Thursday, November 17, 2011
Interview with Sara Bordo, NowLive
Story by Benjamin F. Kuo
Despite the proximity to Hollywood and the entertainment world, in the world of Southern California startups, actually combining the two world is quite difficult. NowLive is trying to do just that, leveraging both technology and the entertainment world to build its business. We spoke with Sara Bordo, the firm's founder and CEO, about the company. Bordo has previously served at Paramount and MGM, in addition to a stint at SocialVibe.com.
What is NowLive all about?
Sara Bordo: My co-founder, Brad Sexton and I, both come from the Hollywood studio world. I had been working on the digital teams and digital marketing side of the theatrical business, and had done lots of live events. Studios use those for premieres, for cast chats, and so on to take advantage of interest in the entertainment and to speak to a community before a film opens. Having done lots of those, I realized that there was a really great opportunity, from the standpoint of harnessing the higher quality in streaming platforms. I founded NowLive a year ago, dedicated to producing and streaming live, professional events for the web and mobile, and anchored interactive.
What's unique about NowLive?
Sara Bordo: Coming from the standpoint of wearing a marketing hat, I also had different insights into the opportunities out there. We had used partners like Ustream and Livestream for our streaming platforms, and they're fantastic, both from the insights and capabilities for user generated streaming. But, the piece that we really wanted to set NowLive apart, is it's completely dedicated to professional live streaming content.
Who are your customers?
Sara Bordo: This year, we've done everything for events for Universal Studios and Universal Pictures, for the Fast Five premier at Rio de Janiero, and we produced the event and streamed it to multiple theaters across the country and mobile. We also did The Hangover premiere, and we worked with Entertainment Weekly doing a live event from Comic Con for three days. We also did Macy's Fashion Night Out Live from Herald Square, their first live event. We also are dong the Twilight premiere from LA.
What's your background, and how did you start this?
Sara Bordo: I started working on the brand side at Estee Lauder in New York, and DDB in Chicago doing advertising. I came to Los Angeles 7 years ago, and worked for a small entertainment marketing firm. I was involved in 2 businesses in strategic marketing, including brokering eBay into the Hollywood studios, helping eBay to monetize their platform for entertainment. My first studio role was in digital media at Paramount Pictures. I then worked at a startup, SocialVibe.com, and basically ran all of their trade marketing and consumer marketing, focusing on consumer growth engagement, insights, and product marketing, and how to shape their product to heighten and capitalize on consumer engagement. I was then asked to go back into the studio world, and was offered an opportunity at MGM, to run their digital marketing for home. A year, a year and a half ago Brad and I decided we would give NowLive a shot. We had the support and backing of half of the studios in town, so we bought the name NowLive.com, and raised $500,000 in friends and family and launched in January this year.
How much of what you have is based on technology that is already out there, versus what you've developed?
Sara Bordo: We built our product from scratch, from the multi bitrate player to chat, to the entire experience. Everything on a page on our site is not only about engagement but transactions. We've got a photo gallery, commerce box, and we let the studios import ticketing information with an iframe into a page. Plus, there are no ads in the experience, it's all completely dedicated. Additionally, they are syndicated widely across the web. For example, the Fast Five experience lived on the sponsor's home page, on Facebook, on filmproperties.com, and across the Facebook profiles of the talent.
Where are you now in terms of the business?
Sara Bordo: We're at the very beginning of a Series A raise. The vision we have and the product suite is really exciting.
How has your experience been, crossing over from the world of content into digital?
Sara Bordo: I think I was fortunate that I've never been in content, without also being in digital, and never been in digital, without also being in content at the same time. It's all part of the same vision. My strengths and experiences, and of my team, is definitely one of technology people with a content anchor.
What do you think will make you successful in the digital content world?
Sara Bordo: I think that, at the end of the day, if everything we're building and crafting doesn't ladder back to us being there for entertainment consumers, if it doesn't ladder up to something we all would enjoy, then we're not building from the right place.