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August 09, 2015 | Tom Ballard

“MEDIAWORKS” #8: baracksdubs


(EDITOR’S NOTE: The Knoxville Entrepreneur Center is hosting its second annual “MediaWorks Demo Day” on August 11 at the Square Room on Market Square. If you have not registered, the event is sold out, but there is an “after party” starting at 7:30 p.m. at Cocoa Moon. Here is another of the profiles on the nine companies participating in this year’s start-up accelerator.)

Spare Time Entertainment with its baracksdubs product is one of nine companies participating in this year’s “MediaWorks” start-up accelerator program. We posed a set of questions to each of the entrepreneurs. Here are Fadi Saleh’s responses.

  • When did you first conceive the idea for your new start-up? I loved creating as a kid – animating, making flash games, drawing, and recording and editing videos. Whenever I had an idea, I’d sit down and just make it happen to see what it would look like on paper. I think that had an impact on the inspiration of baracksdubs, as did my love for music and parodies. But it started as a shower idea. I had just finished my first semester of college, and I spent much of winter break wallowing in the pit of despair that was my first semester of Organic Chemistry. I wanted to practice medicine at the time. And I was in the shower after a night watching political parodies on YouTube (BadLipReading, Auto Tune the News), and I was singing my favorite song at the time (Cheers by Rihanna). And I thought – what if I made Barack Obama “sing” this? That’s it! It made me laugh, and I wanted to see what it would sound like. I focused the next two weeks on bringing this idea to life. I watched maybe 100 speeches and experimented with editing to make everything visually flow and sound right when I mashed up all these word clips across all his speeches. It sounded hilarious, and the internet apparently agreed! That’s how baracksdubs was born, and 200 million views later, it’s going strong.
  • Describe the product or service you are offering? Spare Time Entertainment is in the business of transforming content – taking existing video content and turning it into something novel and engaging. Right now, Spare Time’s flagship brand is baracksdubs, which mashes-up celebrity footage to make them “sing” the hottest songs on the charts. It’s mostly Obama right now, but I’ve made Bill Clinton, Ellen DeGeneres, and others sing, too. With the 2016 elections coming-up, I’m expanding to all the presidential candidates for the next 18 months.
  • Why do you think the market is ready for this opportunity you are offering? I’ve been doing this for three years, and 200 million views speaks to audience demand for baracksdubs. I’m working with a new genre – mashup music video – and because theoretically you could make anyone sing any song, the possibilities are endless. Brands have even approached me asking if I could use mashup for their own characters and products, and so I think there is a lot of potential to work on branded content as well. Where this gets really exciting is the possibility to give this mashup ability to consumers. We’ve already built a piece of the technology to make this happen. But with the explosion of user generated content over the last decade, especially apps like JibJab or Dubsmash, I think people would love to create these mashups themselves and share it with their friends. Music video mashup is just one way to transform content. The future of Spare Time would experiment with other ways to transform content and ways to use them for ways other than entertainment.
  • What do you think are the two or three biggest challenges you face that “MediaWorks” will be able to help you overcome? The biggest thing “MediaWorks” has given me is community. Before I discovered the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center and “MediaWorks,” I was pretty convinced that I’d have to move to LA to get anywhere in digital media. But “MediaWorks” opened me to a community of media entrepreneurs who have guided me through every step of turning baracksdubs into a scalable business. My mentors have helped me focus my energy in the right places and think about Spare Time from 50,000 feet. I’ve been able to find an expert in every field of interest for Spare Time – legal, content, start-up development, and more – and they’ve kept me relatively sane the whole way through. I’m really lucky to be a part of this.
  • Finally, tell us a little about yourself such as hometown and education. I recently graduated from UT here in Knoxville with a degree in Entrepreneurship and Innovation, and before that I lived in Memphis.

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