When 20th Century Fox paid to take over Snapchat’s filters before the release of the movie “X-Men: Apocalypse,” some Snapchat users were angered at what felt like an intrusion into their social space.
The exact opposite happened though when 20th Century Fox launched an app using Victorious’ technology. Instead, X-Men superfans flocked to it and found friends in their fandom.
“While so many companies are so focused on content distribution on views, we’re laser-focused on the experience and the engagement piece. That’s the majority of a fan’s time,” Sam Rogoway, CEO and cofounder of Victorious, told Business Insider. “Their passion doesn’t die when the view is over or a new video isn’t available.”
Victorious’ vision has always been to secretly power some of the world’s most popular fan communities.
The platform helps creators from YouTube bloggers to brands like 20th Century Fox’s X-Men create apps designed to bring together superfans. Nearly two years after the Santa Monica-based startup launched, the company has produced more than 100 apps, with 15 of them cracking into the top 50 in their respective categories.
On Tuesday, the company is announcing that it’s closed a new $25 million round of fundraising from Marker LLC in New York City and Dentsu Ventures in Japan with participation from its existing investors like Kleiner Perkins and Redpoint Ventures. The company has now raised a total of $50 million to invest in building the fan communities online.
The money will go toward funding Victorious’ international expansion and its big quest to learn how to power the communities of super fans.
“Our audience is global already. It’s not an if, it’s already there,” Rogoway said.
The light bulb moment
To be a super fan now, Rogoway says people have to “hack” the internet to find a people who share their passion.
For example, a 35-year-old accountant might not want to admit they’re obsessed with One Direction fanfiction on their Twitter account or even by joining Facebook groups. Finding other fans takes work to find a community, Rogoway said.
The serial entrepreneur stumbled onto the idea for Victorious after Vidcon in 2014. A growing generation of digital-born stars were mobbed by fans.
But after it ended, all of the fans would go back to their own silos of the internet, Rogoway realized. Some fandoms lived on Tumblr. Many were on Reddit threads. Some people were just following each other on Twitter.
That’s when the light-bulb moment struck Victorious. In 2014, Rogoway assembled a team of ex-YouTube founders to help connect online content creators, like the YouTube vloggers or Vine stars, with their super fans.
One of Rogoway’s key realizations was that a lot of these new internet stars were young and seemingly hit star status overnight. They didn’t have time to amass a cohort of software developers to build an app. Instead, Victorious created a platform for content creators to create an app where they could engage with fans, but more importantly, one that let fans interact with each other.
Rogoway’s insight is a sentiment that’s been echoed by the creators, too. Ryan Higa, for example, wanted the app to feel bigger than himself, Rogoway explained. The massive popularity that allowed several of Victorious’ apps to hit the top of their app store categories isn’t driven by how many videos uploads to the app.
“It’s not because creators are posting. Fans are befriending other fans,” Rogoway said.
It’s not another celebrity app
While Victorious has built more than 100 apps, the company doesn’t see itself as an app developer in the sense that every celebrity, Kim Kardashian most famously, has an app these days. Instead, the technology lets creators unlock an easy way to build a community centered around an app, instead of tucked away on Tumblr or only seen through Twitter hashtags.
“It’s never been about apps for us,” Rogoway said. “It’s about delivering those experiences for fans.”
In the last year, the company has doubled down on its vision to be the go-to destination for superfans. Victorious started working with Jason Wilson, an Apple designer and Pinterest’s former head of design. It also brought on Instagram’s former VP of Product Marketing, Julia Tang, to lead its product and marketing teams.
The startup is also targeting more than just the digital creator generations. While it launched with big name YouTube stars, the company is working more and more with companies like Fox to build apps like the X-Men one. There’s even sports channels like The Lacrosse Network or Fitness Blender.
“We’ll be working with an even more diverse set of creators in the next stage of our company,” Rogoway said.
The new funding round will empower the company to focus on accelerating growing to the next stage of the company. Rogoway is in particular bullish on countries like Japan where the company has already seen some earlier success. The next stage for the company will be focusing on how its app can unite superfans around any type of creator, whether it’s a Vine star or an emerging artist.
“We’ve always fancied ourselves as a superfan platform, and the fact is that superfans have to hack the internet today to connect with one and other and express themselves,” Rogoway said. “We think we’re just scratching the surface on how do you unlock the power of fandoms, and part and parcel with that is giving fans an identity within the community.”