FanBridge Makes A Profit Connecting Fans, Band
STEVE INSKEEP, host:
Along with just about everything else in the economy, private investment is down, but there are some bright spots, including the one we'll hear about next. NPR's Laura Sydell looks at one investor who still sees some new opportunities on the Internet.
LAURA SYDELL: Chris Sacca is not a high-flying venture capitalist.
Mr. CHRIS SACCA (Venture Investor): I don't actually invest more than $25,000 in a company.
SYDELL: But he really knows how to pick them. He was one of the first investors in Twitter, and Sacca used to work for an Internet company that started in a downturn. It's called Google.
Now Sacca says it's easier to start an Internet company.
Mr. SACCA: Now all you need is basically food and rent money to start these things. The tools are open-source tools. One or two computers is more than enough to serve millions of users.
SYDELL: People used to believe the way to make money on the Internet was through advertising. That won't cut it anymore for Sacca when he looks for companies to invest in.
Mr. SACCA: So I think what we see in this era as the economy's turned down is a little bit more focus on if we can build a product that's solving a problem so concretely people are willing to pay us money for it, then that's a clear sign we're doing something right.
SYDELL: Sacca used Twitter to find a company offering a service that people pay for. He sent out a tweet to hundreds of friends.
Mr. SACCA: Saying hey - it was almost being factitious - are there any companies out there that are bootstrapped and profitable and working late on a Friday night?
SYDELL: Sacca got a tweet back about FanBridge. Musicians pay FanBridge to keep them connected to their fans. Co-founder Noah Dinkin.
Mr. NOAH DINKIN (Co-founder, FanBridge): Our original vision of this was something we could run on the side, you know. We checked the bank account once a month, and that was it. There was no grand vision for FanBridge.
SYDELL: That was four years ago. Despite this dreadful economy, Dinkin says FanBridge is profitable and it's growing. Dinkin and his co-founder Spencer Richardson saw an opportunity in the music business, where every artist must now market themselves online by reaching fans directly.
Mr. DINKIN: And so it's this upswell of independent artists who, you know, are looking for products and services that help them distribute their music and get it out there in an effective way.
SYDELL: That is exactly what a band called Bread of Stone was looking for.
Mr. BEN KRISTIJANTO (Lead singer, Bread of Stone): We wanted some sort of follow up after we do our concert to let people know, hey, we're back in the area.
SYDELL: Lead singer Ben Kristijanto says Bread of Stone sets up a computer during shows for fans where fans can sign up. One of the most important services FanBridge offers, says Kristijanto, is that it sends out emails based on location. So if Bread of Stone is playing in a local theater, they can target the fans who live nearby.
Mr. KRISTIJANTO: So I'd say 150 miles from that specific zip code, that you send out emails so that it's more specific to those people that are closer to that event.
SYDELL: FanBridge makes its money by charging every time Bread of Stone sends out a blast of emails to fans. Despite the bad economy, Kristijanto hasn't had any problems selling concert tickets. People still want his music.
(Soundbite of music)
Mr. KRISTIJANTO: (Singing) Open your eyes to the world around you, realize, realize you're spinning around in this universe. Do you feel alive?
Mr. KRISTIJANTO: People want some sort of escape, almost, in a sense, from reality to have fun and forget about how sucky life is. And I think that's -for them, it's worth it to spend a little bit more money for that.
SYDELL: And for Kristijanto, it's essential for his band's survival to reach fans. And they are willing to pay FanBridge to do it. And the fact that even in an economic downturn, there are start-up companies that are actually growing should be music to the ears of worried investors.
Laura Sydell, NPR News.
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