Exclusive! YouRangster's Billion-Dollar Boy Tells All

Is Chuck Chenly the Next Web 2.0 Poster Boy?

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The internet world was shocked last week, of course, when Google's surprise $1.65 billion bid to acquire YouTube was announced and was quickly followed by Microsoft's $1.66 billion surprise bid to acquire YouRangster. A copycat move? Or a strategic triumph that will allow Microsoft to compete with Google/YouTube on its own terms? The jury's still out. In Media Guy's exclusive Q&A with YouRangster founder Chuck Chenly, the youthful tech mogul discusses the changing mobile-media landscape -- and the art of the deal.
Don't have a cowie/Madonna in Malawi
Don't have a cowie/Madonna in Malawi Credit: AP

Media Guy: First, explain YouRangster to us. Like YouTube, it's still pretty new.

Chuck Chenly: Yeah, I actually didn't register the URL until last Wednesday.

MG: Last Wednesday? Wow, didn't realize it was that new. When did you actually have the idea for it?

CC: Last Tuesday. I thought of it while I was in the drive-through line at In-N-Out Burger.

MG: You can drive?

CC: Yes, I can drive! I am 15-and-a-half, you know. Anyway, my Double Double with fries was taking too long, I was bored, and I was annoyed with my dad -- I can't wait until my learner's permit expires and I can take the car out by myself -- and so I started sketching out some ideas for a next-gen viral-media delivery system that could be, like, the next YouTube. Then my cellie rang.

MG: And that's when you got the idea for viral-ringtone-content delivery?

CC: Yeah. I was like, "Wow, how cool would it be if instead of having to do all the work of, like, staring at a screen to see the latest viral video hit or read about the latest celebrity African-baby adoption, what if you could get all that information delivered instantly in a ringtone?" You know, like, real-time ringtone viral-content delivery. People spend billions already on changing their ringtones. Why not change their ringtones for them, automatically, and give 'em some content while you're at it? And so I immediately called my friend Jason, who's a total tech-head. He once wired his Xbox to a Dyson vacuum, creating the first gaming console that never stops sucking.

MG: Jason helped you write the code for YouRangster's real-time ringtone viral-content delivery system?

CC: Yep.

MG: So, say Lindsay Lohan's breast falls out of her dress while she's doing a guest spot on "The Colbert Report." How does YouRangster deliver that content in ringtone form?

CC: We've got automatic proprietary rap-lyric encoding from blog RSS feeds. Jason and I created this sort of real-time freestyling algorithm that uses a form of artificial intelligence. So it'd be something like "Lindsay's boob/Seen on tube/Colbert peeked/Nation freaked." You know how the Moviefone dude reads you movie listings? Well, the YouRangster dude raps about viral-media sensations whenever your cellphone rings, replacing the normal ringer sound or ringtone you've got in there.

MG: And then if you want, you can see Lindsay's exposed chest on your cellphone screen?

CC: Yeah. But a lot of stuff, we figure people only really need to hear about, so that'd be spoken-word only. You know, like, "Don't have a cowie/Madonna in Malawi/Got a black tot/Now she's hot." And then a short contextual text message from our sponsor.

MG: "Don't have a cowie ...?" That was terrible.

CC: Dude, we're still in beta.

MG: Speaking of which, how did you persuade Bill Gates to invest $1.66 billion in something that hasn't even officially launched yet and has no real revenue to date?

CC: Ya got me. All I know is that it really got started when my mom got a call from some guy named Phil Doorman.

MG: Philippe Dauman, the new CEO of Viacom.

CC: Yeah, him. Anyway, my mom handed the phone to me -- I still don't know why he didn't just text me or call me on my cellie -- and within, like, a minute he threw out a number: $600 million.

MG: What did you do?

CC: I put him on hold cuz I got another call. I clicked through and it was Microsoft.

Email: sdumenco@crain.com
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