Birthdays of the young and social-media-famous are big business, insists Evan Britton, the Plymouth Whitemarsh H.S. and Pitt grad who runs FamousBirthdays.com from offices in Santa Monica, Calif.
By collecting and packaging popular smartphone social media profiles, Britton says he's picked up 14 million monthly unique users, and a ranking on the edge of Alexa.com's 1,000 most-visited U.S. sites. That's attracted enough Google program advertising to support a staff of 25, including 2 software developers, plus his own growing family of four.
"This is the next Wikipedia. For Generation Z," he tells me on a visit home to Philadelphia to see family and friends.
The site started out writing celebrity profiles linked to birth dates of the stars. But Britton says he drew Google-program-advertising-sized traffic by focusing not on much-exposed A-listers but on young and popular Instagram, YouTube, SnapChat and Musical.ly regulars.
The threshhold is to have many thousands of followers and a high degree of engagement -- fans reacting to daily posts. Britton says the site picks its subjects; it doesn't accept paid listings.
"Gen Z -- that's 13 to 24 year olds -- lives on social platforms," Britton says. "These platforms have spawned a new type of celebrity -- a social media celebrity. Famous Birthdays is the platform where Gen Z learns about and discovers these social media stars."
Britton revels in tales of "Social Media Celebrities" celebrating their FamousBirthdays profiles as junior reporters or faculty mark their first Wikipedia reference and article: "They tell their fans about it."
New this month is FamousBirthdays video, with "4 full-time editors" keeping profiles to YouTube-friendly 30 seconds.
Britton says the site "is also visited by" the Disney, Nickelodeon, AwesomenessTV, and Influencer Marketing agencies, who "use our platform daily to learn more about rising social media stars that they can potentially work with."
He hasn't taken on outside investors, though he's gotten inquiries. He says he's learned a lot from watching Shark Tank -- mostly about how to focus and not get distracted. He built FamousBirthdays after a string of experiments, including a search site, Sency, and an "anti-content farm" focused on hobbyists, ResourceWebs.
Britton settled in California after he couldn't get into the Wharton MBA program. "A lot of New York and California tech entrepreneurs -- think of Michael Dubin, of Dollar Shave, which he sold for $1 billion to Unilver -- they come from Philadelphia but go somewhere else to build their companies," he said over greens at Tom's Dim Sum.