Gilbert Gottfried is ready to wish your friend a happy birthday, congratulate your family for a major milestone or endorse your run for Congress. All it costs is $150.
Gottfried is one of the more than 20,000 celebrities on Cameo, a service that allows fans to pay their favorite famous people to record a short personal video. The service has signed up a variety of talent from Caitlyn Jenner ($2,500) to short-lived White House Communications Director Anthony “The Mooch” Scaramucci ($100) and everyone in between.
Social media sites are flush with Cameo videos, as well as videos of surprised recipients’ reactions. Cameo CEO Steven Galanis ($10) told FOX Business the company has completed more than 400,000 videos since it began operating the service in 2017.
Galanis co-founded the company with some friends after one of them, Martin Blencowe ($0), who was an NFL agent, got a Seattle Seahawks player to send a video congratulating another friend who’d just become a father and commenting on the newborn’s chances of making the team one day.
“He was blown away,” Galanis said. “He thought it was the coolest thing ever. He happened to be a Nike marketing executive, someone who works with Pele, LeBron, some of the biggest athletes on Earth. So for him to be so excited about this video … what would an average fan feel?”
They understood that selfies with celebrities have replaced autographs and asked what the “remote autograph market” would look like in the modern age.
“When you see somebody famous today, you don’t ask for an autograph,” Galanis said. “You want to take a picture with them and put it on Instagram.”
Here’s how it works: You, the eager consumer, discover your favorite star is selling personalized videos through Cameo’s marketplace — maybe it’s retired New Jersey Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur ($300), maybe it’s Shawn Harrison ($30), who played Waldo on “Family Matters,” maybe it’s reptile-owning YouTuber motherofserpants ($3). You fill out a request form, which goes to the star, and your credit card info, which Cameo holds until your video is completed, to charge. After a few days, you get a link to your personalized video via email or text, ready to be shared on social media with a Cameo watermark.
Cameo has raised about $65 million from investors. The Chicago-based company doesn’t disclose its valuation, but estimates at the time of its $50 million funding round last summer put it at about $300 million, TechCrunch reported. Galanis said they’ve “made a lot of progress even since then.”
Galanis said that no domestic competitor comes close to it in size. And Cameo seems to have name recognition among the general public — when celebrities mention the service online, their fans know what they’re talking about.
“To be clear, this is a winner-take-all market,” Galanis said.
Cameo’s key performance indicator is the number of videos it creates. The company had about 10,000 videos its first year, 90,000 its second year and 300,000 so far this year. Galanis said they expect to double that number by the end of the year, as they do about half their business when people are buying gifts in the couple months leading up to Christmas.
To boost that effort, Cameo is actively recruiting more talent to work through its platform. About half of the celebrities are recruited by Cameo’s team. Others are referred by others using the platform or come in on their own. And when big-name celebs like Snoop Dogg ($500) and Charlie Sheen ($350) signed up, it helped bring others to the service, according to Galanis.
“There’s not many people in the world bigger than Snoop Dogg,” he said. “He’s got tens of millions of followers on social. So, two years ago if we were having this conversation, there would have been a lot of people saying, ‘Hey, I’m too big for Cameo.’ And as bigger and bigger people have come on, I think that really puts a halo effect and it makes a lot of people feel more comfortable being on the platform.”
Some celebrities are taking to Cameo for charity. Sarah Jessica Parker ($1,000) spent a day on the service earlier this year to benefit the New York City Ballet.
But many of the most successful talent on Cameo are not A-list celebrities, but big personalities with a cult following. People like reality TV stars, YouTubers and standup comedians have done very well on the platform.
“If you are a comedian or you are a YouTuber, you’re in the NBA for making video content,” Galanis said.
The CEO estimated that there are 5 million people who could potentially make videos on Cameo. As the company continues to focus on growing its number of videos and its talent pool, he said the company’s recruiters are turning their focus overseas.
About 30 percent of Cameo’s business already comes from outside the U.S., and the recruiters are aiming for verticals that Cameo doesn’t currently offer, like Indian cricket players and Bollywood stars. Cameo’s website lists job openings overseas in London, Melbourne, Mumbai and Tokyo.
“I think a lot of our growth is going to come from doing these international opportunities really aggressively,” Galanis said.