Triller founder is an experienced venture capitalist with a history of success
Ryan Kavanaugh has made a name for himself by utilizing his strengths as a disruptive visionary. The son of a real estate broker (mother) and dentist/entrepreneur (father), and the grandson of Holocaust survivors, he was raised to be both ingenious and tenacious. By the age of 46, he has achieved impressive feats in venture capitalism, film/TV production, streaming video, application development, and promotional events. Throughout the years, he has adeptly navigated mistakes, obstacles, and criticism throughout his career, turning challenges into successes. Today, Triller Founder Ryan Kavanaugh is recognized for his innate ability to distinguish future trends and invest accordingly, proving to be a profitable strategy.
Experience in Venture Capitalism
One area where Ryan Kavanaugh achieved early success was venture capitalism. After graduating with a degree from the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), Ryan Kavanaugh founded a small venture capital firm that garnered support from some of Hollywood’s biggest stars, including Michael J. Fox, Brian Grazer, and Jerry Bruckheimer. He invested in numerous technologies that later offered investors gainful returns.
Entrepreneur and investor Ryan Kavanaugh co-founded Precash (later known as Noventus), a precursor to fintech platforms PayPal, Venmo, and Apple Pay. Kavanaugh predicted early on that cash would become obsolete as more companies turned to digital currency – an unimaginable concept at the time. This venture led to a huge payoff for Kavanaugh’s investors when the company was sold for nearly $400 million.
In addition to Precash, Kavanaugh saw potential in biotechnology. He was a seed investor in ZetaRx, a groundbreaking startup founded by his father that focused on developing therapies to treat certain cancers and other diseases using genetically engineered lymphocytes. The company was eventually sold to Juno Therapeutics for more than 80 times the original investor stake. Even more impressive, Juno “reported 91% clinical trial complete remission of terminal cancer patients treated with its immunotherapy.”
Learning how to scout good investment opportunities has served Kavanaugh well throughout his career, especially in his next career move.
Diving Into Independent Sports & Entertainment
After tackling the world of venture capital, Kavanaugh turned his sights to professional sports and Hollywood He helped to create what is now known as Independent Sports & Entertainment (ISE), one of the top sports agencies in the world. With approximately $2.5 billion in contracts, ISE represents hundreds of top-tier athletes in professional baseball, basketball, and football.
Pioneering Film Producer
Since the early 1990s, Kavanagh has also been recognized in the film industry. He became the first producer to adopt a “Moneyball” approach to film financing. Ryan Kavanaugh used this model to execute a deal for Marvel Studios, which led to the creation of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, a franchise now worth $25 billion. Following this approach, he produced more than 200 highly successful films – including several Oscar nominees and six winners and generated more than $17 billion at the box office. Among his critically acclaimed films were The Fighter and The Social Network.
Today, Kavanaugh is a principal at Proxima Media, a media investment firm that “includes some of Hollywood’s most innovative and disruptive entrepreneurs.” Using Kavanaugh’s proven model, the company’s goal is to “control production and marketing costs to maximize worldwide value” by focusing on low-risk, single-picture financing. To date, Proxima has financed, produced, and distributed more than 250 films and some of the most successful programs in television history.
Status Quo Disrupter
In the same way he revolutionized film production, Kavanaugh paved the way for video on demand (VOD) when his firm was the first to partner with Netflix. In an interview with IdeaMensch, Ryan Kavanaugh explains the power of disruption: “In 2010, when we launched the first SVOD movie deal with Netflix, the entire industry was against us; they called streaming VOD a flash in the pan. To see now where the industry has moved just shows how quickly someone can come and make real changes within our business.”
Social Streaming Architect
That same spirit has served Kavanaugh well as he tests the waters of mobile app development. His acquisition of Triller, a digital streaming app that predates TikTok, has not only raised awareness of the brand but also attracted the interest of celebrity investors such as Snoop Dogg, Lil Wayne, and The Weeknd. Under Kavanaugh’s leadership, the app has become a prime destination for content creation, music sharing, and artist discovery. In fact, when former President Trump threatened to ban TikTok in July 2020 over security concerns, Triller’s popularity increased exponentially.
Currently the second-largest digital entertainment and music platform on the web, Triller has certain advantages over top competitor TikTok. For starters, it is easier to use. Triller’s AI-enabled editing tool does most of the work, allowing users to automatically add effects such as overlays, fast or slow motion, and text. The result is more professional-looking videos, and users can also add music, including entire songs, from the Triller app or their own Apple Music or Spotify libraries, thereby closing the loop between viral videos and music streaming.
This new form of “social streaming” is Ryan Kavanaugh’s innovation. Thanks to Triller’s unique licensing partnership with top studios such as Warner Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment, and Universal, users have access to a large catalog of music and can create and share content across multiple platforms without worrying about licensing fees.
These one-of-a-kind features have made Triller popular among both influencers and celebrities, including Alicia Keys, Cardi B, Chance the Rapper, and Eminem, who have used the app to create their own original music videos. Triller has transformed itself into must-have music, vlogging, and social platform with vast potential.
Marketing and Promotional Powerhouse
Most recently, Ryan Kavanaugh has expanded his portfolio to include fight promotion. In partnership with Snoop Dogg, Kavanaugh co-founded a new professional boxing league, Triller Fight Club, with the goal of repackaging the sport for a twenty-first-century audience. Using social media and digital engagement, the company hopes to attract the attention of younger viewers.
What started as a one-time pay-per-view exhibition between former fighters Mike Tyson and Roy Jones Jr. has expanded into a series of “fight nights” featuring both professional boxers such as Evander Holyfield and social media influencers like Jake Paul. Kavanaugh is seeking to shake up the boxing arena, which has remained essentially unchanged for the past fifty years.
Kavanaugh’s vision includes changing the look and feel of the sport. In addition to enabling an audience to view a fight, Triller Fight Club incorporates live music, celebrity commentary, and social media interaction. Last April, Ryan Kavanaugh’s Triller Fight Club hosted a day-long event in Atlanta that featured Justin Bieber, Diplo, and The Black Keys and saw YouTuber Paul defeat former MMA champion Ben Askren in a TKO that took less than two minutes.
The event attracted nearly 1 million viewers who paid $50 to livestream it. Following the event, Kavanaugh signed a deal with Madison Square Garden to bring monthly bouts to New York City’s Hulu Theater, the first of which was held in August 2021. The September event shattered all previous viewership records and confirmed Kavanaugh’s innate ability to read popular demand.
His goal, however, is to not only transform the boxing world but also re-envision digital marketing. In the wake of pop-up ads and product placement, Kavanaugh wants to take advertising directly to the user, bypassing platforms altogether. For instance, “If a Triller user loves boxing, that user will be delivered a video of Oscar De La Hoya – a Fight Club boxer – talking about one of his upcoming bouts. During his video, De La Hoya will seamlessly insert, ‘and if you want to bet on my fight, use the Caeser’s app.'”
Kavanaugh’s venture into mobile app development does not end with Triller. Indeed, the digital streaming app falls under the umbrella of parent company TrillerNet, which also owns FITE, a global platform for live sporting events, specifically boxing, pro wrestling, and mixed martial arts (MMA). FITE is home to a variety of fighting and sports promotions that fans cannot find on other services like ESPN+, which cater to more mainstream audiences, making it the perfect partner for Triller Fight Club. Currently, TrillerNet has more than 300 million users across the globe.
The Ryan Kavanaugh Mindset: Keep Your Eyes Open and Stand Ready to Fight
The irony of Ryan Kavanaugh’s latest venture into fight promotion should not be lost on casual observers. His ability to roll with the punches is in his DNA and forms the basis of his business philosophy. He is a firm believer in standing up for what you believe: “The more [people] fight you, and the more visceral they are about you or your ideas, the more you know you are threatening the status quo and onto something game-changing.”
Kavanaugh is not afraid to disrupt things, and with his innate ability to foresee future trends, he is able to position himself as both an innovator and a non-conformist. His constant desire to push the envelope and find a better way of doing things has cemented his place as a pioneer in multiple industries.
This success, however, was hard-earned. “I’ve had many [failures], small and big,” he explains. “I don’t think someone can call themselves an entrepreneur unless they have failed big. Overcoming failure is about how you treat people during those times, and how you are treated. You figure out who your friends are, and who you really want to do business with. Failure is the ultimate tool of filtering out who you don’t want around anyway. Success has many fathers, but failure has few.”
In addition to accepting his own failures, Kavanaugh believes in giving others a second chance. “Treat everyone with respect, and always give people a second chance. It’s only human to make mistakes; it’s how those mistakes are handled that matters.” The ability to recognize genuine human connections can lead to long-lasting relationships. “… pick the people around you carefully. … Surround yourself with people who are not only smart and successful but loyal and real. Everyone is there and on your side during the good times, but times are not always good … ask yourself how loyal they will be during the downtimes. You can buy smart people, but you can’t buy loyal people. Choose wisely.”
In addition to professional responsibilities, Ryan Kavanaugh pursues charitable endeavors. His most recent contribution has been the acquisition of FreeHand, a premium pet food company that is committed to saving the lives of homeless dogs. For each pound of dog food sold, FreeHand donates an equal amount of food to a local rescue organization or animal shelter.
Kavanaugh has also served as chairman of the board for The Art of Elysium, a non-profit organization focused on bringing art and music to children and other underserved populations. Throughout the years, he has contributed more than $100 million to various charities.
His philanthropic work has been recognized by several organizations, including Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, who honored him with its 2010 Hollywood Humanitarian Award; the Sheriff’s Youth Foundation, which presented him with its Community Champion Award for his commitment to helping inner-city youth; and First Star, who recognized his dedication to improving the lives of young victims of abuse and neglect. He also won the 2011 Entertainment Industry Award from the Anti-Defamation League for demonstrating leadership and extraordinary innovation in his work.
Likewise, Kavanaugh has earned the respect and admiration of his colleagues. In 2009, he won Producer of the Year at the 13th Annual Hollywood Awards Gala and was featured as a “million-dollar producer” in a special issue of Daily Variety. In 2010, he won the Leadership Award from The Hollywood Reporter and was named one of Forbes‘ 40 Under 40 Most Influential People in Business. In 2011, he was named Variety‘s Showman of the Year, and two years later he was #19 on the 2013 Forbes list of youngest billionaires.
A Hero to Emulate
Not one to rest on his laurels, Kavanaugh is constantly seeking to disrupt the status quo. Having made a name for himself as a venture capitalist and film producer, he now sets his sights on becoming the leading entrepreneur in all things media. His ability to trust his gut and fight for what he believes, along with an unprecedented ability to see the “next big thing” on the horizon, make him a force to be reckoned with.
“My grandparents were Holocaust survivors,” Ryan Kavanaugh says, “so, what I do is informed by that. We always want to do something that is transformative, so I always pick the path of most resistance. I am willing to take on fights not a lot of people are willing to take on.” This readiness to stand up to challenges is one of Kavanaugh’s greatest strengths, and it will be exciting to see what he attempts to tackle next.
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