12 to Watch: Steven Starr

Jan 29, 2007  •  Post A Comment

A successful business usually experiences a watershed moment.

For Revver, that moment came three months before it emerged from its testing phase last summer, when the company was propelled forward thanks to 200 liters of Diet Coke and 500 Mentos.

In last year’s breakout viral video hit, two Maine theater performers, who work under the name EepyBird, set off a geyser of minty cola fizz in June and have now earned more than $35,000 from the video’s 3.5 million views on Revver. That’s because of Revver’s secret sauce-it matches advertisers to video auteurs, giving creators the chance to make money with their work.

“That EepyBird thing was lightning in a bottle,” said Starr, Revver’s founder and CEO.

Revver is the 11th-most-viewed viral video site, logging about 1.2 million unique visitors in the month of November, according to Nielsen//NetRatings. That’s a far cry from YouTube’s top perch with nearly 36 million, but Revver is one of the best-positioned competitors to YouTube because of its value proposition for advertisers and creators, such as the craftsmen behind “LonelyGirl 15” and “Ask a Ninja.”

“We went with Revver because they were the only company that was treating content creators like partners,” said Kent Nichols, co-creator of the popular “Ask a Ninja” online video series. “They had actual money, and they paid out monthly.”

Already several Revver creators are making more than $10,000 a month and a greater number are making more than $1,000 per week, Mr. Starr said.

Revver’s model also skirts the copyright issues that have plagued other sites. Revver only posts copyrighted material and a staffer views every video before it’s posted. The close watch Revver keeps on its videos-no hate speech, no porn and no pirated material-resonates with advertisers and TV networks.

Turner Broadcasting has invested in Revver and also advertises its GameTap broadband gaming service on the site.

“It seems natural that businesses that don’t respect the rights of intellectual property holders will ultimately be challenged legally, as Napster was in the early digital music days,” said David Reid, VP of marketing for GameTap.

Because Revver is smaller, it can be selective in content and point viewers to the best material, Mr. Reid added.

“There’s a nice touch of human expertise to help you find the videos that will be most interesting to you,” he said. Mr. Reid said he expects to increase his ad spending on Revver this year.

Also this year, Revver will begin to experiment with an ad-pricing system that’s based on cost-per-thousand-viewers, in addition to charging advertisers per click. Mr. Starr also expects to strike deals this year with social networks, search engines and peer-to-peer networks to expand the distribution of Revver content across the Web.

And he intends to grow the ad base in 2007. Revver’s advertisers include Buena Vista Pictures, Delta Airlines, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, Dove, TBS, Verizon and others.

Though Revver lives in the same business as YouTube, Mr. Starr is confident about the things that set his company apart.

“They are the big dog, as it were, but our offering is pretty distinct from theirs,” he said. “They are not delivering in-frame advertising. They are a massive destination and we have very little to worry about in the realm of copyright.”