In the vast world of business, people are either entrepreneurs or want-repreneurs. Such is the view at Business Rockstars, the largest producer of live daily video and audio content focusing on and targeted toward today’s business leaders.
“Our rockstars are the people who are thinking big, making the big deals, and disrupting their respective industries,” said Business Rockstars co-founder and host Ken Rutkowski. Adds Steve Lehman: “The new rockstar of today doesn’t play guitar or drums. It’s Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk, and Mark Cuban. The new rockstar is a business rockstar!”
Rutkowski and Steve Lehman have spent the past two-and-a-half years growing a footprint for the brand that now brings together some of the world’s biggest, most accomplished CEOs, startups, and entrepreneurs. It all started when Lehman got in touch with the program director at local CBS affiliate KFWB, with whom he did business when he ran Premiere Networks. Lehman founded the company, previously known as Premiere Radio Networks, in 1987, serving as chairman and CEO. He sold the company to Jacor / Clear Channel Communications in 1997 for $190mm.
KFWB initially agreed to live stream the first Business Rockstars entrepreneurial business show and later extended an invitation for it to air on weekends. Today Business Rockstars content airs nationally in 140 radio markets, live streamed video, and multiple social media platforms. Airings take place from 10 a.m. to noon PST each weekday from studios in Santa Monica. The cumulative audience for the show is approximately one million listeners-viewers.
“Ted [Turner] would say, ‘I look at TV like it’s a cow. We’re going to make all sorts of money on that cow—every piece, including the moo.’ That’s the same thing I look at with the Business Rockstars Opportunity.”
Lehman and Rutkowski have welcomed two personal friends and business associates to Business Rockstars, industry veterans Thom Beers, board member and CEO of FremantleMedia (which produces American Idol, America’s Got Talent, and Deadliest Catch) and Andy Schuon, co-founder of Revolt TV with Sean “Diddy” Combs, who headed programming at both MTV and VH1 and helped globalize the brand. Beers and Schuon both became investors in the company while strengthening the team’s powerful chemistry as successful content media executives.
Beers, who will be leaving his post at Fremantle at the end of August, credits media mogul Ted Turner with expanding his vision in the industry. “Ted would say, ‘I look at TV like it’s a cow,’” he recalls. “We’re going to make all sorts of money on that cow—every piece, including the moo.’ That’s the same thing I look at with the Business Rockstars opportunity. There is a strong opportunity there for us to create an integrated product.”
Lehman was inspired to create Business Rockstars after accepting an invitation to speak at a Media Entertainment Technology Alpha Leaders (METal) International event. While interacting with dynamic leaders of the organization, for which Rutkowski is founder and CEO, he saw the opportunity to become a “connector,” bridging the gap between today’s budding entrepreneurs and established executives.
The brand now enjoys 380,000 Twitter and 320,000 Facebook followers, as well as more than 300,000 readers of the brand’s newsletter, which is sent out thrice weekly. The show offers two hours of daily live content plus post production, webinars, podcasts, and Video Minutes that appear daily on Yahoo. Digital connections include iHeart, TuneIn, Slacker, iTunes, businessrockstars.com, and live video streaming on YouTube.
This year the company signed a new deal with CBS radio to air its daily minutes on major market radio stations in the country. CBS is also anticipated to act as the brand’s promotional event partner for four upcoming major events.
“Build the race car first, then find a driver who can get into the seat,” Lehman said of his experience building a platform for the show, which ran live and local during its first year. “Right now Business Rockstars is producing more live entrepreneurial content than anybody in America,” he adds. “We are the biggest content producers for entrepreneurial business, and this is the vertical that we are focusing on.”
Though the company is a self-funded venture, the next challenge for its founders is to generate revenue through a sales model that will support growing platforms and content. Business Rockstars is planning to include events, products, and expanding audio and video distribution across Over the Top (OTT) mediums such as Apple TV and Roku. Since OTTs’ only requirement is Internet connectivity, the show is expected to grow its viewership, and thus, intrinsic value.
“The new rockstar of today doesn’t play guitar or drums. It’s Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk, and Mark Cuban. The new rockstar is the business rockstar!”
“As content creators, we have a great base built to launch other entrepreneur-related shows,” Lehman said. “As we expand, it will be with the voice of women entrepreneurs, millennial entrepreneurs in all sectors of startup and entrepreneurial business.”
Business Rockstars’ success as a start-up can be attributed to the fact that experienced executives were already embedded in its fabric. Lehman has been CEO of both NASDAQ and NYSE companies. Rutkowski is a “super-connector” who was technology host at CNET, has served as an intelligence analyst for the Oprah Winfrey Network, and is a board member of TEDx San Francisco.
A regular feature on the show is thinkThin Products founder Lizanne Falsetto who hosts a Business Rockstars women’s segment. Other guests have included LegalZoom Chairman and Co-founder Brian Liu, Nolan Bushnell (founder and CEO of Atari and Chuck E. Cheese), Scott Painter (CEO of TrueCar), Blake Mycoskie (founder, Tom’s Shoes), Pernille Lopez (former CEO IKEA North America), Jane Wurwand (CEO, Dermalogica), Scott Flanders (CEO, Playboy Enterprises), Bob McKnight (Chairman, Quiksilver), and Kimbal Musk (wife of Elon Musk).
“We really launched [Business Rockstars] as a passion,” Lehman says, adding that he and Rutkowski wanted to engage their key entrepreneurial contacts. Topics covered include everything from starting, growing, and funding a company, to on-air mentoring, pitching an idea, and learning from the successes and failures of some of the greatest CEOs in America.
“I always ask people, ‘What is your speed to cool, in 10 seconds?’” Rutkowski said. “It’s getting people to condense their cool factor – what they did, and how they did it. That really resonates with everyone, being able to find out what makes that person or their company cool in a matter of moments.”
And what is Business Rockstars’ speed to cool? Lehman sums it up succinctly. “Creating a connected entrepreneurial community driven through broadcasting, mobile, and social.”