Rev Me Up

I asked Starr the difference between Revver's business model and that of YouTube, the video-upload site that is the buzz flavor du jour.
Tim Mullaney

Sat down with Steve Starr, the CEO of Hollywood-based Revver, this afternoon. They just raised $8.7 million from a VC group led by Bessemer Venture Partners on Monday to pay for the second phase of creating a business model for all that amateur video flying all over the Net. God knows someone has to.

The idea: Filmmakers send their video to Revver. Revver puts a little bit of code on it allowing the file to show an ad at the end of the clip. Revver sells the ad, and decides which spot from its advertisers (its current roster is led by movie studios and record labels) to put there. The ad can be shown no matter how people get the video. Go to and it'll show an ad. E-mail the clip, or IM it, and the ad will be there. Post it on your own Web site. Ditto. Share it via peer-to-peer network: you get the drill. The file contacts Revver when it's opened to get a fresh ad, so you don't see an ad for a movie that opened 10 weeks ago. Then Revver and the filmmaker split the ad revenue 50/50.

The cool part of the pitch is a presentation of how much people could have made from viral videos we all know if a model like Revver's had existed back in the day. The Dancing Baby video that Ally McBeal made famous could have made almost half a million. The JibJab political parodies from last year could have made $640,000. Even William Hung might have raked in a cool $120K from his mercifully inimitable American Idol gyrations to Ricky Martin's She Bang. With apologies to Budweiser, which knows a little about commercializing viral video, whassssuuuup with cash like that?

The best line of the meeting came when I asked Starr the difference between Revver's business model and that of YouTube, the video-upload site that is the buzz flavor du jour. "They don't have one." Meow.

But Revver's mission is pretty simple. "Creators deserve to get paid, and we make it possible to move your media everywhere," says Starr, who worked for William Morris before a stint as a producer and a bubble-era tour of startupland. The venture group he's assembled (Bessemer plus Draper Fisher Jurvetson) last came together to back Skype, which is a pretty good set of names to drop if you're starting a peer-to-peer company. It's not hard to imagine your kid wasting hours watching this, uh, stuff, and not hard to see why he might go to a movie that advertised at the end of a video like this.

Granted, it might be little harder to vote for a politician who really does act like this. If there really were such a politician, of course, and I'm not saying there is. But I liked the video anyway, and you'll have to forgive me: We get darn few outlets to be silly at BusinessWeek.

It was a heck of an elevator pitch for a two-year old company whose site went into beta last October. We'll know soon enough if Starr has himself a company to back it up. The team looks pretty good, dotted with names like FreeNet creator Ian Clarke and guys from Flickr and ValueClick. The venture money is going to go to build up an ad sales force, and they'll go from there.

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