YouTube comments, which—let’s be honest—are notoriously god-awful, nonetheless provided inspiration for one Toronto investor’s latest pet project. Joe Kalfa was watching a video of another Canadian, Justin Bieber, and couldn’t help but notice how heated the comments were—and that’s when he had an idea.
Deeyoon, which launched on Oct. 2, is a video-based platform for arguing over the Internet. Or rather, debating, as combatants are restricted to timed back-and-forths. There are even votes. As the two debaters go at each other, percentages below their names fluctuate depending on how persuaded onlookers are by their respective arguments.
The site’s been pretty successful so far. It got about 30,000 unique visitors in its first week and has been mentioned on TMZ, HuffPo, CNN and Fox.
Kalfa has a savvy earned media strategy: He pits B-list celebrities against one another and, sometimes, they say ridiculous things. For example, Jersey Shore‘s Angelina Pivarnick argued on the con side of a gay marriage debate that got a lot of press coverage—so much so that she publicly apologized and reversed her position. And of course Deeyoon was getting mentioned throughout the entire saga.
“B-list celebrities are really cheap,” Kalfa explains. “And the B-list celebrities that matter are usually train wrecks.”
Kalfa is an interesting character himself. He certainly didn’t grow up wealthy, nor did he get very good grades in school. But he had a knack for business, and by age 21 was bringing in $30 million a year.
At 18, he got a job selling kitchen knives door-to-door. The first one he knocked on belonged to a man who, thinking he seemed like a hard-working kid, decided to give him a sales job at his dental distribution company. Kalfa found a supplier in India and was doing a couple million in sales within a matter of months. After only half a year, he left and started his own importing company through which he sold supplies to his old boss.
Now 30 and doing quite well for himself, Kalfa has been investing in tech companies for just over a year. But Deeyoon is the first one he founded himself. He has seven employees working in San Francisco, although he works out of Toronto, and has been offered funding—$500,000—but turned it down. After all, he didn’t need the money.
Deeyoon is still very much in its infancy. Kalfa’s goal now is to develop a plug-in so that articles and blog posts can have Deeyoon debates in their comment sections. He hasn’t settled on any long term plan for the business itself, but it sounds likely he’ll eventually sell Deeyoon and move on to the next big thing. “I have a million ideas,” he says. “I’m pretty restless.”
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