Famous Birthdays Website, an Influencer Rite of Passage, Hits a Milestone

Sam Blake

Sam primarily covers entertainment and media for dot.LA. Previously he was Marjorie Deane Fellow at The Economist, where he wrote for the business and finance sections of the print edition. He has also worked at the XPRIZE Foundation, U.S. Government Accountability Office, KCRW, and MLB Advanced Media (now Disney Streaming Services). He holds an MBA from UCLA Anderson, an MPP from UCLA Luskin and a BA in History from University of Michigan. Email him at samblake@dot.LA and find him on Twitter @hisamblake

Famous Birthdays Website, an Influencer Rite of Passage, Hits a Milestone

In 2012, Evan Britton founded a website premised upon what the web arguably does best: help people obsess over celebrities.

Britton launched his first site in 1999 as a senior in college and has since made his living monetizing web clicks.

When he created Famous Birthdays as a sort of Wikipedia of celebrities nine years ago, TikTok wasn't even born and Snap had barely launched. The term "influencers" had yet to seep into the mainstream. But as social media created a new form of celebrity, the site has morphed into a pillar of the teen-centric world of online personalities and creators.


This month the company said it will surpass 35 million unique monthly visitors across its app and website. Third-party data providers, which use various methods to estimate web traffic, peg that figure anywhere between 4-6 million (Comscore) and 29 million (Similar Web). Many of those users are teens who use the site to browse celebrity profiles, contribute to popularity rankings and see who's trending.

"It's a pulse of the Gen Z community," said Talia Kocar, VP of Content at Mammoth Media, a Gen Z-focused mobile entertainment studio.

And as that community has expanded and entrenched its online presence, Famous Birthdays has ridden the wave. Britton's profitable website makes money from billions of programmatic ads that are generated from places like Google and Amazon and it has become a useful resource for the growing industry of monetizing online celebrity.

In April it will launch its third international off-shoot in French, joining Spanish and Portuguese, as the company anticipates the spread of influencer fever beyond America.

"Famous Birthdays is essentially the Wikipedia of influencers," said Ryan Detert, CEO of Influential, a leading influencer marketing firm. "It has become a very valuable tool within the influencer industry to do quick research on creators and it's also very popular with young fans. They have found a unique niche in the fact that influencers are the new celebrities for Gen Z."

Britton hadn't originally intended on serving that niche. He'd started Famous Birthdays with A-listers in mind and a user-first focus on growth. The plan was to add new profiles to the database based on users' search patterns.

"The internal search data guides our roadmap," he said. About 90% of user searches on Famous Birthdays yield a hit. The other 10% help to indicate what else users want.

"We built technology around analyzing those missed searches," Britton said, adding that Famous Birthdays' search engine now receives over 1 million inquiries a day. "It lets us know before anyone else what's happening."

Early on, it became apparent that users wanted something more than A-listers.

They wanted social media celebrities. So Britton and his now team of 30, including freelancers, took to reaching out to up-and-comers that the data suggested were on the rise.

In late 2018, for instance, Famous Birthdays contacted Paige Mackenzie, an Arkansas-based teen who at the time had about 600,000 followers on still-nascent TikTok.

"I was like 'oh my god'; I had a fangirl moment," Mackenzie said. "I was a normal girl with a couple of followers, and they want to know about me? That was the coolest thing."

Mackenzie has since grown her TikTok following to 7.5 million. She typically regales her fans with comedic videos she describes as "relatable," like when "your brother annoys your mom right when you're about to ask something important."

When Mackenzie was added to the platform, Famous Birthdays had about 20 million users. That has since exploded beyond Britton's imagination.

"The platform has evolved quite a bit over the years – much like how Gen Z's (and my) definition of a celebrity has," said Kocar, who added that Mammoth "constantly references" Famous Birthdays to inform its content decisions.

@willywonkatiktok

Thanks for making this happen :) Go boost me if ya want #willywonka #famousbirthdays

♬ original sound - Greg and Zach

"TikTok has been a wave that's really grown our platform," Britton said, noting that stars on the social-video stalwart are his site's most popular searches. "There's been a huge momentum for the creator economy and we've been on that wave because we were seated as the platform beneath all of that."

That momentum has led Britton to recalibrate his expectations.

"Six months ago, I would have thought our ceiling was maybe 50 million users, but I think we're gonna be there by the end of next year, based on how things are going," he said.

The company's Spanish-language version launched in July 2019 and now comprises about 15% of Famous Birthdays' total traffic, Britton said. The Portuguese version launched in October 2020 and the French version will launch in April 2021.

Britton hopes to replicate his platform's success in those new markets. In the U.S., arriving on Famous Birthdays has come to be seen by creators as a veritable badge of honor.

When Duke Depp was invited to bring his online persona Willy Wonka to Famous Birthdays in July, he bragged about it to his nearly 18 million followers.

"Check it out my dear children, I finally made it on Famous Birthdays," he said. The post has since been liked over 412,000 times and received over 4,000 comments.

In September, Grandad Frank told his nearly 5 million TikTok followers that "Something crazy happened!!!!" He'd made it onto Famous Birthdays.

@billyvsco

#greenscreen thank you guys! Number 1 forty-7 year old. Y’all are awesome! #WaitForTheGreats #boost #famousbirthdays #foru

♬ borderline by tame impala - audioz !

Famous Birthdays currently hosts around 210,000 profiles, along with some 15,000 pages for shows, movies, bands and web groups. The team receives over 1,000 user-submitted edits and updates per day, Britton said, which they manually review and verify.

Using inputs like search volume and user engagement, Famous Birthdays also provides several popularity rankings.

The company has never raised outside capital and doesn't plan to start.

"Our vision is to build the Wikipedia for the Digital Generation," said Britton. "Given the scale we already have, we're confident that we'll be able to do it without raising VC."

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🔦 Spotlight

After announcing its partnership with the PGA of America earlier this year, LA-based Sensible Weather, a climate finance platform, has now introduced its Weather Guarantee program in collaboration with 23 distinguished golf facilities in Myrtle Beach, managed by Founders Group International, Caledonia Golf & Fish Club, and True Blue Golf Club. ⛈️⛳️

Straight to hole

Photo by Mick De Paola on Unsplash

This guarantee allows golfers to protect their rounds from undesirable weather by offering a reimbursement if rain is forecasted on the day of play. Sensible Weather assessed a need in the golf community, surveying 1,000 golfers and finding that 97% of avid golfers expressed interest in Weather Guarantees. The initiative addresses the increasing impact of disruptive weather on outdoor activities like golf by specifically aiming to simplify operations for golf courses, enhance golfer satisfaction, reduce last-minute cancellations, and generate additional revenue for facilities.

The success of this venture can be attributed to Sensible Weather first identifying a need by the golf community followed by a thoughtful strategic approach. Sensible Weather brought Golf Professional, Ben Tyler, on board to ensure effective communication of the opportunity and exceptional customer service required to make the partnership a success. To implement the Weather Guarantee, Sensible Weather collaborated closely with Tee Time Central, a booking platform, to integrate the feature directly into their checkout process. Golf facilities using Tee Time Central for their online bookings can easily activate Weather Guarantees.

The expansion to golf courses adds to Sensible Weather’s growing market and customer base over the past year. In September, Sensible Weather secured an investment from AMEX Ventures adding to its list of investors that includes Wonder Ventures, Infinity Ventures, and Industry Ventures. Sensible Weather is partnered with over 3,500 businesses and has received $22 million dollars in investments. Since it began offering Weather Guarantees in 2021, they have sold over 55,000 guarantees. That’s the tee! ☕⛳🏌️

Check out our previous coverage of Sensible Weather here.

🎉 Don’t forget about our referral contest this month! 🎉

Competition Status: 🔥 It’s heating up! Number of referrals to beat is 8 with less than a week remaining.

Ron Burgundy Battle GIF

Gif by trt_network on Giphy

The contest is simple: whoever refers the most friends to dot.LA using our referral program by October 31st will get a coffee and conversation with Zillow, Pacaso, and dot.LA co-founder Spencer Rascoff, where you can pitch him, get business advice, or just shoot the breeze. This is a great opportunity for any current or future entrepreneur, so good luck referring! ☕️☕️☕️

P.S. If you’re not based in LA, you can hop on a Zoom instead 💻

🤝 Venture Deals

LA Startups

  • Greater Good, a provider of primary care for seniors, raised a $20M Series A led by Flare Capital Partners, and joined by LRVHealth, Health Velocity Capital, Martin Ventures and Optum Ventures. - learn more
  • LegalMation, a developer of generative AI solutions for high-volume litigation, raised a $15M Series A led by Aquiline Capital Partners and joined by insiders Motley Fool Ventures, REV Venture Partners, Key Venture Partners, Quick Set and Brentwood Investments. - learn more

LA Funds

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Rho is your trusted and reliable financial support that can help you diversify and manage your cash efficiently. Manage all your cash and spending in one system:

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“Rho has made it their mission to help companies like ours. By giving us the ability to loop corporate cards and expense management into one place…we’ve been able to close our book smooch faster each month and automate our spend from end to end.” - Dr. Squatch.

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Featured Event (11/9)

RECURRING REVENUE CONFERENCE on November 9th in Culver City

Southern California's premier SaaS and Subscription conference, this one-day event draws 600+ top founders, executives, investors, and Cloud experts. Experience a dynamic program with 20+ sessions, including leading industry speakers, fireside chats, breakout sessions, and roundtable discussions. This year's insights span AI, metrics that matter, scaling strategies, making a pivot, the changing role of the CFO, what investors are looking for, and more. Keynotes include ChowNow and HackerOne CEOs. Attendees will enjoy plenty of networking time during breakfast, lunch, coffee cart breaks, and cocktails on the patio. Join us on November 9th at the Culver City Hilton to learn from industry leaders.

Learn more and register using DOTLA229 for a discounted ticket rate of $229 (regularly $399): bit.ly/3EitWB5

Early-stage founders get a discounted ticket rate ($59). Apply here today!


📅 LA Tech Calendar

Saturday, October 28th

  • Mental Health Innovators Social- Saturday afternoon in Venice join a diverse community of founders, investors, researchers, clinicians and creators who are building the future of mental health.

Sunday, October 29th

Wednesday, November 1st

Thursday, November 2nd

  • Los Angeles Tech Networking Event - Join other tech enthusiasts in Playa Vista onThursday night for a laid-back networking event that's all about fostering connections.


📙 What We’re Reading

🏛️ Brilliant Designs or Billion-Dollar Liabilities? How This LA Ruling May Disrupt Big Tech!

Christian Hetrick

Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.

🔦 Spotlight

Ever suspected your go-to black hole of time, I mean social media app, might have a secret plan to keep you hooked? Well, a judge in Los Angeles seems to think so! 📱👀⚖️

Dark Squad of Designers Productivity Tools 😄 Write me: alexanderbemore@gmail.com, if you need 3D visuals for your products.

Photo by Adem AY on Unsplash

A Los Angeles judge has rejected the dismissal of significant lawsuits against Meta, TikTok, Snap, and Google. The lawsuits claim that these platforms are deliberately designed to addict and exacerbate mental health disorders in teenagers, potentially leading to multibillion-dollar liabilities. The judge ruled that the companies cannot use Section 230, a legal shield often employed by Big Tech, to evade some claims. The decision is based on the assertion that it is the design features of the platforms, not the specific content, that cause harm to users.

The lawsuits, brought forth by numerous government officials and parents of minors, argue thatsocial media platforms function as defective products, contributing to issues like eating disorders, anxiety, and even suicide among young users. The focus on design elements aims to bypass the legal protection historically granted by Section 230, which shields tech companies from liability as third-party publishers. The judge's decision also allows allegations that Meta may have concealed internal research on the negative impacts of Instagram on minors' mental health to proceed. This includes data suggesting that young users spending extended time on the platform experience heightened anxiety and depression.

So what does this all mean…

In summary, this ruling could mark a significant turning point in how tech companies are held accountable for the potential negative impacts of their platforms. It may lead to increased scrutiny, regulatory changes, and shifts in industry practices to prioritize user well-being.🛀🤳🏛️

🎉 Don’t forget about our referral contest this month! 🎉

Competition Status: Number of referrals to beat is 3 with just over a week remaining!

Dwight Office Tv GIF by The Office

Gif by trt_network on Giphy

The contest is simple: whoever refers the most friends to dot.LA using our referral program by October 31st will get a coffee and conversation with Zillow, Pacaso, and dot.LA co-founder Spencer Rascoff, where you can pitch him, get business advice, or just shoot the breeze. This is a great opportunity for any current or future entrepreneur, so good luck referring! ☕️☕️☕️

P.S. If you’re not based in LA, you can hop on a Zoom instead 💻

🤝 Venture Deals

LA Startups

  • Arctop, a developer of cognition software, raised a $10M Series A co-led by Fifth Growth Fund and Supermoon Capital. - learn more
  • Jam & Tea Studios, a startup building a remote-first multi-player game studio, raised a $3.2M Seed Round led by London Venture Partners, with participation from Sisu Game Ventures and 1Up Ventures. - learn more
  • Salted, a developer of quick-serve restaurant brands, raised a $14M Series B led by Creadev and participation from Proof Ventures and B. Riley Financial. - learn more
  • K2 Space, a spacecraft startup, raised a $7M Funding Round from Alpine Space Ventures. - learn more

LA Funds

LA Exits

  • Moment, a livestream platform for events and ticketed experiences, was acquired by Patreon, which connects creators with paying fans. -learn more

Stifel Venture Banking | Where Innovation Grows

Stifel’s Venture Bankers are here to support the innovation economy. From founder dinners to industry-focused events, our LA-based team enjoys bringing people together to build lasting relationships and further strengthen the community. We focus on both VC firms and VC-backed companies from inception to exit across all sectors, including Consumer, Fintech, Enterprise Software, Frontier Tech, Health Tech, and Climate Tech. We aim to provide high-touch, white-glove service to our clients while offering attractive interest rates on deposits. Debt financing is also a critical component, and we are active lenders in the space for both venture debt, lines of credit, and capital call lines.

Al Guerrero, Managing Director, leads Stifel Venture Banking in Los Angeles. Greg Singer and Sam Wogan work with Al as Relationship Managers. Hunter Briggs handles Treasury Management for clients, and Charlie Smith serves as a Fund Banker for venture and private equity firms.

Stifel Venture Banking launched in 2018 and expanded in Los Angeles in March of this year. We are part of Stifel, a global wealth management and investment banking company founded in 1890. Entrepreneurial culture is at the core of our Firm – with over 30 accretive acquisitions in the past 20 years. The strength and diversity of Stifel’s business gives our venture banking clients’ professional guidance on managing their personal finances and planning for the future. As a founders’ business grows, our Investment Banking team can provide guidance on navigating public markets, accessing debt and equity capital markets, and more.

Learn more about Stifel Venture Banking here 😎

Featured Event (11/9)

RECURRING REVENUE CONFERENCE on November 9th in Culver City

Southern California's premier SaaS and Subscription conference, this one-day event draws 600+ top founders, executives, investors, and Cloud experts. Experience a dynamic program with 20+ sessions, including leading industry speakers, fireside chats, breakout sessions, and roundtable discussions. This year's insights span AI, metrics that matter, scaling strategies, making a pivot, the changing role of the CFO, what investors are looking for, and more. Keynotes include ChowNow and HackerOne CEOs. Attendees will enjoy plenty of networking time during breakfast, lunch, coffee cart breaks, and cocktails on the patio. Join us on November 9th at the Culver City Hilton to learn from industry leaders.

Learn more and register using DOTLA229 for a discounted ticket rate of $229 (regularly $399): bit.ly/3EitWB5

Early-stage founders get a discounted ticket rate ($59). Apply here today!

Want your event featured? Shoot us an email!

📅 LA Tech Calendar

Tuesday, October 24th

Wednesday, October 25th

Thursday, October 26th

Have an awesome event coming up? Reach out to be featured on next week’s Newsletter!

📙 What We’re Reading

  • Learn about NBC’s new streaming service that bets on high school and amateur sports. - read more
  • Microsoft acquires Activision Blizzard in $69-billion gaming deal. - read more
  • MetAlert gets first order for its gun tracker device. - read more
  • Amazon Web Services (AWS) is celebrating a milestone of its flagship startup program AWS Activate , the 10th anniversary of the program’s launch. - read more
  • Netflix raises prices and adds nearly 9 million subscribers in Q3 with ad-supported plans up nearly 70% from Q2. - read more

☕️ Top Cafes For Running into LA's Tech Leaders

Christian Hetrick

Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.

Good Morning!

We’re are releasing a new edition – a heartfelt homage to Los Angeles. In the hustle and bustle of work and family life, its easy to forget what makes this city truly magical. Take these 2 minutes to pause with us and explore the LA gems in this vibrant, diverse, and utterly unique parking lot we call home. Every other week we will release a list of some type of establishments loved by Los Angeles VCs, entrepreneurs, your best friend’s cousin and everyone in-between.

Help us as we shine a spotlight on Los Angeles' unique establishments that contribute to the city's charm and indirectly enrich its thriving tech ecosystem. This week we are featuring the eight best coffee shops on the Westside corroborated by influential VCs and founders alike. Our list flows west to east and the cafes were evaluated on the following criteria:

  • ☕️ Coffee Quality (table stakes)
  • 💻 Work friendly environment (wifi, noise, outlets, seating, etc.)
  • 🚗 Parking (can make or break a meeting)

Don’t forget about our current referral contest! Whoever refers the most friends to dot.LA using our referral program by October 31st will get a coffee and conversation with Spencer Rascoff, where you can pitch him, get business advice, or just shoot the breeze. This is a great opportunity for any current or future entrepreneur! Perfect time to visit one of the following coffee shops ☕️☕️☕️

Top Cafes For Running into LA's Tech Leaders

Primo Passo

Image Source: Timeout.com

Neighborhood: Wilshire/Montana

Address:702 Montana Ave Santa Monica, CA 90403

Description: Primo Passo is a cute locally owned spot on Montana Ave with fantastic coffee. Fairly quiet compared to neighboring coffee spots on Montana with a vast pastry assortment and small bites from nearby Farmshop.

Quick Rundown: Indoor and outdoor seating. No wifi. Clean minimalist vibe. Not too loud. Lots of street parking you just may have to walk a block or two.

Caffe Luxxe

Image Source: Caffe Luxxe

Neighborhood: Wilshire/Montana

Address:925 Montana Ave Santa Monica, CA 90403

Description: The very first Caffe Luxxe modeled after a European cafe, this cozy coffee shop is owned by two best friends in LA. There is a decent amount of seating but no wifi as the cafe is focused on human connection. Great for a meeting but probably not great for a work session.

Quick Rundown: Parking lot in the back and metered street parking. No wifi. Mostly Indoor Seating. European cozy vibe.

GoodBoyBob Coffee

Image Source: EaterLA

Neighborhood: Santa Monica

Address:2058 Broadway Santa Monica, CA 90404

Description: Industrial, hidden, charming, and attached to a virtual reality studio, GoodBoyBob is a prime place to hunker down and get some work done. The coffee is roasted in-house and the menu features whole wheat wraps, grain bowls, pastries and an extensive Happy Hour menu to reward yourself after all of your hard work.

Quick Rundown: Indoor and outdoor seating. Fast wifi. Industrial Chic Vibe. Not too loud. Fairly easy to find parking.

Zinqué - Venice

Image Source: Eater LA

Neighborhood: Venice

Address:1440 Lincoln Blvd, Venice, CA 90291

Description: A vibrant and airy, low-key neighborhood restaurant with french-inspired dishes. They have wifi but you generally don’t see a bunch of people head down in their computers. The majority of people here are in meetings or out grabbing a meal with friends.

Quick Rundown: Indoor and outdoor seating. Fast wifi. Elevated beachy vibe. parking?

Alana’s Coffee Roasters

Image Source: Folk LA

Neighborhood: Mar Vista

Address:12511 Venice Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90066

Description: Locally owned, Alana started off in farmers markets and moved to a brick and mortar in 2016. Alana is a quant neighborhood coffee shop with a super cute patio and some killer coffee.

Quick Rundown: Mostly outdoor seating. No wifi. Clean surfer vibe. Not too loud. Parking lot plus metered street parking.

Urth Caffe - Beverly Hills

Image Source: Urth Caffe

Neighborhood: Beverly Hills

Address:267 S Beverly Dr, Beverly Hills, CA 90212

Description: Urth is a unique Los Angeles staple located in an old home flanked by classic retail establishments. Expect it to be pretty crowded, but you can almost always grab a table within a few minutes. There is wifi, but the bustling atmosphere make for a better meeting location than a focused work session. The food and drink menu is extensive but the coffee, tea and pastries are the star of the show. You really can’t go wrong.

Quick Rundown: Mostly outdoor seating. Fast wifi. Quirky cozy vibe. First 2 hours are free for public parking garage north on Beverly plus metered street parking.

Maru Espresso Bar

Image Source: lovebeverlyhills.com

Neighborhood: Beverly Hills

Address:201 N Canon Dr, Beverly Hills, CA 90210

Description: Maru Coffee prioritizes top-tier coffee quality, and their menu stays true to form, quality over quantity. While the Beverly Hills branch lacks seating, it neighbors Beverly Canon Gardens, a sprawling 33,000-square-foot expanse of public gardens and open spaces with communal outdoor dining spots, water features, and beautifully landscaped gardens. Pro tip there’s a fantastic creperie in Beverly Canon Gardens!

Quick Rundown: Outdoor seating. Fast wifi. Urban Oasis Vibe. Not too loud. First 2 hours are free for public parking garage north on Canon plus metered street parking.

Verve Coffee Roasters

Image Source: Verve Coffee Roasters

Neighborhood: West Hollywood

Address:8925 Melrose Ave West Hollywood, CA 90069

Description: We may be using a liberal definition of West LA, but it is called West Hollywood which seems like pretty bullet proof logic. Located along Melrose Avenue in the heart of West Hollywood, Verve is a not so hidden gem with a fantastic outdoor patio. Their great coffee is complimented by a menu full of snacks and sandwiches. This spot is ideal for an in-person meeting because there are very few outlets and the tables are fairly small.

Quick Rundown: Indoor and outdoor seating. Fast wifi. Tech-Hipster Vibe. Not too loud. Parking can be rough at peak times.

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