Who says average Joes can’t get into hot startup deals? With crowdfunding everyone is an investor, or at least will be, whenever the JOBS act is actually implemented (2014?). There is one startup that’s been working around this with its own clever twist on the idea in the interim. Wahooly, based in Minneapolis and Austin, launched (to a somewhat rocky start) earlier this year as a way for people to trade their social media influence for equity in a startup.
It sounds flakey, but this week the company is experiencing its first big hit with Deeyoon. It’s a video debating service that’s suddenly blowing up thanks to a well-publicized debate between Michael Lohan and Octomom, which was covered on TMZ, Perez Hilton and CNN.
The mainstream attention has left me feeling bad for Airtime, which spent so much energy and money wrangling Jimmy Fallon, Olivia Munn, Alicia Keys, Snoop Dogg, Ed Helms, Jim Carrey, Joel McHale, Martha Stewart and Julia Louis-Dreyfus. If only Sean and Shawn had known Michael Lohan and Octomom would have done the trick just as well.
So if you like Deeyoon, or at least like Deeyoon’s chances of making it, you can actually invest in it. Wahooly is designed to let users trade their social media influence for equity in a company. Wahooly itself takes a stake of between one and eight percent of the company, and then up to 5000 users can “invest.” I use air quotes because it costs nothing up front except a few tweets, Facebook shares, and perhaps using the product yourself. But in the event of a liquidity, users actually do get paid out a small amount. Wahooly keeps half of the payout and distributes it to the “investors” based on which ones did the most to promote and use the service.
It’s a way for young web services that don’t necessarily need the funding to generate buzz and usage from a passioned crowd of people who stand to really benefit from its success. That is the case with Deeyoon. The company has turned down money from investors because it is self-funded by CEO Joe Kalfa, who became wealthy in the medical and dental supply businesses and is an angel investor in Wahooly. The legal pratfalls for Wahooly are plenty of course–I’ve gone into that in more depth here, and the company has worked to legitimize its system by partnering with CapLink.
If recent investing trends have taught us anything, it’s to chase the hot deals when they’re hot. Even better, you’ve got no real skin in the game except the chance of annoying your Twitter followers and a loose association with two of the world’s most-loathed celebrity parents.