Local company's BidToTalk platform would create auction-like platform for social media influencers

RENO, Nev. — For about a year, Ted Cohn had been thinking about starting a company out of his Incline Village home.

A longtime Silicon Valley executive, Cohn was still mulling what product or service to develop and, perhaps more importantly, when to take the first step.

Turns out, the coronavirus pandemic gave him the inspiration and motivation to hop on the entrepreneurial path.

Recognizing the surging demand of videoconferencing software due to stay-at-home orders and work-from-home trends, Cohn zeroed in on moving into the video call space while also tapping into the fast-growing sector of social media influencers.

The numbers, he felt, screamed opportunity. The influencer marketing industry is worth about $10 billion, according to Influencer Marketing Hub. All told, there are 3.8 billion social media users, and the top 1% of them —roughly 38 million — are influencers, according to the Digital 2020 report by We Are Social and Hootsuite.

Cohn, in fact, is married to one. Diane Cohn, who has a background in digital marketing for luxury brands such as Apple and Chase International, is a budding YouTube influencer with more than 7,000 subscribers and 800,000 views.

“People are always asking her, ‘I’d like to talk, I have all these questions,’” said Ted Cohn, noting that one viewer even offered to pay to speak with Diane. “And I sort of put two and two together.”

With that, the Cohns co-founded the company Wildeye in July and began working on a video platform: BidToTalk. The concept? Give influencers the ability to create auctions for fans to bid for one-on-one video calls.

Diane Cohn is CMO/President of Wildeye.

“Influencers want to monetize their time and make money, and at the same time, they want to connect with people,” Ted Cohn said in an interview with the NNBW. “To me, that spells big market opportunity. This is a big exciting market and it’s growing 10% a year.”

‘Focused on funding’

BidToTalk is designed to help influencers connect face-to-face with their audiences and generate revenues while allowing the market to set the price. This, Cohn said, creates strong incentive for influencers to adopt BidToTalk for the chance to earn more per engagement.

Influencers who sign up to use BidToTalk are provided with a “bid box” profile that displays the status of the auction while fans can make bids during the allotted time slot.

For the service, BidToTalk charges 20% for every call.

Cohn said the platform is initially focused on social media influencers, but the concept could eventually expand to athletes, musicians and celebrities.

In mid-October, Wildeye launched a crowdfunding campaign through Wefunder, which connects startups with investors. As of the time of this story’s writing, Nov. 11, the campaign had raised more than $200,000 via more than 100 investors of an initial $500,000 goal.

Prior to the crowdfunding, the startup raised $36,000 in initial seed money.

Wildeye plans to launch the commercial version of its platform and go public in early 2021, Cohn said. Between now and then, the Cohns have plenty to focus on — Ted serves as the company’s CEO and CTO, while Diane is CMO and president.

“We’re focused on funding right now, because funding is the lifeblood of any company,” he explained. “We’re focused on the product, because we need to make it really better and create and improve it, and we’re focused on traction — we need to start growth hacking this thing.”

Influenced by an icon

And Ted Cohn is no stranger to growth hacking in the tech industry.

Flexing a portfolio of 10 authored tech patents, Cohn cut his teeth in Silicon Valley, including a two-year stint (1989-1991) at NeXT Computer working under Apple co-founder and industry icon Steve Jobs.

Years later, Cohn led the development of the Barnes & Noble’s Nook e-reader, among several other roles and contract gigs with various tech companies.

While working at NeXT, Cohn, 25 at the time, recalls having an inspiring conversation with Jobs after Cohn decided to leave NeXT for a new opportunity.

“He was the nicest guy, he used the technique of ego boosting to try to keep me to stay,” Cohn said of Jobs. “He said, ‘Ted, you’re doing just amazing stuff, why are you leaving? And at that point, it just hit me. It wasn’t just the money. I didn’t feel like I had much more to do at NeXT. I realized that I didn’t have to be beholden to this icon. I could take my own course in life. So, for me, that was a life-changing conversation.

“And I hope that that’s something we can facilitate through this kind of a platform.”


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