January 29, 2010

Fabulis Scores $625k In Funding for Gay Community Site

Jason Goldberg's new startup, Fabulis, a new service targeting the lucrative, but potentially underserved, gay male market, announced the raise of $625,000 in seed funding today, the majority of which will be used to "build product". Fabulis' launch comes on the heels of Goldberg's success in building and selling Socialmedian to XING in 2008, which itself followed his work at Jobster, one of the more visible jobs and recruiting sites on the Web. The first round of funding came from the same supporters who invested in Socialmedian, clearly happy with their returns from the 2008 deal.

Following success with Socialmedian and Jobster, Goldberg sees Fabulis as a personal venture, about him and his friends. As he wrote me in an e-mail today, "If we can't get this right, we should just hang it up."

Fabulis' goal, in Goldberg's words, is to establish the site as the "definitive service that gay men around the world rely on to help them connect with amazing experiences." The company is planning to launch its Web site and mobile applications, for iPhone and other platforms, in the Spring, which will help site members to get tailored suggestions on "where to go, what to do and who to meet".

As has been well covered in demographic studies, gay men have a disproportionate amount of disposable income and discretionary time when contrasted to the general population. Goldberg and team look to tap into the $400 billion spent annually in the US alone by this group, and leverage the high amount of activity the demographic participates in for travel, online commerce, and early adoption. Goldberg's stats said that gay men are more than twice as likely to own an iPhone as their straight equivalents, and were also more likely to own laptops or digital video recorders.

Despite all this, Fabulis doesn't believe that there are adequate solutions online that help this market. Traditional travel sites do not target the gay male demographic, nor do restaurant listings, or other marketplaces, making the gay community rely more on word of mouth than any centralized directory.

Fabulis' focus may seem somewhat exclusionary to straight visitors or same sex female couples, but Goldberg thinks this focus will really give the site an advantage.

"Fabulis is intended for gay men and their friends. We are very focused on our target market," Goldberg said. That's not to be exclusionary, rather just to make sure that the site appeals well to our target user. This site is unapologetically for gay men," he added.

With such a massive growth in niche social networking sites focused on specific tasks, be that for credit card sharing, calendar broadcasting or location checkins, the opportunity to focus all the major social elements into a recommendation service for a lucrative demographic looks extremely promising, if it is done well. And unlike many Web services, Fabulis appears to already have a business model in mind that will make money - one that is "not just a straight ad model (pun intended)", Goldberg said.

After the successful launch to sale of Socialmedian, Goldberg is also doubling down on seeing how social relationships form and evolve in a community. He wrote me, explaining one aspect to the social graph that differs between gay men and the rest of the population:

"One really interesting aspect of gay male relationships that we're also spending a lot of time on is how the gay male social graph functions differently than that of the typical straight person," Goldberg said. "For instance, for most straight people, the social graph of who you know is enough. Facebook is really good at helping you share and discover things with your friends. But with gay men, it is often as useful to know what friends-of-friends are doing or recommending or where they are going. And, for gay men, even just knowing what everyone in your city is doing or gravitating towards is very interesting. So, that's an interesting problem to solve, how to make the big gay world seem a whole lot smaller."

And if you think the name is "Fabulis", you can tell the company is looking to have a good time building a "fabulis" product. You can get a "Fabulis shirt" just by explaining how you are Fabulis. The Fabulis blog explains.