Social media entertainment company EQAL (pronounced “equal”) was founded in April 2008 by Miles Beckett and Greg Goodfried. Beckett, who was working as a plastic surgeon resident at the Loma Linda Medical Center outside of Los Angeles, quit to pursue his dream of working at the intersection of entertainment and technology. He moved back to LA and began producing comedy video podcasts when he had the idea, which later became lonelygirl15, for a YouTube video blogger whose parents were hiding a terrible secret.
The two founders feel that three years ago, when lonelygirl15 became a hit, the online entertainment space was different. YouTube was just becoming popular and there wasn’t much competition. Now, however, the online audience is very fragmented. The two formed EQAL to create technology that enables online producers, entertainment brands, and personalities to re-aggregate their distributed content onto a platform and website that they control. Apparently, the name “EQAL” is intended as a reference to the growing power of Internet distribution, which has given Hollywood outsiders an equal chance to compete with traditional media organizations in the entertainment business.
Based in Santa Monica, California, the company works with large entertainment brands and builds destination websites around these brands, connecting them to their audiences on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and other social destinations. EQAL aims to work with these brands in a creative capacity to develop content and produce the online experience, along with handling ad sales, merchandise and international licensing and other services to help clients build their audiences and monetize their brands.
The company recently launched its prosumer product, Umbrella, in private beta. Umbrella, a social publishing and audience aggregation platform, combines publishing with discussions, forums, and social networking. It enables content creators to publish their videos, photos, text blogs, and status updates to their audiences on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube and to re-aggregate that audience back on their site, where publishers can gather rich analytic data that will help them produce better content and make more money. The company feels that they have designed Umbrella such that it suits the needs of people who want to build, analyze, and monetize a distributed online audience. Though EQAL hasn’t yet decided on the exact model for its software, Tubefilter reported that it will be a paid product and that the company may experiment with a freemium model.
EQAL’s main target segments are online producers, online personalities, bands, comedians, “traditional” celebrities/personalities, and “traditional” entertainment brands. While the company is aware that there is a plethora of social networking and blogging products on the market, they feel that Umbrella is uniquely designed to connect a content creator’s website to large social websites. With Umbrella, the company is in direct competition with Ning, which also aids publishers in building easy-to-use white-label social sites for celebrities and entertainment properties.
EQAL is currently working with entertainment brands which include CBS with Harper’s Globe, Anthony E. Zuiker (creator of “CSI”) with “Level 26”, celebrity cook Paula Deen with “Get Cookin’”, and Alicia Silverstone with the soon-to-be-launched “The Kind Life”. The company has had over 150 million views for the LG15 franchise, including lonelygirl15 and KateModern, and Harper’s Globe recently received hundreds of thousands of monthly unique visitors, millions of monthly page views, and site times over ten minutes. Further, the company has had a good response to the private beta of Umbrella; there have been hundreds of requests from users to be one of a few who will be selected to test the new product before EQAL does a full public launch in the next few months.
EQAL raised a $5 million Series A from Spark Capital, Conrad Riggs, Ron Conway, Marc Andreessen, and Georges Harik in April 2008. The company does not plan to raise more financing as of now.
This segment is a part in the series : Deal Radar 2009