October 2, 2022

You’re the Boss: Yowie: Will This Start-Up Survive?

Jay (right) and Jame Snider, founders of Yowie: J. Emilio Flores for The New York TimesJay (right) and Jamie Snider, founders of Yowie: “It’s in my genes.”


The adventure of new ventures.

This is the first in a series of quick profiles of start-up companies. The Small Business Administration has found that about half of new businesses survive five years. Will this be one of the survivors?

Business: Yowie, established in July 2010, is a Web service that connects performers and fans through live video chat. (A “yowie” is Australia’s version of a yeti, a k a Bigfoot.)

Employees: Nine full time.

Location: Santa Monica, Calif.

Founders: Jay Snider, 53, is the former president of the Philadelphia Flyers hockey team and the founder of SpectaGuard, a security company he created at age 22 and sold in 1998. To start Yowie, he teamed up with his son, Jamie Snider, 26, and two MySpace alumni, Frank Orozco and Carlos Montes.

Pitch: There are already lots of services for streaming entertainment in real time. Yowie wants to do them one better, letting audiences interact with their favorite artists in a setting that allows fans to watch live performances and queue up to chat with entertainers via Web cams.

“The idea of providing a platform for talent, a microphone, is in the blood,” said Jay Snider, whose father founded the Philadelphia Flyers and who grew up working summer jobs at the arena where the Flyers and many performing acts played. “It’s in my genes.”

Traction: So far, Yowie has collaborated with heavy hitters like Disney, DreamWorks and Comedy Central to present a roster of guests including the comedians Amy Poehler and Reggie Watts, the rock band the Melvins and Dianna Agron of “Glee.” On April 13, Ashley Tisdale of “High School Musical” drew about 10,000 visitors — about 2,000 logged in at any one time — over the course of a 15-minute show, making it Yowie’s largest event to date.

Revenue: Yowie has yet to develop a revenue stream but plans to charge its larger clients, most of whom embed Yowie’s live video sessions on their own Web sites. “We expect that line to be crossed later this month,” Mr. Snider said, adding that he is actively engaged in contract discussions with a major network that he declined to name.

Other strategies include creating genre-based entertainment channels on Yowie’s home page that are open to sponsorship, and charging affiliate fees to let entertainers sell merchandise, from MP3 downloads to T-shirts and concert tickets, through the site.

Financing: So far, $2.1 million has been invested, most of it from Mr. Snider himself, along with an early-stage investment from Jon Powell, the president of Kravco, a real estate development company in King of Prussia, Pa. Mr. Snider hopes to raise more cash from either venture capitalists or strategic investors who will bring both dollars and content.

Marketing: Yowie advertises on Facebook. The company’s two associate producers blog about coming shows. And whenever large clients, such as Disney, embed Yowie’s services on their own, well-trafficked Web sites, it helps get the word out. Four weeks ago, Yowie hired a digital marketing expert. So far, he’s “looking at competition and positioning, developing a strategy,” Mr. Snider said. “We want to spread the word with an organized viral approach, and he’s the first person we’ve had on board to focus on that.”

Competition: Two other video chat services are vying for the limelight. Tinychat, based in Glen Cove, N.Y., has financing from Ashton Kutcher and the rapper Sean Combs, both of whom have used the site to hobnob with fans. And Vokle, which happens to be based a few miles away from Yowie in Santa Monica, has hosted events with Al Gore and Weird Al Yankovic.

Challenge: “I think the biggest challenge is getting viral user growth,” Mr. Snider said. “Users, for us, are the people who start the event and are the content providers.”

Now’s your chance to weigh in. How can Mr. Snider ensure that repeat users aren’t as elusive as a yeti?

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=857d95617ce941d31c2cfbc4cd0479e5

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