded by IBY. But those are the ones I like. Those competitions range from silly to edifying. For instance, there's a competition called "Most embarrasing item in your closet," And, the one I really like is "Most interesting moment in history of June 11th." The competitions around history would be a natural for the "History Channel" to sponsor, said Tim. In fact, this site has a "natural sponsorship model," he added.

Ezra pointed out the challenge for venture investors when considering such an investment. "The trick becomes from a venture standpoint finding the right time when it proves itself and you can make a reasonably good bet that the curve goes up."  Fortunately for IBeatYou, its curves are going up. (Check out its analytics/traffic report on its profile.) 

Tim clearly has an affinity with IBY since it reminds him of that dinner and that wasabi dare that inspired him to think of YouJackAssTubeBay. Tim said when he first met Abdul he said, "“Stop. I know what you’re building; I was actually thinking about this.” 

Tim and I both like the fact that IBY breaks down the walls between celebrity and regular guy. In the videos, Jessica isn't polished and in a studio. Rather she's using Webcams and regular handy cams. 

I like the fact that the team is pretty solid. Baron is the celebrity while Abdul focuses on the technology. Notably, Abdul is focused like a laser beam on making the site viral. "Every page has to have an element of virality," he told me.  

You'll have to watch the show for Tim and Ezra's advice for both IBY and YardBarker. 

(Note: We may be totally off in our prognostications and advice. That's OK. We just want to start the dialogue and provide feedback. If you disagree with what we have to say, please let us know. And, if you'd like to nominate a company to be featured and discussed, we welcome your nominations.)

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Bambi Francisco Roizen

Founder and CEO of Vator, a media and research firm for entrepreneurs and investors; Managing Director of Vator Health Fund; Co-Founder of Invent Health; Author and award-winning journalist.

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