Kara Swisher

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“Luminary” Access Site IfOnly Officially Launches With $3M in Funding From Tech Luminaries

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IfOnly, a charitable marketplace for experiences with the top “luminaries” in sports, cooking and entertainment, is officially launching its site after collecting $3 million in funding from a group of, well, tech luminaries.

The San Francisco startup has raised the money from a spate of well-known Silicon Valley players, including Marc Benioff, Yuri Milner, Nirav Tolia, Dave Goldberg, Mark Pincus, Jeremy Stoppelman, Owen Van Natta and Hosain Rahman, among others.

The concept behind the business, which has been in beta until now, is to offer the general public the ability to rub shoulders with big names — everything from a dinner with legendary San Francisco 49ers quarterback Joe Montana to having super-chef Tyler Florence design your kitchen to getting singer Brunos Mars to sign a guitar.

Or how about spending $116,000 for this:

“After a night in The Penthouse Suites at the Bellagio, you and three guests will meet Andre Agassi and Stefanie Graf for a private tennis clinic at their local training courts, followed by lunch. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to gain insight into your game from two tennis legends. Later that evening, relive stories from the afternoon over dinner at the elegant Michael Mina restaurant. You will leave the next morning with personalized and hand-signed memorabilia to help commemorate this special occasion. Perfect for diehard tennis fans.”

Perfect for the extraordinarily rich die-hard tennis fan, actually.

But founder and longtime Web entrepreneur Trevor Traina noted that some things offered on IfOnly can be gotten for as low as $35 (that would be a hand-signed guitar pick from Third Eye Blind’s Stephan Jenkins).

“We are offering things that cannot be gotten anywhere else, and only focus on people who are at the top of their craft,” said Traina. “While a lot of well-known people have gotten comfortable with getting close to fans via social media, it’s largely been one direction, and what we are moving toward is bi-directional.”

Essentially, it’s literally delivering the A-List to the masses.

Unlike online charity auction sites, where celebrity-affiliated items like this have become available, IfOnly prices are fixed, with about 70 percent of the amount paid going to a charity, selected individually by the stars. IfOnly makes money by taking at least 10 percent of the gross.

IfOnly has done about 1,000 transaction so far, highly curated by its small staff and mostly related to music, sports and culinary experiences. But Traina said he hopes it will expand to a range of other categories in a more open format.

“The platform could include everyone from rodeo stars to Bikram yoga gurus,” he said. “People are hungry for experiences.”

To guard against dissatisfaction on the consumer side and, well, bad encounters with fans on the luminary side, he noted that there would be a review system in place, rating both sides of the equation.

Traina, well known on the San Francisco social scene, is also a longtime entrepreneur. He sold CompareNet to Microsoft in 1999, StepUp to Intuit in 2006, and sold DriverSide was to Advance Auto Parts two years ago.


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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald