Cameo Turns the D-List into a Unicorn

If, four years ago, someone told you that Carrot Top, Carlton from The Fresh Prince and a Tom Cruise impersonator would be keys to the next tech unicorn, you would have looked at them sideways.

On Tuesday, online video service Cameo — which lets you buy recorded messages from (mostly) second- and third-tier celebrities — made it happen. The company, founded in 2016, secured a $1 billion valuation in a new $100 million funding round.

Million Dollar Kevin

While some of its celebs might be D-List, Cameo’s backers — which now include SoftBank, United Talent Agency and Google Ventures — are decidedly A-List.

The company’s latest round more than tripled its $300 million value from 2019, with revenue growth as the key driver that drew in new capital.

  • Cameo made $100 million in sales in 2020, more than four times the size of its 2019 haul. The company keeps 25% of that while its celebrity creators — who charge anywhere from $5 to $2,500 for recorded messages — pocket the rest.
  • Brian Baumgartner, who played Kevin Malone on NBC’s The Office, hasn’t landed any high profile roles of late, but he made over $1 million last year from Cameo due to the enduring cult appeal of his famous character.

“My D-list celebrity might be your favorite person in the world,” Cameo’s CEO and cofounder Steven Galanis, told The Wall Street Journal. “We’re tapping into this. The definition of fame has totally changed.”

The new money will be used to develop new services, such as virtual meet-and-greets, while a subscription-model is also being explored.

Not Alone Anymore: The celeb video market is crowding fast. A smaller rival, Vidsig, is profitable and self funded, and has already secured the services of some of the same celebrities as Cameo has. It gives them 80% of sales. Meanwhile, Facebook’s product lab is running public tests on a Cameo-like platform called Super.

the takeaway

Cameo for Business is also ramping up, in case you want to invite Gary Busey to your next industry conference.

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