We first met Cameo in October 2017, when a one-hour introductory meeting with the founding team turned into a two-hour chalk talk. We liked it right away.
Cameo is a Chicago-based company that allows consumers to purchase short video shout-outs from a long list of “talent” – celebrities, entertainers, and athletes. Two days after that initial meeting, I tried Cameo by booking a video from European soccer star Kevin Prince-Boateng for my youngest son, Colin. Watching his reaction confirmed the magic of Cameo.
In January of 2018, Origin Ventures participated in the seed financing for Cameo. Since then, Cameo has been featured extensively in news outlets such as The New York Times, Cosmopolitan, and Crain’s Chicago Business and also joined Amazon, SpaceX, Airbnb, and Netflix on Time’s list of its 50 Genius Companies.
And just ten months later, following a period of extraordinary growth, we participated in the company’s recently-completed Series A financing, led by Lightspeed Venture Partners.
There are four reasons why Origin Ventures is even more excited about Cameo a year after that initial meeting.
- Right product – “selfies are the new autograph,” and every product is 100% unique and authentic. Cameos use the power of sight, sound, and motion to elicit an emotional response in the recipient. Even the reaction videos have become a ‘thing!’ Creation and consumption are almost 100% on mobile devices, making Cameos an “always on” product. And the number of use cases for Cameo is unlimited – while birthday wishes and wedding congratulations are obvious, we’ve seen Cameos for people quitting their job, talking trash in a Fantasy Football League, and revealing a baby’s gender using Cameo. Further, most Cameos are shared by recipients across their social media profiles – generating free awareness for the company. Cameo is inherently viral.
- Long tail – culture is increasingly shifting away from a focus on a small number of “hits” (mainstream products and markets) at the head of the demand curve and toward a huge number of niches in the tail. The number of individuals with ‘notoriety and influence’, as measured by their follower base on popular social media platforms such as YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, and Twitch is extremely long. While you may know Cameo creators like Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre and Shark Tank personality Kevin O’Leary (Mr. Wonderful), you might be surprised to learn that YouTube comedian Nick Colletti has 474K followers on Twitter, 585K fans on Instagram and 55K subscribers on YouTube. Cameo estimates that there could be as many as 4 million people worldwide suitable to be ‘talent’ on Cameo.
- Products that talk – Cameo’s talent often markets their availability to their follower base. Let’s go back to Nick Colletti. When Nick posts something like “yo…I’m on Cameo and I’d be happy to wish a friend happy birthday, congratulations, or good luck,” he sees an uptick in Cameo orders. This is free marketing to the company (although not really “free,” since Nick keeps the majority of the revenue from his Cameos). In fact, apply any reasonable CPM (cost per thousand impressions, used to price advertising) across Cameo’s talent base, and it’s millions of dollars of advertising value generated by the talent.
- Right team – of course great ideas like Cameo require a team with conviction and experience to drive results. The leadership team of Steven Galanis, Arthur Leopold, Martin Blencowe, and Devon Spinnler have demonstrated an ability to create a unique product, recruit talent, generate demand, and drive fulfillment as the company has increased gross merchandise value (GMV) substantially in the 14 months since that initial meeting.
With its increasing lineup of ‘stars’, Cameo has a stellar future. While it’s currently a marketplace for video messages, CEO Steven Galanis – in an interview at the recent Origin Ventures annual meeting – predicts it will become the go-to platform to connect celebrities with a variety of opportunities: e.g. a birthday party appearance, speaking engagement, or a round of golf. Cameo will enable anyone to book “X experience with Y person for Z dollars.”
Congratulations to the Cameo Fameo on the success to date!