YouTube Veteran Raises $50 Million to Nurture Video Celebrities

(Bloomberg) -- After more than five years of helping turn anonymous youngsters into global celebrities on YouTube, Ben Grubbs is striking out on his own.

The executive, who departed Alphabet Inc.’s YouTube earlier this year, is starting a company that aims to make it easier for video creators to make money. Grubbs has raised $50 million from a family office to fund Next 10 Ventures, which will focus on clients with large followings on YouTube, Instagram and the game-streaming site Twitch.

The startup will fund production of videos, as well as developing tools and services to help clients who want to start a clothing line, film a movie or teach engineering.

Thousands of young people have created a career for themselves using social media: video-game enthusiasts who stream their game play, beauty fanatics sharing their makeup tips, and video bloggers venting about their daily travails. Yet only a lucky few from this emerging class of online celebrities has turned their newfound stardom into a sustainable business.

Grubbs, 38, experienced these struggles firsthand. He joined YouTube in 2012 to recruit people to upload videos in Asia, a market of growing importance to the company. He later shifted his focus to working with the biggest stars on YouTube. That included beauty vlogger Bethany Mota and Galinha Pintadinha, a Brazilian kids’ channel with more than 11 million subscribers.

Missed Opportunities

Yet for every new channel that rose to prominence, Grubbs saw dozens whose dreams went unrealized. TV shows that went unproduced. Beauty lines that never happened. And careers that fizzled.

“We’d finance content that would be uploaded to YouTube, but creators had other ideas and initiatives,” Grubbs said. “We’re identifying business opportunities that build on top of the brand or community they have created or amassed.”

It won’t be easy. Many companies that tried to build businesses around online creators have hit a wall in recent years, struggling to boost ad sales or build subscription businesses.

Grubbs declined to specify who his first clients might be -- beyond saying that Next 10 has “an active pipeline” of creators with whom they are discussing new business opportunities. Next 10 is looking to invest in content, commerce and community, including an initiative to fund the production of education content.

“There’s never been a better time to be an active content creator than today,” Grubbs said.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.