Last Thursday, we spent the day at VentureNet, a venture capital conference run by the Technology Council of Southern California. The conference presented local technology firms to an audience of venture capitalists. One of the companies presenting there was Burbank-based Be Jane (www.bejane.com), which got very high marks from the panel of venture capital investors. Be Jane is a content and media company that combines both an online web site, video, and other media properties around home improvement and women. We spoke with Eden Jarrin, CEO of BeJane, about the company.
Ben Kuo: Tell me a bit about Be Jane?
Eden Jarrin: We are a cross between a multimedia company, a social network, and a brand. If you look at Martha Stewart, and if she had launched today, a modern version of Martha Stewart Omnimedia, that's what we are--all targeted towards the female homeowner and do-it-yourselfer.
Ben Kuo: What do you provide and what does it look like?
Eden Jarrin: What we do, first and foremost, is we have BeJane.com. At BeJane.com we not only have content--how-to's, project articles, from carpentry to electrical--targeted at the female homeowner--but also the social networking aspect, which allows women to network with others, get support, write articles, make comments, and post their own before and after pictures of projects they've done. More importantly, what we do is we produce content --video, written articles, or even radio -- and license that content out. For example, MSN licenses our content at BeJane.msn.com, they pay us to produce video for them--for an online TV show of sorts, plus daily written articles, blogs, and animated tutorials. MSN, or satellite radio, or terrestrial radio, or magazines in print, pay us to produce content for them, we license that content to them, but ultimately all that content ends on BeJane.com. So everything feeds back to BeJane.com, we leverage our media partners, and drive back those users to BeJane.com so that those users, the female homeowner, can get more content and get hooked into the social network. Ultimately, with the use of the Jane's--our public faces--they can go on TV, we have the book deals, and can be out there building the brand and feeding the media and the social network at the same time.
Ben Kuo: Where did the idea come from?
Eden Jarrin: I have two other co-founders, including Heidi, the other Jane. The idea was born out of our own experiences in home improvement. We didn't know each other at the time, but about four or five years ago we had both bought homes as single women. We decided we wanted to fix them up. We didn't want to spend $20,000 on a contractor, and started working on lots of the projects ourselves--totally independent of each other, through trial and error. We were doing projects like tiling, knocking down walls, putting in new countertops, and we found there was no one to turn to. We were scared to walk into the Home Depot and Lowe's of the world, which were too big and we didn't know what to ask for. And shows like This Old House, while are great, really didn't appeal to us as women. I'm not a heavy duty contractor type of person. We didn't really have any role models to look for. What was amazing, was as we started doing these projects in our homes, we'd have our friends come to us and ask --can you come show us how to do this? Can you come show us how to put in crown molding, we really want to do that. We saw our girlfriends and family members telling us --come do this, come show me. It wasn't "come do this for me" it was "teach me" and "show me". We really thought females needed a role model, a place to turn to--and that's what BeJane is. We're a resource for women in home improvement.
Ben Kuo: It's one thing to have the idea, how did you decide to make it into a company?
Eden Jarrin: I met Heidi and Phil Breman, who comes from the media world---he's actually a producer and sitcom writer for NBC, Warner Brothers, and Dreamworks. He and Heidi actually have known each other for the past twenty years, and they had already started talking about a Jane of all trades concept. So they started working on a TV show idea about females and home improvement three years ago. So when I ran into them through friends, I instantly saw the brand appeal. I have a background more in business and technology, and I saw not only where online communities were going. MySpace was just launching back then, but I saw that websites that have content or articles are interesting, but now it's also video, TV, and social networking are a really great things online. That wasn't enough, it was layering on the media potential of our brand, and looking at Martha Stewart Omnimedia and thought there is an incredible opportunity to license content. In the past, NBC or huge studios would produce TV shows, and you as a small company couldn't get in. Today, a TV show is no longer just a TV show. They are now trying to put it online through video, through webisodes, through mobile. What it did is it has opened up content, and demand for content, there's a whole new opportunity for small companies to create very targeted, content--of course, it has to be advertiser friendly--to go on more platforms. So not only TV, but web, but mobile, and print, radio, and even new and emerging platforms like VOD, DirecTV, things like that. They're all looking for content. Unlike any other time in history, they're willing to get content from small providers, as long as it's good quality, and advertiser friendly and it's a good brand and has stickiness for their end users--they'll look at it. It doesn't matter how big you are. It's really allowed us to do deals like MSN. We're one of only two companies they've chosen to partner with for their first launch of original content on MSN. And we're a very very small company. It showed us it's an amazing opportunity for brand and content. Because we have that brand, we can bring it back to BeJane.com, and bring it to print as well.
Ben Kuo: Thanks for telling us about your company!