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FameBit Puts YouTubers to Work for Advertisers, One Plug at a Time

The startup raises $1.5 million from Science and other backers to help video-makers produce low-cost plugs.

Peter Kafka covers media and technology, and their intersection, at Vox. Many of his stories can be found in his Kafka on Media newsletter, and he also hosts the Recode Media podcast.

Felix “PewDiePie” Kjellberg is YouTube’s most popular star. He grosses $4 million a year.

But most people who make YouTube videos aren’t PewDiePie. It’s hard to make money on YouTube.

So here’s a company that says it can help YouTube video makers — especially those who aren’t giant stars — generate some cash: FameBit matches YouTubers with companies that want them to make ads for their stuff.

The results are generally no-frills, straightforward plugs, from YouTubers who are already quite comfortable telling their fans about products they like. Here’s one from fashion guide Ann Le, showing off Le Tote, a clothing subscription/rental service. If you click through, you’ll find that Le’s 980,000 fans can use a code to get a discount:

FameBit won’t say what Le got paid for that one, but most of the deals it brokers aren’t big-budget transactions. The average per-video spend is $315; FameBit keeps 20 percent. The Santa Monica, Calif.-based company, which launched in January, says it is brokering 500 ads a month.

Sponsored videos aren’t new for YouTubers, who are particularly interested in the deals because they don’t have to share any of the revenue with Google’s video site. And lots of big YouTube networks, like Fullscreen, spend time matching their video makers with advertisers.

But FameBit, co-founded by Agnes Kozera and Dave Kierzkowski, says its operation is different because it is fully automated — brands and video makers find each other on FameBit’s website — and because they are focused on the “long tail” of video makers, which gives advertisers without big budgets a chance to get their stuff in the mix.

Kozera and Kierzkowski, who met in high school outside Toronto, have raised a $1.5 million seed round led by Science Inc., 500Startups and DeNA. They say they’re already on track to gross $3 million this year.

FameBit is one of several startups that is connecting advertisers with talent/users on big, fast-growing platforms. Science also backs HelloSociety, which works with influencers on Pinterest; Niche specializes in Instagram and Vine stars.

The startups play a useful role for the services they are built on, since they give their most powerful users a reason to keep using the service. But they generally don’t generate any revenue for Pinterest, Vine et al directly. It will be interesting to see if those guys continue to keep a hands-off approach.

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