“The next step is going to sound a lot less sexy,” she said.
AFTER OFFICIALLY JOINING the company, Ms. Kaplan launched a charm offensive, going to tech events and conferences, some where she was the only woman in the room. She helped land funding from angel investors (the first to sign on was her father, Robert Kaplan, a Harvard Business School professor) and venture capital firms (at undisclosed amounts); at a sports conference, she made Blip.tv’s first distribution deals with AOL and Yahoo! (Ms. Kaplan has made a name for herself as a bit of tech-world socialite, too, hosting soirees like last spring’s Founders Club event on a roof overlooking Rockefeller Center, with IAC’s Barry Diller, NBC’s Jeff Zucker and Late Night’s Jimmy Fallon in attendance.)
Some angel investors didn’t take her seriously as an entrepreneur. Even in this day and age, they would sit down to pitch meetings and ask if she was the wife or girlfriend of one of Blip.tv’s four male co-founders. “It was definitely a handicap,” she said. “Most of them had never been pitched by a woman before. I started realizing that you were smart to bring a guy with you, no matter who it was—it could be a guy you met on the street or an intern, but having a guy there was helpful. Hopefully, that will get better.” (Indeed!)
As part of the team’s plan to take Blip.tv to the next level, Ms. Kaplan will need to land more distribution deals—especially with cable companies and TV box top devices—and get more advertising, from brand integration to pop-up ads, on Blip.tv’s shows. They plan on hiring a new sales team.
“You have to squeeze blood from stone,” Ms. Kaplan said about the challenge of making advertising deals. “You’re having to create budgets where they don’t exist and you’re either stealing money from display advertising or from TV. We definitely have good products—it’s building trust with the ad sales fairy dust.”
After sitting down with The Observer earlier this month, Ms. Kaplan flew to Los Angeles to attend a few parties and meet-ups. “You will find us talking about and spending a lot of time in L.A.,” she said. On the West Coast, she meets with companies about forming partnerships, “whether distributing videos within the Warner Bros. family or CBS Entertainment,” she said. Major Hollywood studios and independent companies, like Ashton Kutcher’s Katalyst Media, for example, are revving up their online content creation, and Ms. Kaplan wants to turn them on to Blip.tv as their distribution platform.
Blip.tv is the choice platform for indie Web show producers.
Blip.tv has so many different small Web shows that they can be bundled into packages—like, say, five or 50 shows geared toward moms—for brands and advertisers. According to Mr. Hudack, this is a tremendous advantage when attracting advertising. “One hundred thousand people are usually too few to justify an ad buy,” he wrote on Blip.tv’s official blog. “It benefits advertisers because packages made up of lots of little shows can be much better targeted than individual mass market shows.”
At the press event in July, Mr. Hudack said he hopes his aging aunt, a decade-long AOL dial-up user who only recently got a modern modem, will soon be able to sit down on her living room couch, flip on the television and not be able to differentiate whether a TV show was created by a major network or “that guy in his garage.”
“You don’t have to go up to Jeff Zucker at NBC and essentially ask for what is a bank loan” to create your own TV show, Mr. Hudack said. “Sometimes, literally for a couple hundred bucks, you can start a Web show and reach millions of people.”
Still, it remains to be seen whether Ms. Kaplan and the rest of the Blip.tv team can turn those millions of people into millions of dollars. We’ll be watching.