Crosscut’s Brett Brewer on the Birth of Myspace and the Importance of Education

Minnie Ingersoll
Minnie Ingersoll is a partner at TenOneTen and host of the LA Venture podcast. Prior to TenOneTen, Minnie was the COO and co-founder of $100M+, an online marketplace for used cars. Minnie started her career as an early product manager at Google. Minnie studied Computer Science at Stanford and has an MBA from HBS. She recently moved back to L.A. after 20+ years in the Bay Area and is excited to be a part of the growing tech ecosystem of Southern California. In her space time, Minnie surfs baby waves and raises baby people.
​Crosscut’s Brett Brewer.
Courtesy of Brett Brewer.

In 1996, when the internet was in its infancy, Brett Brewer and a couple of college buddies decided to start a company from their pad in Manhattan Beach.

What became Intermix Media—which would later give birth to the original social network, Myspace—initially started off as an ecommerce business called Entertainment Universe that sold movies, music and games. It took 18 months for Brewer and his partners to get the venture off the ground and raise any sort of capital; by April 1999, the company went public, just before the dot-com bubble burst.

“What [the dot-com bubble] did, interestingly, is it took most of the well-funded competitors that were losing tons of money and it either put them out of business immediately or put them out of business slowly,” Brewer told Minnie Ingersoll on this week’s episode of the LA Venture podcast. “We had so little capital anyway; we always had to look at it like, ‘We actually need to make money.’”

In 2000, with the dot-com scene in pieces, Brewer and his partners sold off the ecommerce site and began experimenting with low-cost content sites. As well as early forays into online dating and an embrace of performance-based advertising, Intermix also began experimenting with social networking with the help of employees—and soon-to-be Myspace founders—Tom Anderson and Chris DeWolfe.

“I feel like it was yesterday,” Brewer recalled. “[Anderson and DeWolfe] came up with a bunch of good ideas we whiteboarded out. And one of them was to… build what we thought would be a version of Friendster except way cooler, and way more control for the user.”

The rest was history. Myspace became an early social media behemoth, initially going toe-to-toe with Facebook and luring more than 100 million users; Brewer recalled that the average user would visit the site six-to-eight times a day and view anywhere from 10-to-15 pages. Intermix and Myspace were eventually sold to Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. for $580 million in 2005.

“It really was a roller coaster ride that ended on a high note,” Brewer noted. “I was very happy for Los Angeles. I was very happy for everyone that works in Intermix. We had a lot of amazing people over all those years, put blood, sweat and tears into the entity and had that kind of happy conclusion.”

In his post-entrepreneur life, Brewer entered the world of venture capital investing and launched Santa Monica VC firm Crosscut Ventures. Outside of work, he has a particular passion for education; in the wake of the pandemic, Brewer launched LA Tech Cares, which provides underserved students with tech and academic resources as well as mental health services.

“I've always been a believer in education and this concept that equality in education is a must,” he said. “I think it's sort of the number one thing that, as a society, we need to be delivering.”

Hear the full episode by clicking on the playhead above, and listen to LA Venture on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

dot.LA Engagement Fellow Joshua Letona contributed to this post.

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Genies Wants To Help Creators Build ‘Avatar Ecosystems’

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.

Genies Wants To Help Creators Build ‘Avatar Ecosystems’

When avatar startup Genies raised $150 million in April, the company released an unusual message to the public: “Farewell.”

The Marina del Rey-based unicorn, which makes cartoon-like avatars for celebrities and aims to “build an avatar for every single person on Earth,” didn’t go under. Rather, Genies announced it would stay quiet for a while to focus on building avatar-creation products.

Genies representatives told dot.LA that the firm is now seeking more creators to try its creation tools for 3D avatars, digital fashion items and virtual experiences. On Thursday, the startup launched a three-week program called DIY Collective, which will mentor and financially support up-and-coming creatives.

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Here's What To Expect At LA Tech Week

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.

Here's What To Expect At LA Tech Week

LA Tech Week—a weeklong showcase of the region’s growing startup ecosystem—is coming this August.

The seven-day series of events, from Aug. 15 through Aug. 21, is a chance for the Los Angeles startup community to network, share insights and pitch themselves to investors. It comes a year after hundreds of people gathered for a similar event that allowed the L.A. tech community—often in the shadow of Silicon Valley—to flex its muscles.

From fireside chats with prominent founders to a panel on aerospace, here are some highlights from the roughly 30 events happening during LA Tech Week, including one hosted by dot.LA.

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PCH Driven: Director Jason Wise Talks Wine, Documentaries, and His New Indie Streaming Service SOMMTV

Jamie Williams
­Jamie Williams is the host of the “PCH Driven” podcast, a show about Southern California entrepreneurs, innovators and its driven leaders on their road to success. The series celebrates and reveals the wonders of the human spirit and explores the motivations behind what drives us.
Jason Wise holding wine glass
Image courtesy of Jason Wise

Jason Wise may still consider himself a little kid, but the 33-year-old filmmaker is building an IMDB page that rivals colleagues twice his age.

As the director behind SOMM, SOMM2, SOMM3, and the upcoming SOMM4, Wise has made a career producing award-winning documentary films that peer deep into the wine industry in Southern California and around the world.

On this episode of the PCH Driven podcast, he talks about life growing up in Cleveland as a horrible student, filmmaking, Los Angeles and his latest entrepreneurial endeavor: A streaming service called SOMMTV that features–what else?–documentaries about wine.

The conversation covers some serious ground, but the themes of wine and film work to anchor the discussion, and Wise dispenses bits of sage filmmaking advice.

“With a documentary you can just start filming right now,” he says. “That’s how SOMM came about. I got tossed into that world during the frustration of trying to make a different film, and I just started filming it, because no one could stop me because I was paying for it myself. That’s the thing with docs,” or “The good thing about SOMM is that you can explain it in one sentence: ‘The hardest test in the world is about wine, and you’ve never heard about it.’”

…Or at least maybe you hadn’t before he made his first film. Now with three SOMM documentaries under his belt, Wise is nearing completion of “SOMM4: Cup of Salvation,” which examines the history of wine’s relationship with religion. Wise says it’s “a wild film,” that spans multiple countries, the Vatican and even an active warzone. As he puts it, the idea is to show that “wine is about every subject,” rather than “every subject is about wine.”

For Wise, the transition to launching his own streaming service came out of his frustration with existing platforms holding too much power over the value of the content he produces.

“Do we want Netflix to tell us what our projects are worth or do we want the audience to do that?” he asks.

But unlike giants in the space, SOMMTV has adopted a gradual approach of just adding small bits of content as they develop. Without the need to license 500 or 1,000 hours of programming, Wise has been able to basically bootstrap SOMMTV and provide short form content and other more experimental offerings that typically get passed over by the Hulus and Disneys of the world.

So far, he says, the experiment is working, and now Wise is looking to raise some serious capital to keep up with the voracious appetites of his subscribers.

“Send those VCs my way,” Wise jokes.

Subscribe to PCH Driven on Apple, Stitcher, Spotify, iHeart, Google or wherever you get your podcasts.

dot.LA reporter David Shultz contributed to this report.