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Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.
When Jamel Ajib was 13, he got hooked on YouTube videos of people backflipping on trampolines. The clips inspired the Clovis, Calif., native to try the tricks himself—and even though it took a while to land his first flip, he’s stuck with the hobby over the last five years.
Now 18, Ajib is the one performing flips, pranks and other stunts on YouTube, racking up more than 826,000 subscribers on the most popular of his multiple channels. And according to new data from Santa Monica-based Famous Birthdays, Ajib—who also goes by Juju—saw his popularity surge during the month of April.
“It's just nice to have this cool opportunity,” Ajib told dot.LA of his career in the creator economy. “Definitely super thankful for that.”
Famous Birthdays, which launched a decade ago as a sort of Wikipedia-for-internet personalities, ranks online influencers based on activity on its platform, which it says is visited by tens of millions of users monthly. Using that data, Famous Birthdays identified Ajib as one of 10 YouTube stars who jumped highest in its rankings last month; his ranking rose from no. 7,726 on April 1 to no. 2,467 as of May 6.
The rankings—largely driven by search queries on Famous Birthdays’ website—are an indicator of fan engagement and a real-time measure of popularity and culture, Famous Birthday founder Evan Britton previously told dot.LA. The company sells its data insights to social media platforms, talent agencies and brands looking for clues about influencers on the rise.
Ajib started making videos in 2018 on a backyard trampoline with his little brother, Nidal. The videos have since grown into more elaborate productions, with Ajib taking his flip “challenges” to eye-grabbing locations like massive trampolines and indoor sky-diving machines. He edits clips and writes scripts himself—often plotting to have his 11-year-brother beat him in a challenge to keep audiences guessing.
“We can get a lot of retention in the audience because it's really cool when me and my little brother challenge each other,” Ajib said. “If I won everything, it's not cool. No one is going to like it. No one is going to watch…But when they see a little kid [win] they’re like: ‘Oh, shoot. This is crazy.’”
When asked why interest in his videos is on the rise, Ajib guessed it might be because he records his flip clips in public locations. He said many kids recognize him at trampoline parks and ask for photos, with word of mouth spreading and others looking him up online.
Ajib, who just moved to the Dallas area, is now making flip videos full time and generating revenue from YouTube ads. But like other creators, he’s exploring new ways to make money. He recently bought property in Texas and wants to build a gym where people can do their own flips and work out. Eventually, he’d like to sell merchandise, too.
Here are 10 YouTube stars that had breakout months in April, according to Famous Birthdays (list sorted by highest jump in ranking):
Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.
Kristin Snyder is an editorial intern for dot.la. She previously interned with Tiger Oak Media and led the arts section for UCLA's Daily Bruin.
Valence, a Los Angeles-based networking platform for Black professionals, has been bought by digital banking platform Greenwood, the company announced Wednesday.
Atlanta-based Greenwood—which provides services intended to boost financial opportunities for Black and Latino people and businesses—said it will use Valence’s network to connect its community with professional development tools. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Since launching in 2019, Valence has raised more than $7 million in funding from investors including GGV Capital and Upfront Ventures. (Valence co-founder and chairman Kobie Fuller is a general partner at Upfront.) The startup has built features into its platform such as Pipeline, a database to help corporate recruiters find Black candidates, and BONDS, a mentoring program it launched last year to foster leadership skills in Black professionals.
“We’re being very targeted in how we can drive economic opportunity and wealth creation in the Black community," Fuller said in a statement. “Joining with Greenwood is a commitment to our community and accelerates our mission towards creating new paths to success for Black professionals and fuels our efforts towards closing the racial wealth gap.”
Fuller will join Greenwood’s advisory board, while Valence CEO Guy Primus will retain his role and take on the new title of vice president at Greenwood.
The deal comes after Greenwood acquired The Gathering Spot, a private membership network for the Black community, last month. The fintech company said it hopes the new acquisitions will help it build tools to close the racial wealth gap.
Kristin Snyder is an editorial intern for dot.la. She previously interned with Tiger Oak Media and led the arts section for UCLA's Daily Bruin.
Kristin Snyder is an editorial intern for dot.la. She previously interned with Tiger Oak Media and led the arts section for UCLA's Daily Bruin.
The creator economy startup Jellysmack is expanding its platform to include TikTokers, the New York-based company announced Wednesday.
Jellysmack’s A.I. technology, proprietary data and video editing tools had been limited to long-form YouTubers. The new initiative is meant to help TikTok creators spread their content across multiple platforms and explore long-form content creation. Additionally, creators already in their program can now explore short-form content syndication.
Jellysmack will distribute TikTok creators’ content across platforms such as Facebook Reels, YouTube Shorts, TikTok and Snapchat Spotlight. Short-form creators with at least 50,000 followers and 500 videos are eligible to apply for the program. So far, 30 high-profile TikTok creators, including Nick Smithyman and Lindy and Jlo, have joined the program.
“TikTok’s explosive growth has fostered a new crop of incredibly talented creators, but TikTok alone isn’t enough to make a living,” Jellysmack President Sean Atkins said in a statement. “Creators who can expand onto multiple platforms have a massive growth and earnings opportunity, and Jellysmack enables creators to do it all—with no extra work.”
The expansion is meant to help TikTok creators find new ways to grow their audiences and monetize their content. TikTok has previously faced criticism for what many see as its creator fund’s insubstantial payouts, though the platform has recently announced new ways for users to make money on their content.
Jellysmack reached unicorn status in 2021. It now has over 100 employees working out of L.A. and a number of local creators on its roster. It recently acquired a YouTube analytics company to bolster its creator program.
As creators navigate the increasing need to build audiences across multiple platforms, a handful of startups are competing on tools that can make their work profitable. Jellysmack and its Los Angeles-based competitor Spotter have both invested in licensing old YouTube videos in order to sell ads against them, while ventures like Creative Juice are finding new ways to fund artists working in the creator economy.
Kristin Snyder is an editorial intern for dot.la. She previously interned with Tiger Oak Media and led the arts section for UCLA's Daily Bruin.
Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.
Online dating startup Blink Date is testing the notion that love is truly blind.
Unlike Tinder and Bumble, Los Angeles-based Blink doesn’t show singles any photos of potential matches right away. Instead, the app pairs users in 10-minute, audio-only speed dates. It’s not until after the conversations that singles can see three unidentified pictures and tell Blink what they think of them. The app, still in beta testing, matches users only if there’s mutual interest.
“Through voice dates, we're enabling singles to actually find and build authentic connections,” Blink co-founder and CEO Taly Matiteyahu told potential investors on Wednesday.
Blink was one of eight startups—including three from Los Angeles—to pitch themselves to investors during Snap’s Yellow Accelerator Demo Day. The event is part of a 12-week curriculum run by the social media giant, which mentors early-stage startups on topics ranging from business strategy to fundraising. Snap invests $150,000 in each firm (Disclosure: Snap is an investor in dot.LA).
The accelerator’s fifth cohort covered a wide range of tech, from travel to gaming to online dating. Snap announced Wednesday that its next accelerator class starting this fall will focus exclusively on augmented reality—a strategic priority for the social media company.
Other L.A. startups in the current cohort included Bump, a fintech platform for the creator economy. Founded last year, the company helps creators track revenue from multiple sources, monitor expenses, access credit and manage their crypto and non-fungible tokens (NFTs). The startup has a waitlist of 350 users who’d pay $399 per year once the platform goes live, co-founder and CEO James Jones said.
“The lack of accurate tracking of revenue means that creators are denied access to traditional loans or traditional forms of credit because a creator’s revenue is considered too unstable, too unpredictable, and therefore they're too risky,” Jones said of the problem Bump seeks to solve.
Los Angeles-based Well Traveled is creating a paid membership club for travelers to connect and share recommendations. Founder Samantha Patil said members are using the platform more like a social tool rather than a trip-planning app, so users are logged in even when they aren’t about to book a getaway. The startup’s roughly 1,200 members are paying $150 per year.
“Consumers are craving communities that help connect them to each other and create knowledge sharing amongst their peers,” Patil said.
Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.
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