Back in October 2010, billionaire tech investor Mark Cuban jumped into the daily deals game with a $1.5 million seed investment in gift online shopping deals startup JungleCents. Because the startup took a somewhat alternative approach to daily deals, using a lead generation model to give publishers supplemental revenue streams, today, JungleCents has seen some pretty good traction. Its deals are now reaching 2.2 million email addresses (publishers included), and its sign-up rate tripled in the last three months of 2011.
However, at the beginning of this year, Cuban acquired all of the JungleCents assets, allowing the startup’s co-founders, Sameer Mehta and Nadir Hyder, to take off to found a new venture. Today, we’re getting a bit of a glimpse into what the guys have been working on, as they are officially ready to announce a new startup, called 12Society. Joining Mehta as co-founders of the new venture are Chirayu Patel, a former solutions architect at VMWare, and one slightly more well-known name: San Francisco Giant and two-time Cy Young Award winner, Tim Lincecum.
Because the startup is still in stealth mode, the co-founders are remaining tight-lipped about just what they’re cooking up, but this much has become clear: 12Society is a guy-focused lifestyle company built on “the intersection of culture, technology and commerce,” according to CEO Sameer Mehta. The kernel for 12Society came out of a problem that the co-founders identified while at JungleCents, specifically that many brands out there want not only to get the attention of the 18 to 35-year-old male demographic, but they want to get them actively engaging — and shopping.
The co-founders said that one of their biggest take-aways from their experience was companies that find a smart way to be an intermediary between products and male consumers, while reducing the friction standing in the way of direct purchasing, then that company is already setting itself up for success. Because guys tend to be less brand conscious — yet more loyal to the brands they choose to wear on their t-shirts or in the phones they buy — they can make for great brand ambassadors.
That is, if you can get them involved in a way that isn’t underhanded, kitschy, or that reeks of shilling. The same is of course, true for women, and collectively the co-founders say that editorial-driven marketing leads to higher conversion (and receptiveness), because it’s inherently more personal, curated by the people who create that content.
The point of saying all this is that, while 12Society’s model is not yet ready for the light of day, the startup will be developing its content with influencers like Tim Lincecum to create a user experience that is both guy-focused and feels more like a realtime conversation with these influencers.
The 12Society CEO said that there eventually will be six celebrity or “notable” figures involved — interestingly, all at the founding level. Whether deals, offers, gossip, or short form content, you can be sure that those influencers will be heavily involved in the creation of that content. The startup has already been working with Hollywood agencies, like ICM, Brillstein Entertainment Partners, and Management 360, to ensure that the “culture creators” they represent “have a front row seat.”
As to the San Francisco Giants starting pitcher, Mehta says that his “passion and perspective in what we are doing has already been a great asset to the company.” While the company has been self-funded thus far, the team in the process of raising its first round of outside funding, and it would be awesome to be privy to the meetings in which Lincecum pitches 12Society to investors. Get it?
Startups have been turning to celebrities and influencers more and more of late as a way to build instant buzz, but how many celebrity-founded startups can you name that have stood the test of time? Not many. So it will be interesting to see if this dynamic is able to have success where others have failed. To guide them along the way, the team has added Anthony Saleh of Atom Factory, Founder of Young and Restless Dee Murthy, and Mike Walsh of Rockstar Group (and also an investor in Uber).
The team will be announcing further notable co-founders in the coming weeks, and it sounds like at least a few more athletes will be in the mix. Official launch to come within the next few months. Stay tuned. For more, and to sign up for beta access, check the startup out at home here, or see the announcement on Tim’s Facebook fan page here. They’re also on AngelList here.