Interview Published June 1, 2000|
Bruce Forman, The Romp
Bruce Forman is the "Chief Romper" of Romp.com, a Los Angeles-based
animation and online entertainment site, and a graduate of the UCLA Anderson
MBA program along with co-founder Eric Eisner. I've had the pleasure of
working directly with Bruce before he and Eric founded The Romp, and
would be interesting to hear how the content business is different from
his experience in the merchant banking and VC fields.
BF: ROMP.com is the leading online producer of edgy, no-holds-barred videos and animations. There isn't a line we won't cross in the pursuit of life and laughs online.
BK: How are you different from the other online animation/video internet web sites?
BF: It's all about our content-so don't take my word for it, check it out www.romp.com. We live to take creative risks that the Internet affords and foster an artist-friendly environment that embraces new ideas. Artists are attracted to our sensibility and the creative freedom we offer them.
BK: What's your background, and how did you decide to start The Romp?
BF: My partner, Eric Eisner, and I decided to start the ROMP because we were stumped: Why was the Internet, a medium that was transforming communications and commerce proving to be such a bore in terms of imaginative entertainment? We saw a wide open frontier and were energized to seize the moment and build a lasting media company around the opportunity. Plus, we thought it would be more fun than starting a b2b site.
My background is more in investing in companies rather than building them. I was a merchant banker at Goldman Sachs in NYC and Brentwood Associates in LA. Eric practically grew up in the entertainment business, and previously worked as a hockey scout for the NHL's Mighty Ducks. We met at the Anderson School of Business at UCLA. We both became Web junkies while studying there.
BK: Did you find it difficult to find the arists/creative types to start your company, and how did you find them?
BF: We found our first artists, a couple of wild and crazy Canadian animators, through the Internet of course! In fact, initially most of the artists we worked with we found online. This approach reflects the guerialla, grass-roots spirit that continues to drive the company's growth. Today, we have a strong family of artists both inside and outside Hollywood who work with The ROMP. Many talented people in Hollywood have finally come around to see the entertainment potential of the Internet.
BK: Who is the financial backing behind the company, and what are the next steps in your company's growth?
BF: Eric and I provided the seed capital that financed our first phase of growth. After hiring an initial team of people and proving our concept with a beta verison of the site, we raised our first round of funding from a group of forward-thinking media leaders.
Going forward, we will expand the company as bandwidth expands. We don't view this as a "get rich quick" area and will sensibly scale our business, create compelling content, and build our audience. We'll continue to keep our ear to the ground in search of new talent and properties that can be exploited across both traditional and emerging media platforms.
BK: What has been the most difficult part of starting up your company?
BF: I know it's a trite answer but it's always about people, people, people-whether it be finding the right marketers, technologists, or artists. We're always looking for those who share our sensibility and passion for online entertainment (firstname.lastname@example.org). Keep your coffers full of cash isn't easy either.
BK: Do you find that the investment interest in content sites like yours has slowed down due to the market?
BF: Current market conditions certainly don't help, but I think our approach to producing low cost but compelling content that we own makes even more sense in today's environment.
BK: Finally, if there is anything you would have done differently had you had a chance to start your venture over again?
BF: I think we would have hired an HR/recruiter very early on. It would have made everyone's life at the company easier.
Copyright (c) 2001 by Benjamin F. Kuo. All rights reserved.
May not be reprinted without permission.