Instead of emailing a term sheet, Ilya Fushman paid $150 to have ‘Deep Blue Sea’ actor Michael Rapaport send the Cameo founders Steven Galanis, Martin Blencowe and Devon Townsend a video message congratulating them on their $50 million Series B. A general partner at Kleiner Perkins, Fushman tapped Cameo’s own service, which sells personalized video messages from celebrities, influencers, athletes and thought leaders, to win over the startup amid what he says was a “highly competitive deal.”
Fushman and Galanis, Cameo’s chief executive officer, declined to disclose the startup’s valuation with the new funds, but Delaware stock authorization filings uncovered by PitchBook, as well as previous reporting from Axios’ Dan Primack, indicate a valuation of $300 million. The Chernin Group, Spark Ventures, Bain Capital and Lightspeed Venture Partners also participated in the round.
Chicago-based Cameo emerged in 2017 and quickly popularized a new type of thank you note, at least among the Gen Z crowd. For a low price of $5 to a whopping fee of $3,000, customers pay Cameo for lightly scripted messages from some of their favorite personalities. On the high end, messages from Snoop Dogg, a Cameo investor and member of its talent lineup, have sold for $3,000. A few words from the former basketball star and author Kareem Abdul-Jabbar run for $500. And for the low price of $55, YouTube star Joe Santagato will tell your best friend happy birthday.
At about two years old, Cameo’s growth is exploding. In December, the company recorded roughly 100,000 transactions. By the end of this month, they will have done over 300,000, fulfilling an average of 2,000 video requests per day.
“People use Cameo as often as they used to go to Hallmark to buy a card,” Galanis tells TechCrunch. “We have power users that have literally bought hundreds of these and we have these interesting use cases. A lot of enterprise sales teams are buying these to get in front of a contact that maybe went cold. We are seeing customers using these as job offers.”
Cameo takes a 25% cut of every transaction made on its website. The team prefers to sell a higher volume of videos rather than make big sells, like that of Snoop Dogg, because the more videos delivered, the more are shared on social media and the more shared on social media, the more free advertising for Cameo. Because they’ve prioritized volume, they’ve increased revenue 5x year-over-year, Galanis explained, without detailing specific revenue figures.
With its latest infusion of capital, which brings its total to $65 million, Cameo plans to revamp its mobile app and implement purchasing features (currently, one can only buy Cameos on the company’s website). The real focus, however, will be on the international market.
Cameo has a roster of 15,000 celebrities that they believe could expand to 5 million. For now, the roster is majority American icons of sorts. To hire talent acquisition teams abroad, Cameo, which already has offices in London and Australia, is sending co-founder Martin Blencowe to London. He will focus on developing the London team, as well as identifying additional talent in Europe, South America and Asia.
In addition to grand global ambitions, Cameo is looking to expand its range of talent. There is no shortage of B-list celebrities available for booking, but when it comes to CEOs, investors and business influencers, for example, Cameo is lacking. Kleiner Perkins’ Fushman recently became available for booking and to his surprise, an engineering team paid to have him give a shout out to one of their lead engineers almost immediately.
“Everybody’s got role models and this is a way for you to be more directly impacted,” Fushman tells TechCrunch.
What emerged as a friendly way to treat friends has become an avenue for wedding proposals, “promposals,” baby gender reveals, teens coming out to their parents, sports fans roasting their nemeses and more.
“It’s a new way for people to connect and the delight generated from this platform is unparalleled,” Galanis said.
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