Eric Schmidt Backs #waywire, a Media Site for Teens That Is Part Twitter, Part YouTube

A new start-up coming out of stealth today — backed by big names like Oprah Winfrey, LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner, First Round Capital and Eric Schmidt’s Innovation Endeavors — hopes to create a platform for teens to share important and relevant information about their lives.

Think of it as Twitter, YouTube and Facebook with a purpose.

In other words, #waywire wants to be a media company where teens and young adults can share user-generated content, kick off a debate and spur discussion.

“There’s a big void out there,” said #waywire’s Founder and CEO Nathan Richardson. “There’s a lot of people using social utilities to say things, but very few places are bringing context around it.”

Richardson said his company is targeting millennials — a generation of people who grew up completely wired and never read news from a paper, make calls from a landline or take pictures that require developing.

“There’s an opportunity to give them the way to give them a place to upload user-generated content that matters to them and marry it with curated content to give context and then anchor with original content,” Richardson added.

One of those contributors will be Newark, N.J., Mayor Cory Booker, who is also one of the company’s founders.

In an interview, Booker joked that you can follow him on Twitter at your peril, because he sends so many tweets. He said the idea for the company started to jell earlier this year as he sought other ways to shift America’s public conversation away from “divisiveness” and toward “solutions.”

Mayor Booker plans to contribute content for the network, but since he’s already got a day job, he will not be part of company’s management. To keep everything separate between his role at the company and his role as a public figure, he will keep his stake in #waywire in a trust while he’s in public office.

The New York-based media site is coming out of stealth on Monday to announce that it has raised $1.75 million in capital to get off of the ground. The site will launch in beta this summer, but will start accepting registrations as soon as Monday.

Joining Booker as co-founders are Richardson and Sarah Ross. Most recently, Richardson was president of Gilt City; before that, he had a variety of media roles, including CEO of ContextNext Media, head of Dow Jones online, and general manager of Yahoo Finance. Ross comes to #waywire from Katalyst Media, TechCrunch and Yahoo.

Here’s the full release:

First Round Capital and Innovation Endeavors Lead Seed Funding Round in New Social Artery #waywire

NEW YORK, NY, JULY 2, 2012 — #waywire, a social artery for video news, inspiration and leading voices, today announced it has closed a seed capital round led by First Round Capital and Eric Schmidt’s Innovation Endeavors, along with Troy Carter and a group of angel investors. #waywire is focused on providing a network that will serve to fundamentally alter the tone and content of public dialogue around some of society’s most pressing issues. The network will provide original, syndicated and community created video content, allowing today’s digital generation to develop informed opinions on topics and then engage in positive debates and discussions.

“As soon as I was exposed to the #waywire concept, I knew there was something truly different here,” said Howard Morgan, Managing Partner of First Round Capital. “Most people agree that there is a real problem with the tone of our public dialogue. #waywire will work to change that by building a network that latches onto the attitudes of the digital generation and deliver rich content that helps to educate and inform as well as provide a forum to express opinions.”

The company was co-founded and is led by Chief Executive Officer, Nathan Richardson along with Sarah Ross another #waywire co-founder. Richardson brings an extensive track record of building and leading successful online properties including prior positions as president of Gilt City, CEO of ContentNext Media, head of Dow Jones online and General Manager of Yahoo! Finance. Ross comes to #waywire with digital experience from Katalyst Media, TechCrunch and Yahoo! Inc. Howard Morgan, of First Round Capital, will join the #waywire Board of Directors.

“There are networks to connect friends, and there are simple ways to share news articles or stories, but there is a definite opening in the social spectrum for a network where people can go and learn about issues that truly matter to them and engage with peers and experts on a wide range of topics,” said Richardson. “This existing gap contributes to the divisions that impact our national dialogue. We think #waywire can help address this problem by providing millions of people – especially the young, digitally savvy generation – a network for video news, inspiration and leading voices.”

Also among #waywire’s co-founders is Cory Booker, Mayor of Newark, N.J. The idea behind #waywire came from Mayor Booker and grew from his desire to shift America’s public conversation away from divisiveness toward a debate focused on achieving solutions. The Mayor plans to contribute original content to the #waywire network where he will discuss America’s most significant challenges with a variety of thought leaders from diverse backgrounds. Mayor Booker will not be part of day-to-day management of #waywire and will have no editorial involvement in the network. His ownership stake will be maintained in a trust while he remains in public office.

“When I experienced the possibilities of social media and video, I saw the beginnings of an answer to a problem that is facing America. I believe #waywire can be a network for people everywhere to move away from partisan grandstanding toward a productive national debate about solutions to the problems we are all facing,” said Mayor Booker. “It is also extremely important to me that we not only begin to convene an online dialogue with as many people as possible, but provide a series of face-to-face conversations in live settings.”

#waywire will begin accepting email registrations for the site’s private beta release at Additional content agreements are expected in the coming weeks.

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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work