I’ve been starting companies since I was a kid, some of them successes and many of them failures. (The first serious one was in 1970, the blues and jazz record label Oblivion Records with my great friend and partner Tom Pomposello [and, for a bit, Dick Pennington]; it was a classic creative success and business bust.) I’ve been through music recording, TV & film production, advertising, and food journalism. Even underground comics and chocolate bars.
Rounding the corner at 50 years old I promised myself (and more importantly my wife, my most incisive —and most beautiful— business advisor) to focus on my cartoon business which had been taking off with its first big hit. Mostly, I’ve stuck to that priority. (“Mostly” because, as a long time media executive, I treated our cartoons in the broader context of media which led us, like everyone else, into the internet.) Right now, we’ve got several companies in our direct portfolio.
Frederator Studios started in 1998, right after I left Hanna-Barbera; we’ve been producing cartoons ever since. As of 2012, we’ve made over 20 television series, a handful of TV movies, five internet series, and over 200 cartoon shorts; our first feature film is about to begin production.
Our blogs and internet TV networks were the first of their kind in the media business. In 2012, we started Frederator Networks, Inc. Cartoon Hangover (one of the YouTube premium channel partners) launched in November and is one of the leading online animation channels; Channel Frederator (our first online video venture) relaunched as a network in 2014, already distributing hundreds of independently owned animation channels from around the world.
Cartoons are fun.
I’ve already failed at book publishing twice. In 1997 I impulsively tried to help save a publisher I’d admired from afar and bought a controlling interest in the pioneering underground comix company Kitchen Sink Press when they were in trouble. Nothing about my involvement helped their troubles. Then, in 2005, a partner and I started Bolder Books for Boys & Girls, a picture book venture with Random House Kids. We released two really nice books, but I found the interaction with major publishers frustrating and ultimately unproductive.
The sirens of books keep calling. In the spring of 2013 we launched Frederator Books. Digital only, kids at first, we’ll try again.
In 2007, after Channel Frederator broke new ground as the internet’s first cartoon podcast, I founded the media company Next New Networks; right now it’s America’s most successful independent internet TV company. At first with my partner Emil Rensing, and then with co-founders Herb Scannell, Tim Shey, and Jed Simmons, we’re on our way to launching 101 online TV networks, for specialized communities ranging from automotive to fashion to entertainment.
…:::Update: Next New Networks was acquired by YouTube on March 7, 2011.
Sawhorse Media are young, New York based content and journalism innovators, who are already on their way to great success with Muck Rack the Shorty Awards. I’m proud to be their first investor and board member.
Tumblr founder David Karp started at Frederator as a 14 year old intern, and then founded his first successful business at 16, engineering a pioneering Web 2.0 busniess. At 19 he imagined and engineered Channel Frederator for us (which led me to the path of forming Next New Networks). A year later he had innovated once again with the amazing social media platform tumblr. I’m proud to be an angel investor and board member. (Here are a couple of great magazine stories that tell the tumblr story.)
In 2003, Jake Lodwick, was a 20 year old student at Rochester Institute of Technology and a founder of College Humor and later became the inventor of Vimeo. Producer Michael Berkman that I check out Jake’s videos and meet him sometime. We started a longtime friendship that’s recently led me to be an early investor in his San Francisco “start up factory” of innovation, Elepath.