With Besomebody Inc., founder and CEO Kash Shaikh is hoping to turn his “#besomebody” social media efforts and blog into a real company. Today the startup is announcing that it has raised $1 million from the E.W. Scripps Company.
Shaikh said he first started tweeting with the #besomebody hashtag in 2009, with the blog launching in 2011. He now describes it as “a movement” that reaches 4 million people. (That number isn’t just visitors to the blog, but also people who have mentioned #besomebody on social media.)
A little more than a year ago, Shaikh said he realized, “For four years I’ve been telling everyone to follow your passion and be somebody, but I haven’t done it yet.” So he quit his social marketing and communications job at GoPro to work on this full-time. Since then, Shaikh said he’s taken three trips around the world to talk to people about their passions. His goal, he said, was to take the brand-building process that he saw at his old jobs at Procter & Gamble and GoPro and “flip the whole thing on its head,” focusing first on building a community and then worrying about the product.
So if, as Shaikh argues, this is movement, what’s the movement actually about? Well, he said he didn’t want to limit it with definitions (“Definition is the enemy”), but if you haven’t picked up on it yet, the basic idea is, yes, to follow your passions. That’s been the focus of Shaikh’s blog posts and videos, and with the Besomebody platform, the company will try to help “passionaries” (look, that’s the word they’re using) make money.
The platform is currently in development, but Shaikh said it will both highlight passion-related content and help users find people with similar passions. There will also be a marketplace where experts in a given field can sell lessons and experiences to neophytes. Both the seller and buyer will be able to rate each other afterward, and the marketplace will focus on four areas initially — art, music, fitness, and adventure.
Shaikh also said that the platform will first launch in Austin (where Besomebody is headquartered), that it will focus on live, not online, experiences: “Nobody’s life was ever changed from a webinar.”
Following your passions is an admirable goal (and the topic of at least one presentation at TechCrunch’s Disrupt conference), but when talking to Shaikh, I suggested that his constant emphasis on passion, passion, passion may strike some as naive, even entitled.
He countered that sacrifice and suffering are necessary steps in the process, and something he’s familiar with — he not only quit a lucrative job but also left most of his GoPro equity behind (the company is going public) and cashed out his 401k to fund his efforts.
“Passion means suffering … but we can make that window of suffering smaller,” Shaikh said.
As for the new funding, Shaikh described Scripps as a “perfect” strategic investor, given its background in content and storytelling. (Scripps is a publicly traded media company that owns a number of newspapers and TV stations — not to be confused with its spinout company Scripps Networks Interactive.)