Marketplace of Ideas: Dollar Van Demos!

dollarvanjp Marketplace of Ideas: Dollar Van Demos!Perhaps the quirkiest of all the startups we encountered at The Observer’s Internet Week Kickoff Party last night at the Puck Building was Dollar Van Demos.

Some quick background: Dollar vans are privately owned vehicles that typically service New York neighborhoods that are underserved by mass transit. Back in February, the Sunset Park-based husband-wife duo of Joe and Iara Revitte teamed with producer/videographer Patricia Gray to launch a YouTube Web series in which they produce music videos, mostly by up-and-coming hip-hop and reggae artists, while dropping off and picking up passengers in the back of the Flatbush Avenue dollar van.

“People are either ecstatic, or they refuse to get in,” said Mr. Revitte, a filmmaker who does Dollar Van Demos on the side. “There’s this random sense of, ‘who’s gonna get in the van, and what will their reaction be?’”

Sort of like Cash Cab?

“A little bit,” he replied. “But Cash Cab is staged. We have noooo idea who we’re picking up.”

Mr. Revitte said Dollar Van Demos already has seven videos up on You Tube. They’re filming about 10 more today between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. as a special live demo for Internet Week, he added. The featured artists have unconventionally spelled names like Phever, Jack Spa77o (as in Sparrow) and Misnomer(s) (which is a Korean-American, rapper/violin sister act!)

Mr. Revitte described himself as a “MySpace video director.” There are a lot of people trying to get their music out there, he said, “but they don’t have a record label or can’t afford to make a video, and this is a way we can kind of do it quickly and cheaply.”

But isn’t it risky, given the dreary economy, launching a time-consuming Web start-up that doesn’t make any money?

“You just do it because you love it,” Ms. Revitte, who works full-time in public relations, chimed in.

As for Internet Week, the couple said it was a massive networking opportunity.

“We’re hoping to meet … everything we need,” said Mr. Revitte, “like, Web designers, production support, advertising, publicity. And so far, in just one day, we’ve already had a lot of people who are interested. Basically, we’re just trying to get into every event that we can get into for free. We’re very D.I.Y.!”