The CEO of Fanbase says his startup has more than 400,000 users as it finalizes a $5 million crowd raise.
Isaac Hayes III knows that the first thing people will notice is his name. His father was the iconic R&B producer and singer most known for writing the theme music from the 1971 flick “Shaft” and voicing the Chef character on “South Park.”
But this generation’s Isaac Hayes wants to conquer the social media world. His startup, Fanbase, is betting on the continued erosion of legacy media companies, where smaller direct-to-consumer interactions become the new – maybe even soulful – normal.
“The future of television is not going to be networks,” Hayes tells Forbes. “It’s going to be individuals.”
Hayes’ story is the second installment of Forbes’ “Journey to ForbesBLK Summit,” an editorial series leading up to the inaugural event in Atlanta from November 5-6. ForbesBLK is amplifying local entrepreneurs like Hayes who are taking distinctive approaches to business and thought leadership.
Hayes launched the software company Fanbase in 2018 in order to assist content creators, especially underpaid creators, with leveraging and monetizing their name and influence.
Hayes sees a new media landscape emerging soon. In the beginning, traditional TV (“broadcasting”) ruled. That transitioned to streaming, or “narrowcasting” with Netflix. Up next is the mass adoption of “microcasting” – having people not just follow social media personalities and channels, but subscribe to the feed and content for profit.
“We’re merging culture and infrastructure into one,” Hayes says. “Right now, there’s this predatory relationship between the bigger platforms and the creators.”
Hip-hop is driving culture, and marketing in this decade goes through social media platforms, which have replaced music networks like BET, MTV, and VH1, says UnitedMasters CEO Steve Stoute. “And Spotify and Apple Music have replaced radio (stations) for the most part,” he adds.
Hayes wants Fanbase to top BlackPlanet, one of the original social media platforms built by Black voices in the early 2000s and sold for $38 million.
Since Hayes spent $200,000 of his own seed money, he says that Fanbase has raised over $10 million, mainly through crowdfunding, and has more than 400,000 users. In March 2022, the venture data company PitchBook valued his company at $52 million; Hayes says that number has increased to around $85 million, with revenues coming from subscriptions and transaction fees associated with user engagement. Hayes says Fanbase is not yet profitable.
Its competitors include just about every social media platform – such as Meta’s Facebook, Instagram and Threads; Elon Musk’s X (formerly known as Twitter), TikTok, and Snapchat; audio app Clubhouse; and newcomer Spill. The last is also a Black-owned startup, and raised roughly $3.5 million from investors, including Los Angeles-based MaC Venture Capital.
Doesn’t matter – bring it on.
“I can build everything that Facebook can build,” Hayes says. “I know that the core and the energy of social media is kids and Black culture. Without that, [social media] doesn’t matter.”
Watch the video to see Hayes’ plan to expand Fanbase.
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