Cory Booker’s Start-Up Still Soliciting Investors As He Runs For Senate

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Waywire, a small video aggregation website, continues to court potential investors even as its most famous co-founder, Newark, N.J. Mayor Cory Booker, runs for an all-but-assured seat in the U.S. Senate.

Booker, who won the New Jersey Senate Democratic primary on Tuesday, has said that if he is elected he will step down from the company’s board and put his holdings in a public trust. But in the meantime, a company spokesperson told TPM on Wednesday, Waywire is still looking for funding much as it did before Booker got in the race.

“It’s been the same,” Waywire spokesperson Michele Clarke said, when asked to describe Booker’s participation in the company’s latest funding round, which began last year and is ongoing.

Booker’s role in the company — he recently disclosed that his stake in Waywire was worth between $1 million and $5 million — was spotlighted in a New York Times front-page story last week. The article detailed how the company raised $1.75 million last year thanks to Booker’s network of powerful friends and supporters, including Oprah Winfrey, Google’s Eric Schmidt, and LinkedIn cofounder Reid Hoffman.

Set up in March 2012 by Booker and two tech world executives, Nathan Richardson and Sarah Ross, Waywire bills itself as a place to “discover the best video from across the web via the sources you choose and trust.” Booker told the Times that it had not been difficult to raise the money “because of the power of the idea,” but the young company has already had to lay off at least eight workers and give up its office space in Manhattan.

As a privately held company, Waywire does not disclose financial details, and the company’s spokesperson declined to tell TPM how much money the company had raised in the ongoing round or from whom the investments had come. But she did say it was wrong to suggest that Booker had raised the company’s first $1.75 million all by himself.

“All three of the cofounders work together,” Clarke said, referring to the company’s fundraising. “There’s two ways it happens. One is that people approach the company. And that happens, and that continues to happen. Unsolicited. And then the other way is that there would be people in their professional networks, all three of them, who they may make an introduction for the other cofounders.”

TPM asked Clarke if Booker had been involved in presentations to potential investors since kicking off his Senate campaign this June. Clarke said that “discussions are ongoing with people,” but that she did not believe Booker had been involved in any meetings since he formally began to run.

“I know that the co-founder who is the CEO has done a couple of meetings, and I know that the co-founder who is the chief marketing officer has done a couple of meetings,” Clarke said. “But I don’t know about [Booker].”

Clarke told TPM she would confirm whether or not Booker had met with potential investors since his campaign began. But minutes later, she called back to criticize TPM’s use of the word “ridiculous” in the headline of Tuesday’s story about Booker and Waywire. She subsequently sent TPM an email detailing “the success points that #waywire is experiencing.”

“To folks who understand the economics and progression of start-ups and early-stage companies, this is strong progress,” Clarke wrote.

Clarke pointed out that the company is still in beta testing, that it has created a proprietary technology allowing users to “assemble video collections using videos from anywhere on the Web,” and that the website’s number of registered users is up to 29,000.

“So thanks in advance for removing the word ‘ridiculous’ from the headline, as it is inaccurate and has no basis in fact or support from the content in your post,” Clarke wrote.

Clarke did not respond before publication time to TPM’s questions about Booker’s attendance at meetings with potential investors. In response to similar questions from TPM, the Booker Senate campaign sent the following statement:

“Mayor Booker has no day-to-day responsibilities with #waywire. He does have occasional discussion with the management team, Board and existing investors, consistent with his role as a co-founder.”

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