Silicon Beach 25: L.A.'s Most Powerful Digital Players

6:30 AM 7/13/2016

by THR staff and Edited by Natalie Jarvey and Benjamin Svetkey

THR's second ranking of the tech innovators who deal and wield influence predominantly in Hollywood.

Emoji: Shane Smith, Lilly Singhi, Jonah Peretti -Getty-H 2016
Brad Barket/Getty Images; Barry King/Getty Images; Brad Barket/Getty Images

Right up front, it should be noted that not everybody on this list is in love with the phrase "Silicon Beach" (nobody makes chips here after all, unless you're talking about Warner Bros.' upcoming CHiPs movie). But no matter what you call them, the men and women on the following pages — in THR's second such rankings — are the most powerful online players in Hollywood. That last bit — in Hollywood — is key: The magazine limited its scope to those who deal and wield influence predominantly in L.A. Editors also disqualified a few extremely powerful folks from previous years' rankings who since have grown too big for any one Beach or even Valley (sorry, Ted Sarandos, but you were No. 5 on the THR 100 less than a month ago). Besides power and proximity (and the fact that they make adorable emojis created just for these pages), there's one other thing these people have in common: Many say they listen to music from Hamilton during their morning commute.

Profiles written by Paul Bond, Ashley Cullins, Rebecca Ford, Mia Galuppo, Carolyn Giardina, Natalie Jarvey, Bryn Elise Sandberg, Kate Stanhope and Rebecca Sun; Type by Alex Trochut

  1. 25

    Cameron Dallas

    2.3 billion loops on Vine

    The 21-year-old heartthrob made a name for himself on Vine for his humorous clips. But Dallas, who hasn't posted to Vine since May, more recently has found himself pursuing traditional gigs, like singing. He launched a single, "She Bad," in 2015 and has starred in several digital films, including The Outfield and Expelled. Last spring, he also became the face of Calvin Klein (joining the ranks of former CK spokesmodels Kendall Jenner and Justin Bieber).

    Next up: An unscripted Netflix series about the California native and those who support him in his showbiz ambitions.

    If I could trade jobs with anyone in Hollywood, I'd pick … "Scooter Braun or my agent Ari Emanuel. I think I'd be good at the whole agent/manager thing."

    To whom do your turn for advice? "Depending on what I'm going through, I go to specific people. Usually my mom keeps me walking in a straight line, but as far as giving me advice on what to post, we're still working on that with her, haha." 

    Favorite TV show about tech: "I don't really watch TV besides Game of Thrones."

  2. 24

    Moj Mahdara

    50,000 annual attendees of Beautycon festivals

    What started as an events business — festivals where lifestyle and beauty internet stars mingle with fans — has grown into a media and commerce business that is shaking up the beauty space. That's largely Mahdara's doing. Since she took over the company in 2014, Beautycon, which counts CAA, Hearst and Roc Nation's Jay Brown as investors, has started churning out its own digital content and has launched an online subscription service, Beautycon Box. Lately, Beautycon even has been dabbling in politics; it curated Hillary Clinton's June 28 millennial-focused town hall with digital influencers. "Media publishers have stayed conservative for a very long time," says Mahdara, 38, who in the past has put together branding deals for Robert Downey Jr. and Pharrell Williams. "There's been a radical cultural shift in people's expression of creativity and sexuality and beauty."

    Next up: Expanding the Beautycon festivals to Singapore and Mexico City.

    To whom do you turn for advice? "My fiancee [L.A. Film Festival director of programming Roya Rastegar.]"

    What do you listen to on your morning commute? "GirlBoss Radio, Kanye and This American Life." 

    Power lunch spot: "If I really need to get some business done somewhere private, I go to Greenblatt's [on Sunset]. No one goes there."

    Read more Why Bethany Mota and Kandee Johnson Hang Out at Beautycon's Offices

  3. 23

    Lilly Singh

    3 billion social impressions for her documentary, A Trip to Unicorn Island

    Her fans call her Superwoman, and for good reason. The comedian, 27, spent 2015 globe-hopping from India to Hong Kong to Australia on a 30-city world tour (that was turned into the YouTube Red doc A Trip to Unicorn Island). In December, she moved from Toronto to L.A., and you couldn't miss her — her face was on billboards and bus stops as part of YouTube's marketing push. In May, she also signed her first cosmetics deal, teaming with Smashbox on a deep red lipstick shade called "Bawse."

    Next up: Appearing in STX's comedy Bad Moms with Mila Kunis, out July 29.

    The most analog thing about my life: "I write all my appointments and meetings with a pencil on a calendar."

    If I could trade jobs with anyone in Hollywood, I'd pick ... "Dwayne Johnson. He has such an incredible work ethic, takes on a diverse range of projects and stays true to himself. His success speaks for itself, but everyone also knows he's one of the nicest guys to work with."

    What's your secret-weapon app? "Soothe. Massages that come to your house. Need I say more?"

  4. 22

    Chris Milk

    $16.5 million in funding

    Milk, 40, was one of the first filmmakers (he did music videos for Arcade Fire and U2) to see the storytelling potential of virtual reality technology. He's lured investments from some of Hollywood's biggest companies — 21st Century Fox, Legendary and Megan Ellison's Annapurna Pictures — and has worked with everyone from The New York Times (on a VR project about street art) to the United Nations (filming a refugee camp in Jordan in VR). He hasn't broken through with a VR masterpiece, but he's an important voice in the cinematic VR space; his TED talk on the subject has been viewed 1.3 million times.

    Next up: Milk says a major studio (he won't name which one) is involved in a slate of narrative content for VR.

    The most analog things about my life: "My dog, named Winter."

    What's your secret-weapon app? 1 Second Everyday, a video diary that stitches together videos and photos

    Favorite TV show about tech: Automan

  5. 21

    Tyler Oakley

    588 million YouTube views

    He's such a huge star on YouTube, even some people over 40 have heard of him. With more than 8 million subscribers, Oakley, 27, is a rare breakout from the online platform, becoming a prominent LGBTQ voice beyond the digital space. He published a collection of essays that ended up on The New York Times' best-seller list for 11 weeks, made it to the finals of The Amazing Race and was the subject of the documentary Snervous.

    Next up: Working with Ellen DeGeneres on projects for her digital network.

    The most analog thing about my life: "I'm currently halfway through Pokemon Red on my Gameboy Color."

    If I could trade jobs with anyone in Hollywood, I'd pick … "Julie Chen. She has a ball with the ladies of The Talk and then stirs the pot at night hosting Big Brother."

    What do you listen to on your morning commute? "Spotify's 'New Music Friday' playlist, latest releases from all genres. That, and Hamilton."


  6. 20

    Allen DeBevoise

    70-plus startup investments

    Practically every startup in town has taken money from DeBevoise, who most recently backed Russell Simmons' All Def Digital. He's on the board of six media firms, including YouTube's DanceOn and StyleHaul. His gaming network Machinima struggled under his watch (with multiple rounds of layoffs after he stepped down as CEO), but he seems to have found his footing with investing.

    Next up: Helping reinvent DanceOn as a place for music programming.

    Favorite TV show about tech? Mr. Robot

    What do you listen to on your morning commute? "I don't. Silence is golden."

    Power lunch spot: Bouchon

  7. 19

    Jeff Berman and Kim Kardashian

    7 of the top 50 app-store entertainment apps

    Kardashian, 35, kicked off a new app craze in December when she launched Kimoji, for Kardashian-themed emoticons. The $1.99 app topped the Apple App Store charts when it was released and one update later is still among the top in the entertainment category. The reality star, mobile game creator and social media queen got into the emoji business thanks to West Hollywood's Whalerock Industries, the Lloyd Braun-led company where Berman, 44, began working with Kardashian and her sisters last year to launch a suite of subscription apps.

    Next up: Whalerock's long-awaited Howard Stern app is still in the works.

    The most analog thing about my life: Berman: "Chevalier's, Book Soup, Diesel. Give me an independent bookstore selling actual, physical books."

    To whom do you turn for advice? Berman: "Lucky to have a lot of smart, thoughtful people in my life, but my wife is the wisest person I know."

    What do you listen to on your morning commute? Berman: "When dropping the kids at school, it's all about Hamilton. Otherwise, Howard Stern on Sirius plus Tim Ferriss, Bill Simmons, 2 Dope Queens and other podcasters."

  8. 18

    Keith Richman

    $100 million in annual revenue

    Three years after merging his digital company, Break Media, with Alloy Digital to create Defy, business has never been better for Richman, 43. Unlike other companies of its ilk, Defy has focused on working with a small network of online stars, helping comedians like Smosh produce a straight-to-digital movie last summer and then launch a subscription service for entertainment brand ScreenJunkies. Today, the Miracle Mile company boasts 125 million monthly viewers across its 72 shows, including Honest Trailers, which this spring nabbed Ryan Reynolds for a spoof of his superhero movie Deadpool.

    Next up: Bundling Defy's programs into content for skinny streaming services.

    What's your secret-weapon app? Wine app Vivino

    What do you listen to on your morning commute? "Dan Carlin's Hardcore History." 

    Power lunch spot: Factor's Famous Deli


  9. 17

    Courtney Holt

    10 billion views across its platforms

    Holt, 48, has been on the job since January — when he took over for Ynon Kreiz, who led Maker's $675 million 2014 sale to Disney. But he knows the company well, having served as COO for five years. So far, the Myspace Music vet's strategy for leading the Culver City studio into the future is to lean into its biggest star, helping PewDiePie (real name: Felix Kjellberg) launch gaming-themed online network Revelmode and producing his YouTube Red reality series, Scare PewDiePie.

    Next up: Incubating projects from singer Sophia Grace and prankster Rahat Hossain.

    Favorite movie about tech: "I find myself referencing Alec Baldwin's closing monologue from Glengarry Glen Ross. It's not exactly about tech, but it's relevant — a funny, perfect and painful document of the sales process and a very clear analogue to so much of what we do daily in our industry."

    What do you listen to on your morning commute? "The voice of Rene Rechtman, our head of international (we often speak on my drive in), otherwise Howard Stern. I've listened since high school and feel he keeps getting better and better. His interviews are insightful, funny and memorable."

    What is your power lunch spot? "Akasha in Culver City is a great spot, consistently great and close to our office." 

  10. 16

    George Strompolos

    $4.99 per month for his new web video service

    Imagine Netflix for teens. That's Strompolos' plan for Playa Vista-based Fullscreen. Capitalizing on the name recognition of internet stars like Grace Helbig and Hanna Hart (ask your kids), he's been developing original content with titles like Electra Woman & Dyna Girl and Filthy Preppy Teen$. Strompolos, 36, also acquired production company Rooster Teeth and has been beefing up his staff with industry veterans, like Oxygen's ex-president and Hulu's former CEO.

    Next up: A partnership with Mattel will use social media stars for toy ads.

    To whom do you turn for advice? "Peter Chernin." 

    What's your secret-weapon app? "BandsInTown is great to keep up with live music." 

    Favorite movie about tech? The Social Network

  11. 15

    Eric Berger

    165 million total streams for Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee

    Berger is trying to turn Sony's ad-supported streaming service into the next Netflix, only without a monthly fee. It's got 18 million users — about a quarter of Netflix's audience — but he is making headway with such original content standbys as Sports Jeopardy and Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee (host Jerry Seinfeld snagged President Barack Obama in December). Last November, Crackle launched its first prestige drama, The Art of More, starring Dennis Quaid as a powerful art collector (it was quickly renewed for a second season), and this year, Berger, 45, says he plans on doubling the Culver City-based streamer's original content.

    Next up: Capitalizing on the virtual reality boom, Crackle will launch a 360-degree viewing experience featuring bonus content from such originals as the Bryan Cranston-produced SuperMansion.

    If I could trade jobs with anyone in Hollywood, I'd pick ... "Jon Snow. Because 'warrior leader' sounds better than 'digital executive.'" 

    What's your secret-weapon app? "Confide. It lets you send self-destructing messages but also lets you un-send unread messages in case you need to be saved from an impulsive tap."

    Favorite TV show about tech? "Mr. Robot, but our upcoming drama series StartUp is going to blow some minds!" 

  12. 14

    Mike Farah

    10 longform series produced in 2016

    The biggest challenge facing Farah, 37, since taking over at FoD (where he'd been executive producing shows like Billy on the Street for truTV and @midnight for Comedy Central) is to continue to prove that the 9-year-old West Hollywood company can still make waves on the internet and beyond. FoD sure created a big splash in February when Johnny Depp did his Donald Trump impersonation (the viral video racked up 3 million views). Though the company explored a sale last year — to Viacom, among other suitors — those talks have fizzled.

    Next up: Ramping up political humor out of its Washington, D.C., outpost leading up to the election.

    The most analog thing about my life: "I have a phobia about remembering passwords, so Veronica, who works with me, printed out all the passwords I've accumulated over the years onto one piece of paper."

    If I could trade jobs with anyone in Hollywood, I'd pick ... "Scott Rudin. I've never met him but he has produced at the highest level for decades and his ability to be successful in so many different genres is remarkable."

    What do you listen to on your morning commute? "Since seeing the show last month, nothing but the Hamilton soundtrack on repeat. This feels like the most Hollywood thing to say ever, but it's true."

  13. 13

    Sarah Harden

    $200 million in 2015 revenue

    Otter's mission — and Harden's job — is to find, invest in and create online video services. That's a very crowded table these days, but the 44-year-old Australian-born former News Corp. exec has $500 million in funding (the Playa Vista company is a joint venture of The Chernin Group and AT&T), which should help her get into the game. Her current bets: anime-themed Crunchyroll, Rooster Teeth for gaming fanatics, DIY site Creativebug and youth-skewing Fullscreen.

    Next up: New service VRV that will bundle anime, gaming, comedy and fantasy. It launches in October.

    The most analog thing about my life: "Telling ridiculous made-up stories to my two boys before lights-out."

    What do you listen to on your morning commute? "The Hamilton sound­track until I drop the 12-year-old at school, and then it's all podcasts."

    Power lunch spot: "Ha, there's not much power lunching going on here. It's either UberEats or food trucks. I love a good breakfast however. Hard to beat the fresh-juice menu at the Four Seasons. It's so LA!"

  14. 12

    Michael Kassan

    100-plus active clients across four offices

    The Don of digital advertising connects his online clients with blue-chip brands. Bicoastal Kassan, 65, also presides over such large-scale advertising events as CES, the Digital Content NewFronts and Cannes Lions (where invites to MediaLink parties are harder to get than Hamilton tickets).

    Next up: Exploring the virtual reality and augmented reality space.

    If I could trade jobs with anyone in Hollywood, I'd pick … John Malone

    Favorite movie about tech? Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

    What do you listen to on your morning commute? "I roll calls. Oh wait, maybe that's the most analog thing about me. I listen to MediaLinked on iHeartRadio's WOR 710."

  15. 11

    Brent Weinstein

    21 agents in his digital division

    Ten years ago, when YouTube still was a shiny new startup, Weinstein already was elbow deep in digital content, launching the talent agency's first online division in 2006. The 41-year-old onetime corporate lawyer still oversees UTA's digital talent division, works with clients like online video event VidCon and runs the ventures group, which invests in early-stage companies (he was vital in the launch of AwesomenessTV).

    Next up: Shepherding VidCon's expansion to Europe.

    The most analog thing about my life: "My wife. She is, charmingly so, the least tech-savvy person you could meet. It's totally refreshing and keeps me grounded in the real world."

    If I could trade jobs with anyone in Hollywood, I'd pick … "Bob Iger. I've been a fan of Disney my whole life."

    Power lunch spot: "As the digital guy, I think I'm supposed to say something ironic or understated, so UberEats delivery to my office."


  16. 10

    Sibyl Goldman

    100 million hours of video watched daily on Facebook

    The former Ryan Seacrest Productions executive is Facebook's face in Hollywood — or at least Playa Vista — overseeing a team that encourages celebrities to connect with the social network's 1.65 billion users. As Facebook pumps even more resources into video, especially its fledgling live broadcasting product, Goldman, 45, finds herself with an even bigger role. She's helping fund live video experiments from more than 100 celebrities and media outlets ranging from The New York Times to BuzzFeed.

    Next up: Exploring innovations like 360-degree videos.

    The most analog thing about my life: "My crazy cable package. I get every channel."

    To whom do you turn for advice? "My former boss from Yahoo, Jimmy Pitaro [now at Disney], and my mom, of course."

    What do you listen to on your morning commute? "A healthy blend of Morning Edition, work calls and Hamilton."

  17. 9

    Troy Carter

    80 startup investments

    The eye for talent that helped the music manager guide Lady Gaga to fame also has enabled him to spot promising startups. His greatest hits as an investor: Dropbox, Lyft, Uber, Warby Parker and Spotify. In June, the latter hired Carter, 43, to help it land exclusive music projects and content deals. It's a role he'll juggle alongside continuing to serve as CEO of his Culver City-based entertainment and management firm Atom Factory, which these days mostly is focused on early-stage venture capital fund Cross Culture VC and tech accelerator SMASHD Labs.

    Next up: Continuing to invest in minority startups like e-commerce platform Mayvenn.

    The most analog thing about his life: Internet breaks during weekends.

  18. 8

    Jesse Jacobs

    $500 million invested by TCG and AT&T to form Otter Media

    Jacobs, 40, controls the purse strings of the internet — or at least a few big strands of them. As president of Peter Chernin's media and investment company, based in Santa Monica, he helps digital companies find startup cash. When Headspace needed $34 million to launch an app that brings meditation into the digital age, it was Jacobs who pulled out the checkbook alongside stars Jessica Alba and Jared Leto. Pandora, Fullscreen, Tumblr — Jacobs found financing for them all. He also serves on the boards of several buzzy tech companies such as Barstool Sports and Otter Media (a joint venture with At&T).

    Next up: Exploring e-sports.

    The most analog thing about my life: "I still read a print version of the New York Times every day. And printed fiction books. No e-books. Oh, I still have CDs in my car."

    What do you listen to on your morning commute? "88.5 FM, New York Mets radio shows, Barstool podcasts."

    Power lunch spot: Hiko Sushi

  19. 7

    Brian Robbins

    $650 million valuation

    Robbins was an actor (Head of the Class), director (Norbit) and producer (Smallville) before starting AwesomenessTV in 2012 — then selling it two years later to DreamWorks Animation for $33 million (plus performance incentives). Robbins, 52, stayed on, helping the company grow into an empire — which operates and programs YouTube channels, produces television shows for Netflix, makes teen films with such big names as Bella Thorne and sells merchandise and publishes books by top YouTube stars — now worth 20 times what DreamWorks Animation paid for it. But with DWA being acquired by Comcast's NBCUniversal, there may be some changes coming in the West L.A. office. "There's probably another shoe to drop," notes Robbins, who works closely with DWA CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg. "Everyone wants to be in, but who remains is yet to be seen."

    Next up: Expanding into Europe with international programming.

    The most analog thing about my life: "I still read scripts on paper."

    If I could trade jobs with anyone in Hollywood, I'd pick ... "DJ Khaled. He's everywhere."

    To whom do you turn for advice? "My wife and my two teenage sons are my in-house development crew."

  20. 6

    Jonah Peretti and Ze Frank

    7 billion monthly content views

    When Peretti bought 44-year-old Frank's startup in 2012, it started as a place where BuzzFeed's signature listicles could be turned into web-friendly videos (see story, page 30). But the Hollywood operation has turned into such a booming business — 300 employees cranking out more than 300 videos a week — that Peretti, 42, ended up moving to Los Angeles earlier this year. The company was stung by reports this year that 2015 revenue was $80 million lower than expected (which it has denied), but it is boosted by a $200 million investment from NBUniversal that is helping it make a push into film and TV.

    Next up: A Warner Bros. film based on a BuzzFeed article about a man who tracks his stolen iPhone to China.

  21. 5

    Robert Kyncl and Susanne Daniels

    2.6 billion views for "Gangnam Style," YouTube's most watched video

    After 10 years as a free service, YouTube made the decision to launch $10-a-month YouTube Red. It was a major undertaking: Beverly Hills-based Kyncl, 45, and his team had to negotiate with all of YouTube's partners to bring their videos to the new service and tapped MTV veteran Daniels, 51, to find new content worth the price. It's impossible to say how many of YouTube's 1 billion users have signed up for Red (to watch movies like Dance Camp and shows like Foursome). YouTube isn't releasing any numbers.

    Next up: An adaptation of Step Up, with Channing Tatum executive producing.

    To whom do you turn for advice? Kyncl: "Lately, my wife and daughters have provided me with the most insightful and unbiased advice on our business." 

    Favorite TV show about tech? Daniels: "That's easy, Mr. Robot."

    What do you listen to on your morning commute? Kyncl: "YouTube Music, Spotify."
    Daniels: "Podcasts."

  22. 4

    Shane Smith

    $900 million in 2015 revenue

    Smith, 46, lords over a $4 billion multiplatform digital media empire spanning 30 territories across the planet. He has spearheaded partnerships with such media giants as Disney (with its $400 million investment in 2015), Verizon, A&E, ESPN, Sky and HBO, home base for his weekly news show (and soon his upcoming daily show). And then there's Viceland, Smith's cable TV network. Thanks to a deal with Nielsen, ratings for the new channel won't be revealed until August. But judging by a Rentrak report in March — which Vice disputes — viewership isn't yet spectacular (about 55,000, or a quarter of what H2 was pulling in before Viceland replaced it on the dial).

    Next up: Expanding to 44 countries over the next four months.

    To whom do you turn for advice? "[Investor] Tom Freston on media, and my mom about everything else."

    Favorite TV show about tech? "Silicon Valley is a f—ing instant classic. I find it eerily accurate. I want them to get to the money stage so we can see how Gilfoyle acts as a billionaire. A lot of the insider quips, I think, are quite pithy and I smirk to myself with inside knowledge, so I like it a lot."

    What do you listen to on your morning commute? "This is embarrassing but I listen to hits of the '80s. A lot of New Order."

    Read more Inside Vice's New 75K-Square-Foot Headquarters in Brooklyn (Photos)

  23. 3

    Bobby Kotick

    $430 million in global box office for Warcraft

    After 25 years at the helm of Santa Monica video gaming juggernaut Activision Blizzard, the 53-year-old billionaire — who counts DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg as a close friend — finally is launching the company's own studio. Kotick tapped producer Stacey Sher (The Hateful Eight) and former Disney business development exec Nick van Dyk to run Activision Studios, which will adapt some of the company's biggest games for the screen, starting with an animated series based on Skylanders. (Activision already has inked a two-season deal with Netflix to stream the show.) An adaptation of Call of Duty surely is in the works, even if Universal's big-budget adaptation of the company's other cash cow, Warcraft, bombed in the U.S. before scoring big overseas.

    Next up: Making a push into the e-sports arena with the help of former ESPN CEO Steve Bornstein.

  24. 2

    Jimmy Iovine

    250 million streams in five days for Drake's Views

    How did Taylor Swift, who yanked her entire catalog from Spotify, end up in ads for its biggest rival? Credit Iovine, 63, the record label mogul turned Culver City-based head honcho at Apple Music, whose relationships with the industry allowed him to negotiate a deal with the pop superstar. Iovine's chumminess with artists also has helped Apple's year- old streaming service, which has 15 million subscribers, land exclusive content from Swift, Future, The 1975 and Drake (whose album Views was available solely on Apple Music during its first week of release) as well as interviews on its Beats 1 radio station.

    Next up: A new interface to better lure iPhone users.

  25. 1

    Evan Spiegel and Nick Bell

    $18 billion valuation after a May funding round

    In four years, Spiegel, 26, has turned an app once blamed for sexting (we hear) into one of today's most feared and coveted platforms. Since launching Stories, which allows users to create a feed of videos and photos for its followers, and Live Stories, a curated collection of posts, Venice's Snapchat has become an online behemoth, with 8 billion video views a day and more than 100 million daily active users. Meanwhile, former News Corp. exec Bell, 32, presides over Discover, a platform for publishers like BuzzFeed and CNN that is working hard to position Snapchat at the forefront of the future of media.

    Next up: Taking a not-so-subtle jab at Facebook with Memories, a new feature for saving and sharing old snaps.

    The most analog thing about my life: Bell: "I much prefer face-to-face conversations and phone calls to emails."

    What do you listen to on your morning commute? Bell: "I'm already on a work call by the time I make my morning commute!"

    Power lunch spot: Bell: "I am from the U.K. originally and there is a proper London boozer called the Lamb & Flag in Covent Garden, once known for bare-knuckle fights and allegedly a favored drinking spot for Charles Dickens. That's definitely a favorite."