Famous Birthdays has been cataloguing and ranking internet personalities for nine years and boasts tens of millions of monthly users.
Primarily financed by ads on its site, the 40-person company (including freelancers) is now turning its data into dollars by opening its beta subscription service for a wider launch this week. For an undisclosed fee, users can pay to see an online entertainer's historical rank data on Famous Birthdays as well as lists of whose interest on the site is accelerating.
CEO and founder Evan Britton wouldn't share specifics about the current clients of Famous Birthdays Pro, but said they include three major social platforms, two talent agencies, and two venture-backed companies offering services to creators. He is also targeting brands who work with influencers and music labels on the hunt for the next rising star.
Britton said he has seen value in his data since he witnessed several hundred screaming teens surrounding Ricky Dillon at the 2014 VidCon conference, and then found that the 22-year-old Vine star did not have a Wikipedia or IMDb page. Two years prior, Britton had started Famous Birthdays and he'd seen data from his site suggesting Dillon had an engaged following.
"To see it in the real world was validating," Britton said. "I couldn't wait to get back to work the next day."
Famous Birthdays' search engine now gets as many as a million inquiries per day. It uses that data to decide who should be catalogued on the site and to build weekly rankings of the top 250,000 profiles based on user activity and engagement.
One on-the-rise influencer it identified early was Charli D'Amelio. She conducted her first interview ever at the Famous Birthdays Santa Monica office in 2019. Britton had invited her around the time her ranking on his site had climbed to 20,000. A week prior, Britton said, she'd been ranked around 50,000, and her fast ascent hinted at her rising popularity. The next week, she was ranked 5,000. Today D'Amelio is a veritable queen of the creator economy, whose accolades include her own personally branded drink at Dunkin' Donuts.
Famous Birthdays' data is platform-agnostic, so it tracks user sentiment irrespective of where they come across creators.
"Our platform doesn't care if someone's rising on Netflix, Spotify, TikTok or Pinterest; we're the IMDb that connects it all," Britton said. "When a user leaves TikTok or YouTube or Instagram and comes on Famous Birthdays [to search for an influencer], it's a real sign of intent. Because it's not just that they saw a viral video of someone; they came to us [to find out more]."
In a creator economy centered around platforms that are incentivized to promote their own accolades and keep their data locked up, Famous Birthdays can provide useful information.
"There's something really interesting around who's getting a lot of hype," said Phil Ranta, a creator economy veteran who's managed influencer groups at Facebook, Mobcrush and Studio71. "Because [on specific platforms], it's hard to tell what views are translating into true fandom or what subscriber's a subscriber that's going to stick."
The new product comes as hunger for creators is growing. Social media platforms are throwing around billions of dollars to lure them in. And investors have sunk billions into platforms like Willa and PearPop to amplify the creator economy.
Famous Birthdays has also been expanding geographically. Britton anticipates his new Pro product will be popular for the international versions of his site, including Spanish, Portuguese and the recently launched Japanese and French. Each version has its own segmented data.
"This is a global phenomenon," Britton said.
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Call it the TikTok Olympics. Nine Olympians have launched a sports league backed by Mark Cuban that competes on social media.
The first of eight competitions this year is set to begin on Wednesday. World 1 League encourages any athlete to post a video of themselves on Instagram or TikTok doing a long jump along with the hashtag of how long their jump was. The athletes are competing for $25,000 and sponsorships.
"Athletes are already a big part of social media, but now including them in a formal, organized league, where they can be rewarded and ranked, is a whole new way to professionally engage in sports," said co-founder and CEO Brett Morris.
The former COO of Nasdaq-traded esports company Super League Gaming said the effort is a move "to democratize" elite sports on the eve of the Olympic games. But like a lot of efforts to even the playing field online, it comes with many compromises. There are no official judges to oversee or independently verify these competitions, but likely lots of eye-popping videos. Instead Morris said the "judge" will be a hashtag that provides an "objective" measure, such as the length of a jump or time of swim laps.
Among its founders are Sanya Richards-Ross, a five-time Olympic medalist and former World's Fastest Woman; Erik Vendt, a three-time Olympian and three-time medalist; and five-time gold medalist in swim Janet Evans.
So far, World 1 League already has eight men and women's social media challenges slated: World's Fastest Man/Woman (100-meter dash); World's Strongest Man/Woman (weightlifting, clean and jerk); World's Fastest Swimmer (50-meter freestyle); World's Longest Jumper (long jump); World's Fastest Climber (speed climbing); World's Highest Vaulter (pole vault); World's Longest Thrower (shot put) and World's Highest Jumper (high jump).
Only 12 hours after posting, their promotional Instagram story has been reposted by athletes in 32 countries on 6 of the 7 continents, including Russian world champion Daryka Klishina, who has 349,000 Instagram followers; Spanish jumper Fátima Diame, who has 138,000 followers and American Olympic medal favorite Tara Davis, who has 212,000 followers.
The social media sports company plans on getting even more buzz soon when it hosts two live stadium events in 2021, and more every year thereafter.
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On this episode of the L.A. Venture podcast, hear from Sam Wick, head of United Talent Agency Ventures (UTA). Wick has served in senior positions at MySpace, AOL, mp3.com — and most recently as the executive vice president of Maker Studios.
The UTA Ventures team focuses on building companies and investing in the intersection of entertainment, commerce and technology. Their portfolio, which includes MasterClass, Cameo and Patreon, reflects this.
UTA is neither a typical incubator or accelerator. Rather, Wick says "we really have a market thesis in terms of where we think the growth is."
He emphasized the importance of trusting "talent," which he believes are excellent creators and collaborators, with their finger on pulse of their audience.
"We have to understand that the talent have a real feel for what makes sense for their audience," Wick says, emphasizing the importance of the connection between audience and creator.
"Part of what the companies are doing is borrowing that brand equity" that talent creates, and stresses that "at its core, it is the talent creating a business or product that connects with their audience."
Wick says when "dealing with incredibly creative, passionate, and talented individuals who have their own point of view" that "having [a] soft touch, and that it's a collaborative kind of back and forth with them" matters most.
Wick discusses working with Seth Rogen to launch his cannabis company, Houseplant, and discusses his love of music, offers tips on curating connections with audiences, NFTs and his take on the future of media.
Sam Wick is the head of UTA Ventures.
"I think that the lesson from both an investor and a building perspective is just how hard it is. So every time I sit down with one of our clients and we talk about building a business, I always say 'if you're willing, you know, to walk this path, I'm excited to walk it with you'." —Sam Wick
dot.LA Engagement Intern Colleen Tufts contributed to this post.