Jake Paul grew up online. The 19-year-old current Disney star has turned a millions-strong following among millennials on social media channels like Instagram, Vine, Snapchat, and YouTube into a mini-empire of TV deals and endorsements, and now has his sights set on entrepreneurial domination.
Leveraging his legions of followers (and those of famous friends like Cameron Dallas), Paul has launched TeamDom with $1 million in financing to create a new kind of talent management and creative agency.
The company’s Los Angeles-based headquarters (a house in West Hollywood for Paul, his brother Logan, and his cohort of social media influencers) is a far cry from the Cleveland, Ohio streets where Jake and Logan first started goofing around on camera.
“When I was 10 my dad gave my brother and I a camera to review tape, but we decided to take the camera and record our lives and do funny things,” Paul says.
From those early days goofing around on camera, Paul, a high school linebacker and running back, developed a small social media following on YouTube, but it was when he saw Vine launch in 2013 that things took off.
The now-defunct short form video app from Twitter made Paul, and dozens of other kids like him, a star.
[The Vine videos] started to get traction,” Paul remembers. “I was 16 about to turn 17… in 2014… one of the videos went viral… We had a little taste of success and we knew what the audience wanted, before we knew it we were at 10,000 followers than 20,000 followers. At 500,0000 followers I remember this app company calling me and saying we’ll give you $200 to promote this app online.”
The money kept coming and Paul began expanding his network to other platforms like Instagram and Snapchat. “Before we knew it we were making a lot of money and anywhere we would go people would recognize us,” Paul says.
But social media stardom isn’t quite the same as Hollywood stardom, and the Paul brothers felt like they were ready for both. So putting his aspirations of becoming a Navy Seal on hold, Jake Paul went to Hollywood.
He started taking acting classes and booking auditions. Landing tryouts at Fox Digital and working with YouTube Red, but Paul says he saw a bigger opportunity. His idea was to help other budding influencers grow their reach and combine forces to compound their marketing muscle (and ability to ask for bigger money from brands that want to reach their audience).
That was the beginning of TeamDom.
“it started as Team Ten a year and a half ago while vine was still big,” says Paul. “I had this theory where I could replicate what Dr. Dre did in the music industry in the social media business. And I set out to put it to the test… found these kids online… they had 30,000 followers, then I flew them out to LA and taught them how to do things on social media.. In 2 weeks grew from 30,000 to 400,000 and today they have 16 million,” he says.
Paul thinks of TeamDom as a “social media incubator”. He’s got a roster of young talent in his portfolio and a movie in hand that he and his brother are now shopping around (it’s a social media remake of Airplane called…. “Airplane Mode”).
“It’s the ‘Expendables’ of social media,” Paul says. “They’re all posting stuff and they can’t turn their phones on airplane mode… the pilots get killed… and it’s up to my brother to land the plane.”
Jake was supposed to star in the movie himself, but the planned “R” rating meant that a leery Disney (banking on Paul’s new show Bizaardvark) would keep him out of the production.
So it seems that Paul is moving on from the death of the platform that made him famous. In addition to the $1 million financing from TeamDom, which was led by a Chinese investment firm, Danhua, and included Edward Lando (Horizons Alpha), Gary Vaynerchuk (Vayner Capital), Abe Burns (Sound Ventures & A-Grade Investments), and Adam Zeplain.
TeamDom’s portfolio of talent includes 13 influencers and the entire roster is seeing their follower count grow by 4 million per month, and total views averaging 15 million per day.
“TeamDom is already home to the cream of the social influencer crop, generating over 40 million followers and 7 billion views with our current line-up of young, rising social media stars,” Paul said in a statement.
Numbers like that will make any investor take notice. And Dovey Wan, managing director of Danhua, did just that.
“Over 70 percent of brands are increasing their social media spend trying to reach Gen Z nowadays. Yet there is a huge vacuum to fill for grass-root influencer. TeamDom is the only players in the marketing space that has this new paradigm baked into its original source – not only a vast network of young influencers but a mighty facilitator to help more young talents rise up,” Wan said in a statement. “The underlying marketing value is huge, as we have seen a single online ads spot sold for over 3 million from Chinese grass root influencer Papi Jiang. We’re thrilled to be on board and help TeamDom to become THE incubator/network for social media influencer and its derivative, globally.”
And Paul has more ideas up his sleeve for his generation of social celebrities. Alongside Cameron Dallas, Paul says he’s hoping to put together an investment fund for backing social media stars.
“We created the first ever influencer venture capital fund. All of these celebrities go out and raise venture capital funds… these celebrities don’t provide any value beyond their check [but] we can help with social strategy. We have this network of Team 10 that can push all of these products.”
Dallas and Paul started raising the fund, called TGZ Capital (it stands for Team Gen Z), a month ago and are targeting $10 million for their first vehicle, Paul says.
“We’re consumer facing. We want to invest in consumer products… all of these startups want to work with influencers too,” says Paul. “We’ll put in money and then we can help grow your product across all of our talent’s social pages. We believe our dealflow is going to be ridiculous.”\
And what of Vine? The platform that made so many of this crop of tweenage talent their first money?
“All the Viners saw Vine dying a year before it happened,” Paul told me. “Most of us had bigger platforms on everything else.. 5 million on facebook, 3 million on Instagram.”
These days, Paul’s own attention is focused on Instagram and YouTube. “The rest are kind of slacking,” he says. “They just don’t value their creators.”