Peter Kafka

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Maker Studios CEO Danny Zappin Steps Down, Replaced by Endemol Vet Ynon Kreiz

Last year, YouTube network Maker Studios got a big slug of cash to help it grow. Now it has a new boss to guide the expansion: Founder Danny Zappin is stepping down as CEO, and TV veteran Ynon Kreiz will effectively replace him, taking the title of executive chairman.

Kreiz, formerly the CEO of TV production studio Endemol, joined Maker as an investor and its chairman last year.

Asked to explain the change, Kreiz described it as standard operating procedure for a startup that needed more professional help as it matured; Zappin will become a “special adviser” to Kreiz, and will stay on the company’s board. COO Courtney Holt will continue in his position.

“I’m not the first professional help that’s coming on board,” Kreiz said. “It became more obvious that we had to run Maker in sync with the potential in terms of where it can go.”

Maker is one of YouTube’s biggest content hubs, and boasts more than three billion views a month. The majority of those come from video makers the startup represents via its distribution network, but it is increasingly focused on creating stuff for itself.

Late last year, as Maker was closing a $36 million round led by Time Warner, the company got involved in an ugly spat with Ray William Johnson, one of its former stars, who has since left the channel for a deal with Blip. Johnson and Zappin engaged in a weird public back-and-forth, which eventually prompted Zappin to write a companywide memo acknowledging a former conviction for felony drug possession.

I’m told the spat did worry both Maker and its investors, but not enough to scotch the deal. But Kreiz says Zappin’s move isn’t related to the incident.

Here’s the memo Zappin is sending to Maker employees today:


Hey Everyone,
I have some important and exciting news I want to share with all of you.
First off, I would like to thank everyone for being part of this amazing journey of building Maker Studios. It’s been quite a ride and I feel very proud of what we’ve all accomplished together!
I founded Maker with Lisa and Ben because we were passionate about creating content and making things verses pitching and auditioning. Youtube gave us a platform as content creators to do just that. We were able to reach a world wide audience and actually make a living doing what we loved, being creative.
The vision for Maker was to create a company that would provide resources, knowledge, and monetization opportunities for content creators around the world so they too could make a living doing what they love.
We have now grown from a small production studio with offices above a Campos Tacos in Venice to being a global media company with a Network of more than 50,000 individual partners in less than 2 years. The rapid evolution of this organization has been an incredible thing to witness.
Being the CEO of Maker Studios has been the single most challenging and rewarding experience of my life. I’ve learned more and accomplished more than I could have ever imagined. The amazing people I’ve shared this journey with will always be loved. Despite all odds Lisa, Ben and I have successfully led and navigated a rapidly growing company that has become the market leader in the space, despite having very little or no business background. No one thought it was possible. I know I could not have done it alone.
It is the very unique partnership between the 3 of us that made it work. While challenging and full of complexity there is no doubt that what we have is special and rare. The success is unquestionable. I feel honored to work along side my cofounders Lisa and Ben. I’m happy to be sharing this journey with them and with all of you at Maker Studios.
As we’ve grown, we’ve added many other remarkably talented people who I also feel privileged to work alongside. From Shay, Kassem, Alex, Christina, Matt, Glasgow and Paul in the early days to our current executives Courtney, Chris, Ryan, Karen, Amy and Sam. It’s a privilege to work with all of you. To all my friends and family, thank you for joining me in this unique opportunity and journey. Working along side so many people that you love has been a rewarding and unique experience that I am extremely grateful for. Mike.D. Without you none of this would be possible. Thank you.
So back to the exciting news!
A little over a year ago I had the privilege of meeting Ynon Kreiz. We both shared a great passion for Youtube and the new media space. He was very excited about what were doing at Maker and believed in our vision of what it could become. We connected immediately and developed a friendship over the next few months. About a year ago I asked Ynon to join Maker’s board of directors as the Chairman.
Since then Ynon has been an advisor, mentor, and sounding board for me. We have spoken almost daily for the past year. We could not have navigated the company through the past year without his help and support. Not only has he helped advise me, he has also learned a lot from his relationship with, Lisa, Ben and I. We have all grown close and have a lot of trust and mutual respect.
As we now prepare to move into the next phase of growth for Maker Studios, I felt it was the right time to make a significant transition. As the former CEO and Chairman of Endemol, the worlds largest independent production company, and as the co-founder and CEO of Fox kids, Ynon has the specific media exec experience that we need to take Maker to the next level. After much thought and discussion with Ynon, my co-founders and the board, I am happy to announce that I will be stepping down as the Maker Studios CEO. Ynon, our Executive Chairman will now be taking over my responsibilities and operational oversight of Maker.
While I won’t be responsible for day to day operations, I will remain on the board of directors and will serve in an advisor role to Ynon and the company. I will work very closely with Ynon during this transition phase to make sure everything goes smoothly.
I love this company and all of you. I’ve always been committed to do what I feel is best for the company and that will never change. This transition is what is best for the company right now. I am confident in my decision. I’m very fortunate to have had the experience of being the CEO of Maker Studios. I also feel lucky to now have the opportunity to hand over the keys to Ynon after a proper amount of time to build a solid relationship, trust, and mutual respect. I feel fortunate to have Ynon join the team. I’m very excited about the future of Maker Studios.
Thank you all,


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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