By Sahil Patel
Ask anyone within the YouTube creator ecosystem about their biggest pain points in building a business, and they will undoubtedly point to how: A) They don’t own their audience, and B) They need to be on mobile.
Now a group of veteran new-media executives, including several who have spent time at Google’s video giant, are launching Victorious, a mobile publishing platform that enables creators to do both — for free.
Backed by a reported $13 million from a group of investors that include Kleiner Perkins and Lowercase Capital, Victorious is promising to give control back to the creators. This begins at the design stage, with talent having full control over how their apps look and what features they offer, according to Bing Chen, chief creative officer of Victorious.
Chen was recently hired by the startup after serving for years as YouTube’s global head of creator development and management. “Every artist is different, and we want to make sure that their apps reflect that,” he says.
In addition to distributing video, photo, and text content on the apps, Victorious will also enable talent to directly interact with fans in multiple ways.
There are some features you have seen before, including direct messaging and polling. But Victorious is also interested in the social nature of the relationship a creator has with his or her fans, as well as how those fans interact with each other. For instance, the platform will not only allow fans to chat with each other, but will also enable them to create content of their own and share it on the app. Overall, there are “dozens and dozens” of engagement and community features coming to Victorious, though not all are available at launch.
All of this is a direct result of the first issue plaguing most creators — that they essentially “rent” their audience from the site that hosts their videos. To ensure that the platform actually meets the needs of creators, Chen says Victorious has been consulting with stars such as Michelle Phan and Shay Carl to develop and design its features.
On the monetization front, options include advertising, in-app purchases, and e-commerce.
And again, Victorious will be available to creators — not just on YouTube, by the way, but also “influencers” on Vine and Instagram — for free.
So how does the company plan to make money? According to Chen, Victorious will get a cut of revenue generated from ad sales, purchases, and other transactions on the platform. Talent will get a “lion’s share” of the revenue, Chen says, though it will also be on a sliding scale — meaning the better the talent performs, the bigger the share he or she gets.
“I don’t want to overstate it, but getting people interested in owning and operating their own platform that is mobile first — with deep, interactive features — is not the challenge for our company,” says Dean Gilbert, executive chairman of Victorious. “The challenge is building an amazing product that’s sustainable, where creators want to publish every day, and where fans are actively engaging.”
To accomplish this, Victorious is banking on the resume of its executive team.
In addition to Chen, there’s co-founder and CEO Sam Rogoway, who previously sold the travel social network TripUp to Sidestep/Kayak and was behind “Braindex,” an interactive show that was nominated for an Emmy. Rogoway’s other co-founder, company CTO Michael Todd, held the same position at OpenX.
Gilbert, meanwhile, is no stranger to the online video space. He’s a former VP and global head of content and operations at YouTube. He’s also advised and invested in many companies that you have heard of in the space.
Victorious has a solid head-start, too. The company says it’s already working with Phan, Shay Carl, Ryan Higa, and the music group Boyce Avenue.