Kara Swisher

Recent Posts by Kara Swisher

Sequoia Capital's Mark Kvamme Speaks!

We at BoomTown are very interested in content on the Web these days, especially given the ongoing writers’ strike in Hollywood and its wrangling over digital (and a whole lot of other) issues.

The intersection–or perhaps collision is a better word–of the entertainment and technology industries continues at an ever more frantic pace.

And it’s clear the strike is putting into fast-forward efforts by writers and other “talent” to do an end run around the traditional studio system of funding and distribution.

There has been, no surprise, a lot of noise recently about writers looking for funding coming up to meet with venture firms in Silicon Valley, the results of which I remain wary still.

Nonetheless, such marriages are inevitable, as the entire content distribution system shifts to new paradigms in a likely-to-be painful transformation whose end result is decidedly unclear.


To get some clarity, I decided to pay a visit to Mark Kvamme of Sequoia Capital to talk about his nascent efforts in the arena with his investment in the online comedy video site, Funny or Die, which was launched last April.

Starting with a small $17,000 seed round, Sequoia and others have recently sunk a more serious $15 million in the effort. The site has yielded a few Web hits, mostly done by Kvamme’s partners and the site’s co-owners–actor Will Ferrell and Adam McKay (Chris Henchy is the third leg of the entertainment stool, although the trio has wrangled in a plethora of Hollywood’s hipper comedy elite to contribute to Funny or Die).

Mixing professional content with user-generated material makes for a pretty lively site, where videos are voted up (funny) or down (die).

Results for Funny or Die are still mixed, with big success for one with Ferrell and McKay’s daughter, called “The Landlord,” which has garnered more than 50 million views. Its follow-up, “Good Cop, Baby Cop” (see here), is also popular.

But those are the exception, of course, with several million monthly unique visitors engaged for about five minutes a visit.

But Funny or Die is definitely doing a lot better than some other failed efforts in the genre, such as NBC’s DotComedy.com, Time Warner’s This Just In and Time Inc.’s Office Pirates. Current competitors include sites like CollegeHumor and the Onion, although each one has a taken approach.

Funny or Die’s will be to expand to new areas, such as a recent site on skateboarding and other extreme sports fronted by Tony Hawk called Shred or Die and another one called MyBlueCollar, focused on redneck comedy. Eat or Die–using famous chefs–is next.

But who knows what tomorrow will bring–as the song kind of goes–in a world where few online video sites survive?

Here’s Kvamme to talk about it:

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There was a worry before I started this that I was going to burn every bridge I had. But I realize now that there are some bridges that are worth burning.

— Valleywag editor Sam Biddle