Lady Gaga has entertained financiers aplenty, but there’s one financier that’s more special to her than the rest: Matt Michelsen.
Matt Michelsen was a hedge fund manager before he co-founded trading technology firm UNX. Then in 2008, the phone rang at Michelsen’s house.
At the end of the line was 50 Cent, who was actually calling for Michelsens wife about her 3D eyewear company, according to Businessweek.
For whatever reason, his wife passed the phone along to Matt and the pair became friends.
Then his relationship with Lady Gaga was born, after 50 Cent introduced Michaelson to her manager Troy Carter, Gaga’s manager.
Carter had been looking for a way to unify Gaga’s “Little Monster” fans online. Michelsen, now 39, introduced Carter to Silicon Valley entrepreneurs Joe Lonsdale and Alex Moore. The group subsequently founded the Backplane, an online platform that allows fans to build all-encompassing e-communities.
With seven figures in startup costs coming out of Michelsen’s pocket, the Palo Alto company has 12 employees, and, he says, is in talks with Eminem, Justin Bieber, and the National Football League. Its most important client, however, remains Gaga.
Now, in addition to linking up Lady Gaga nation, Michelsen is also training for the triathlon Ironman race in Kona, Hawaii.
Former hedge fund manager Matthew Michelsen finds his second act bringing the pop star’s fans together online
Michelsen’s connections to music industry stars persuaded him to apply his financial tech savvy to entertainment Michael Edwards for Bloomberg Businessweek
In 2008, hedge fund manager Matthew Michelsen received the phone call that would change his life—from 50 Cent. Actually, the rapper and energy drink mogul was calling to speak with Michelsen’s wife, Jenny, about investing in her 3D eyewear company, Gunnar Optiks. Jenny passed the phone to Matthew, and an unlikely friendship was born.
Michelsen, who co-founded trading technology firm UNX after starting two hedge funds, never thought he’d work in entertainment. Yet after “Fitty” introduced him to Lady Gaga’s manager, Troy Carter, Michelsen saw an opportunity to employ his financial tech expertise: Carter had been looking for a way to unify Gaga’s “Little Monster” fans online. Michelsen, now 39, introduced Carter to Silicon Valley entrepreneurs Joe Lonsdale and Alex Moore. The group subsequently founded the Backplane, an online platform that allows fans to build all-encompassing e-communities. Michelsen left UNX in 2010.
With seven figures in startup costs coming out of Michelsen’s pocket, the Palo Alto company has 12 employees, and, he says, is in talks with Eminem, Justin Bieber, and the National Football League. Its most important client, however, remains Gaga. Littlemonsters.com uses the Backplane technology to create a Gaga universe for her 38 million Facebook fans and 10 million Twitter followers—replete with e-mail addresses and calendars. “The goal is for everyone to start their own interactive community,” says Michelsen. “If you’re a Girl Scout mom, you could have your own Backplane with 12 other moms.” Though the Gaga model seems a bit more promising.
And it’s got the backing of Google Chairman Eric Schmidt via his Tomorrow Ventures firm. “Backplane” will be aimed at the unique needs of entertainers and other celebs. The New York Times reported it will be a blend of music, celebrity and technology. Gaga’s business manager, Troy Carter, founded the start-up with Matthew Michelsen, a technology investor and entrepreneur.
“Backplane will provide a platform and tools for communities to socialize and communicate on a more focused level,” Carter told the Times. “We needed a more concentrated base.”
Backplane has raised more than $1 million in venture funding led by Tomorrow Ventures. The Times said Lady Gaga owns 20% of the yet-to-be-launched site.
Backplane will integrate updates from Facebook and Twitter as well as other social sites. Lady Gaga recently surpassed the 10 million-follower mark on Twitter, and about 35 million “like” her on Facebook. She also tops the Social 50, a new chart Billboard launched to rank how popular people are on social media sites. The Social 50 includes Twitter, YouTube and Facebook.
RBR-TVBR observation: Not a bad idea: aggregate the activities and social media universes of celebrities on one site and have a major music celebrity host with high social scores and standings host it. This way, the site should be able to cover both Hollywood and the music entertainment biz. It will likely lend itself to having different levels of “access” where fees will be charged to members.
Michelsen’s Best Advice
1. Know Your Weaknesses. “Find friends and business partners who can do the things you can’t. This is hard to do, because most people only really value the skills they’re good at and downplay the importance of other abilities.”
2. Exude confidence. “It’s contagious. Walk into rooms planning to make it happen. If you assume something is impossible, it probably is. But if you’re confident that you’re supposed to be there, others will be, too.”
Matt Michelsen is an energetic entrepreneur who has built multiple great companies in finance, retail, and media. Matt is at the forefront of Lady Gaga’s social media endeavors as CEO & Founder of The Backplane, which powers Lady Gaga’s social media community (www.littlemonsters.com). The Backplane is a disruptive tech company redefining community online and offline, making it easy to join, discover, share and collaborate with people around your favorite interests.
As the founder and principal of Embarcadero Securities, Matt built a client base of over 250 hedge funds and played an instrumental role in developing all aspects of Embarcadero’s services, becoming one of the most connected people in US finance.
He also founded UNX, which provides advanced electronic trading technology solutions to buy-side institutions and broker-dealers through its open architecture platform, Catalyst® Portal.
Matt is Chairman of Gunnar Optiks, which Carl Zeiss has made a strategic investment.
Matt was previously an Airborne Ranger in the U.S. Army, and received a B.S. from the University of Rhode Island.