Damian Pelliccione — CEO of Revry on Launching a Queer TV Streamer, 4x Founder Diversity, and Grassroots Power

June 24, 2021 by  Chris Erwin

Today we publish our 13th podcast episode.

This interview features Damian Pelliccione, co-founder and CEO of Revry, the first global LGBTQ+ streaming TV network.

I first met Damian at one of my executive dinners in LA, where he sat directly across from me. I’ll always remember how he completely lit up our end of the table — I’ve met few people with such charisma, charm and ambition. This epsidoe has been a long time coming, and I’m thrilled I get to share his and Revry’s story during Pride month.

We discuss saying no to his family cheese business, being an early expert in live video for car shows, launching the 1st Queer streamer network from his living room, how a delayed mortgage and the launch of QueerX festival almost bankrupt the company, the power of grassroots marketing during SF Pride, how diversity inclusion starts with ownership, and changing the narrative for the Queer community.

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Interview Transcript

The interview was lightly edited for clarity.

 

Chris Erwin:

Damian, thanks for being on the podcast.

 

Damian Pelliccione:

Thanks so much, Chris, for having me. It’s exciting to be here.

 

Chris Erwin:

Awesome. Let’s rewind a bit. Why don’t you tell me about where you grew up and what your household was like.

 

Damian Pelliccione:

Yeah, so I grew up actually in Canada. I’m from Toronto, a suburb of Toronto actually called Unionville, which is a small town, colonial, turn of the century, Victorian home that I grew up that was built in the later 1800s. It was a wonderful place to grow up because it was extremely multicultural. There was definitely not one of anything in terms of race and culture. Ironically enough, even though my family is extremely Italian, my father was actually born in Italy and immigrated at six years old to escape World War II. He was the youngest of six. Both my nonna and nonno, which is Italian for grandmother and grandfather-

 

Chris Erwin:

Oh, I’m Italian as well.

 

Damian Pelliccione:

Really?

 

Chris Erwin:

My mother was born in Italy, in Trieste, on what used to be the Yugoslavian border. I know nonna and pop pop. That’s my grandparents.

 

Damian Pelliccione:

Parli Italiano?

 

Chris Erwin:

No. My mom spoke Italian growing up, and spoke it with my grandmother, but never taught the children. To this day, we always give my mom crap about that.

 

Damian Pelliccione:

[inaudible 00:03:33]. This is where my talking with my hands, that is completely my Italian [crosstalk 00:03:39].

 

Chris Erwin:

It’s all coming together now.

 

Damian Pelliccione:

All coming together, yeah. My family, my dad, was from [inaudible 00:03:46], which is in the [inaudible 00:03:49] province of Abruzzo. Unfortunately it was ravaged by a massive earthquake in the early 2000s. Since recovered, but we still have family there. I have cousins actually there. My dad… cross section of Damian is my dad was the entrepreneur in the family. Him and my uncle started the family business, which is huge in Canada. We’re, I think in the top five biggest Italian cheese distributors to Canada.

 

Chris Erwin:

Wow.

 

Damian Pelliccione:

They obviously distribute to the United States as well. They built that from scratch, my dad and my uncle, and now all my cousins run the company. I had no interest in selling cheese.

 

Chris Erwin:

Was the opportunity was available to you and you were just like, “Ah, pass”?

 

Damian Pelliccione:

Of course. In a big Italian family, the opportunity was given to me and my sister. Both of us past. My sister, Kelly, was definitely going into a different sector than sales and cheese distribution. It’s ironic, because I’m in distribution, but I’m more on the film and TV side of distribution, not the food side of distribution. Definitely was very inspired by my father, who was a tremendous salesman, and an entrepreneur who ran his own businesses and obviously started the big family business with my uncle.

 

Damian Pelliccione:

Then, ironically enough, my mother is also Italian, but she is third generation. Her and her parents were born in Canada. Her grandparents were born in Italy, a different part of Italy, too. Calabria, which is the heel of Italy, just across from Sicily. It’s a little bit different in terms of Italian traditions between the two families, but obviously my mom and my dad are wonderful people. My mother was a politician. She was chairman of the Catholic school board. So was my father, actually, before my mother was. She ran the race relations committee in our city where we grew up. You can see, my mother was a politician, and my father, the entrepreneur, and out comes Damian.

 

Chris Erwin:

Yeah, I was going to say, I was like, it makes total sense because I think about, you’re the ultimate showmen. You have incredible charisma. I remember that from when we first met at one of our executive dinners. Then the entrepreneurial bend, now I know where that comes from. Yeah, totally get it now.

 

Damian Pelliccione:

One of the biggest things, you know Toronto. Most of my family lives in Woodbridge, or Vaughan, which is extremely Italian, predominantly Italian. My mother and my father were very much, this is instilled in me and my sister growing up, about being respectful and understanding and learning about all races, religions, and cultures and walks of life. They chose Unionville, which is a part of town where it was very eclectic. I had friends from all over the world, whose families were immigrants from all over the world. I had so many different cultural upbringings. My parents even made me and my sister, even though I was raised Catholic… I’m not very practicing myself. I consider myself Agnostic, but made us go to all the different: Hindu, Jewish, Islam, all the different sects to see what that religion could provide.

 

Chris Erwin:

Would you actually go to their places of worship?

 

Damian Pelliccione:

Yeah. I went once or twice to multiple places of worship my mother would take me and my sister to because she wanted us to experience everybody. I think that is where, at least for me, it was instilled at a very young age, were authenticity, diversity, and inclusion, before it was even a thing. This is the late 80s, early 90s. I’m 40 years old now. That was always a part of my upbringing. I think it’s ironic where you have a mother politician, father, entrepreneur, and very inclusive family in terms of how we were raised and outcomes Damian and Revry.

 

Chris Erwin:

Your mother was super ahead of the times giving you exposure to these different religions and different cultures early on. I get that. I see that as a seed for what you’re doing for the overall queer community, trying to drive awareness and inclusion and change the message around queer culture. I think that’s brilliant.

 

Chris Erwin:

I think that you are involved in the dramatic arts and the school for film and TV at an early age as well. Was this something that came out in your teen years, or before then? When did that start to be?

 

Damian Pelliccione:

I was a scene stealer before I was even five years old. I think my performance started at family functions where I have some cousins, and we’re all born the same year. I would direct and create the family productions. The kids would get together and we would put on some kind of a show, where it was a musical number, a comedy, or whatever. We would perform for the whole family in the living room. I did this growing up, I think until the time I was 10 or 12 years old. We made that a fun family activity. Of course that led me into being an actor, and I started with community theater, just like anyone else does in Unionville or Markham, Ontario, where I’m from.

 

Damian Pelliccione:

From there, I auditioned for the Arts York program, which is part of Unionville High School. Unionville High School ironically enough had this arts program that was to take kids from all over the region, so not just by town, but other surrounding townships who specialize in music or dance, or visual arts, or drama. I was accepted to the drama program and had the most amazing inspirational teachers. These folks are still family members of mine. They inspired me in so many ways to stay in the arts and stay in drama. My passion when I was a teenager and into my early 20s was to be an actor. That’s what led me to New York City. I got into the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, and graduated from that program in 2001.

 

Damian Pelliccione:

Then 9/11 happened, and I had already booked a gig in Los Angeles. I was going to do this actor showcase for agents and managers and casting directors. I had a really good friend, one of my good friends from high school, is Hayden Christiansen, who is, as you know, Darth Vader. Hayden, like, come to LA, you should come to LA. I came to LA. Did the showcase, stayed on his couch I think for one or two nights and at a hotel and with other friends. Before the end of the week, I had been booked. I had been booked on a short. Got a commercial agent, got a theatrical agent.

 

Chris Erwin:

Okay, interjection. Along this journey, was your family supportive, or were they increasingly questioning, like, Damian, we have ae family cheese business, why are you not involved? Everyone else is here, what are you doing?

 

Damian Pelliccione:

No, they’ve been supportive the whole way through of my career. I am very lucky and blessed. They’ve been supportive of me, as a queer man, and they also have been supportive of Chris and I, my partner. They’ve been extremely supportive of my career. They knew, I think, what they were getting into at an early age, that this was pathway, was to be in entertainment. They helped my entire journey, both financially… I was very lucky, and I’m blessed that I had that opportunity. And even my immigration to the United States, because remember, I’m not an American citizen. I am now. I only became an American citizen three years ago now. They have been extremely supportive of my career the entire time, and supporting me early on and when I was in college, obviously financially, and then also with my move to Los Angeles. And then from there, I did what every other actor does. I waited tables for probably almost 10 years.

 

Chris Erwin:

You’re at Hayden Christiansen’s, on his couch, and then all of a sudden you start getting booked. You get an agent, so you’re like, okay, this is happening for me. My career is taking off, right?

 

Damian Pelliccione:

Here’s what’s funny. After I finished school in New York, which is a two year program at ADA, I made a deal with my parents. I had been accepted to Concordia University in Montreal for philosophy, which ironically enough I had failed in high school. I’m like this is kind of funny that they accepted me for philosophy. I packed up my apartment in New York. This is, again, a month after 9/11. The decision was if I don’t book an agent or manager or things don’t start to feel like they’re going to pick up in Los Angeles, then I’ll go to Montreal, and I’ll tell the movers to take my stuff to Montreal, or take my stuff to Los Angeles.

 

Damian Pelliccione:

I got lucky. They took my stuff to Los Angeles, and that was October of 2001. It was a crazy time to be in Hollywood. It was an exciting time to be 20 years old and moving to LA, and just hitting the ground running. I think one of the biggest things is that I’ve always had commitment to everything that I do, good or bad. I think that that has been my greatest life lesson. It was an exciting time. It was back when there was still pilot season, and you test for pilots. I tested for a bunch of pilots, and back when the casting process wasn’t about your Instagram influence or your Facebook, or your YouTube. It was well before all those times. It was the old school… I think I even still have my black and white, 8 x 10 head shots that they had from that era. It was an exciting time.

 

Damian Pelliccione:

Look, when you’re 20 years old, and I was also coming out at the time as gay and queer, it was a great place to be for me, both professionally and socially.

 

Chris Erwin:

In terms of pursuing your career, where do you start to hone in, which is like okay, of all the different types of acting or genre or projects that I can do, where were you starting to lean into more?

 

Damian Pelliccione:

Like I was saying, my early 20s was all about acting. I auditioned for a bunch of things, worked with agencies. My biggest booking to date was the Gilmore Girls. I actually had one pretty big scene with Alexis Bledel, and a character whose name was Lance. It was season five. I still have… well people and friends and family who watch it on Netflix, marathon watch it. They’re like, “Oh my God.” They’ll screenshot it with their phone and send me a text. I still get residual checks from that show, because it’s such a legacy project, right? It was wonderful to do that. I had done a bunch of independent. I had done a bunch of commercials. I had a pretty decent resume as an actor, but then the writer’s strike happened in 2009, and it changed.

 

Damian Pelliccione:

That’s when there was a dramatic shift. My roommate at the time, Deanna Nicole Baxter, who is a true inspiration of mine, had started to create a web series. This is 2006. Remember for context, YouTube launched in 2005, 2006.

 

Chris Erwin:

Is this like lonelygirl around that time, too?

 

Damian Pelliccione:

Before.

 

Chris Erwin:

Before, wow.

 

Damian Pelliccione:

This is [inaudible 00:13:44] 88, which won the first daytime technical Emmy for best broadband drama. I saw Deanna do it, and I was completely inspired by her commitment for work and the team that she had. I was like, oh, she can do it, I can do it. I’m always inspired by other people. I surrounded myself with amazing like-minded friends who I still have today, who have always been supportive. We’ve always supported each other’s work along the way. This is my chosen family, as we say in the gay community. It’s also, we need to inspire each other to push ourselves to do more. Deanna was one of those, and still today, is a big inspiration for how I lead. Seeing her win the first ever Emmy, was, hey, if she can do it, I’m going to do it. I created a web series vehicle for myself, called Homolebrity.

 

Chris Erwin:

Wait, hold on. Wait, hold on. Homolebrity?

 

Damian Pelliccione:

Homolebrity, yeah. It’s not a very PC name for today, but the idea was to play off the reality boom at the time, and queer celebrity and the reality boom. I remember I was pitching it to Logo, which had just launched as well in 2007 in hopes that we’d get our own TV deal. Bright eyes, big hopes. The whole thing was, regardless of it just going to the web, we did it. We did another one. We did a superhero fantasy show called [inaudible 00:15:04]. We just, I kept producing and producing and producing, and eventually I wasn’t putting myself in it, because people are like, “Oh, you’re a great producer.”

 

Chris Erwin:

Were you self distributing, or were you distributing through third-parties?

 

Damian Pelliccione:

Oh yeah. No, we were self distributing, just like everybody else. You would call it, I guess user generated content, but we were doing it on a bigger scale and a lot more scripted. It was a really exciting time, and I just got really good at producing. Here’s where the transition happened, and I transitioned out of being an actor and being a producer. I produced for other people, and more projects.

 

Damian Pelliccione:

I started our own little production company. I remember my first office, which is right at 5th and Spring, because I had a loft in downtown. This is now, cut to 2007-2008. I had a couple of friends. One was an editor and a shooter. The other one was a producer as well. We had this office that was 150 square feet, one room, [inaudible 00:15:58], and three desks. We were like, we’re going to be a production company. We just started producing stuff. We produced things for broadband TV and we produced things for YouTube. Some of them we got paid for, and some of them we didn’t. We produced Illeana Douglas with Easy to Assemble. I think it was her second or third season. It was a lot of folks who were, they saw and recognized our skillset for user generated content and specifically the web. That was our first office.

 

Chris Erwin:

You transitioned from an actor to a producer. Then you’re having more and more projects. Some you’re getting paid for. Where do you think this is headed? In this moment when you’re like, I’m on my way to be a film producer.

 

Damian Pelliccione:

That was literally what I was thinking. I’m like, I’m on my way to be a film producer, and I love the journey, and I love production. Even just now, I produced something in house for us last week and every time I get to be on set it reminds me about my passion for even just being a producer and how much fun it is. Then afterwards, we did this for awhile and produced a whole bunch of work, a lot of editorial content, broadband TV, when broadband had been around different areas and different cities.

 

Damian Pelliccione:

You could bid for different stories or pitch them stories, very much like a newsroom. That was really exciting. We did a bunch of different op ed pieces and exciting pieces. We even, I remember covering the… this is so funny. I was covering Prop 8 in the 2008 elections, the proposition for equality marriage. There was this big rally in downtown Los Angeles, and it was a lot of Yes on 8, and for context, Yes on 8 was you’re anti gay marriage. No on 8 was you’re pro gay marriage. I was at a Yes on 8 rally, and I thought I was undercover. I was with my friend, Logan, who produced a show called The Yellow Mic. I was interviewing people and asking them questions about why are you voting yes, and tell us your theories, and collecting the other side of the story, which is really interesting.

 

Damian Pelliccione:

Then all of a sudden, the police are like, “We’re going to put up blockades in the No on 8 people.” They stopped the intersection and there was Yes on 8, No on 8 people across the aisle yelling and screaming and holding up their signage and marching. All of a sudden, Sacha Baren Cohen shows up. He did a film where he was the gay character. He shows up. No one knows who he is, and we were the only who had cameras. I’m like, “Oh my God, that’s Sacha Baren Cohen.” We got him doing it. We were the only ones with cameras. I remember the next morning we sold it to the news and TMZ. That was my foray into being a paparazzi, which was kind of exciting. It ran on, I think KTLA even and TMZ the next day.

 

Chris Erwin:

Oh wow. Where does this lead you, Damian? You’re being opportunistic. What’s the next major step as you’re working your way to eventually be the founder of Revry?

 

Damian Pelliccione:

The next step was I worked at Dogma Studios, [inaudible 00:18:41] who was my CEO there saw something in me. Started producing a lot of great content, did stuff with Taylor Dane, Taylor [inaudible 00:18:48] who has since passed, and some great comedians. Dogma, of course, happened during the recession in 2009. I only got to be there for a year, and Scott cut our department. But Scott’s like, “Hey, we have this great space. Do something with it.” The next thing that I created was with Deanna, which was web TV workshop, which was literally, we’re like, hey, what do people do in a recession? They go back to learning new skills. We created our own, tried to produce content for the web with an Emmy award winning actress, writer, director, Deanna Nicole Baxter, and Damian Pelliccione, entrepreneur and web producer as well.

 

Chris Erwin:

Was it an early master class, like you sold these as tutorial videos?

 

Damian Pelliccione:

Not even videos. We did videos a year later, but we were doing it brick and mortar, where on Tuesday nights every week, or Tuesday/Thursday nights, and we had [inaudible 00:19:36] speak and then [inaudible 00:19:38] speak. [inaudible 00:19:38] we had speakers… like lonelygirl from [inaudible 00:19:41]. Everybody, they all come and speak in the class and we would have different topics ranging from production, all the way to the distribution and understanding the technology and YouTube. It was an eight week course. We were packed. We were full. We did that for a year, and then we created an online version, which now you can still on [inaudible 00:19:58], which was shot, I think in 2000, oh my God, ’10 or ’11. They still use it on their website. Yeah, it was an exciting time, and that took us into technology.

 

Damian Pelliccione:

From there, just to bridge the gap to Revry, Deanna and I were approached an Israeli casting startup called Audish, which was a self casting website, because now we’re going into the world of not having to do self casting, which is now the norm, and shooting yourself and making sure it’s all final. I was head of business development and user experience. Deanna was head of sales and marketing.

 

Chris Erwin:

Is this the first time that you’re working for somebody else, or a startup? Because before it’s like these are your own projects.

 

Damian Pelliccione:

Yeah, Dogma was, they were more of a post house, and I worked for them. They were established. They were not a startup, but yes, this was the first time working for a startup. It was Audish. It was super fun. We’d work at the founder’s house in West Hollywood in the Hills, and we were this small team. We just loved it. Then from there we got approached by another startup, which was kind of doing something similar, another Israeli casting startup called eTribez which still exists. Then from there, I got approached by Chevy and Cadillac to do auto shows, both domestic and abroad. In the auto shows I was doing, I was product present. They put me on stage on what those rotating stages to talk about the cars.

 

Chris Erwin:

How did they find you? How did Chevy and Cadillac say, “We think Damian’s going to be a great showman to sell our cars?” How does that come to be?

 

Damian Pelliccione:

I had a friend who worked for the agency, and the agency saw some of my work and said, “Hey do you want to do this?” I’m like, “Hell yeah, I get to travel the country.” It was good pay. Then through that work, I suggested, “Hey, you know what you should do? Put a camera up connected to your GM website.” Then all of a sudden it became this whole big thing about streaming these presentations. I was the first one to suggest this. This is 2013. You got 250,000 people coming through the Chicago Auto Show or the Detroit Auto Show. Put a camera in front of it and show the rest of the world what’s happening here. That was huge. Then from there, they sent me to Geneva. They’re like, “Oh, can you go do this for Cadillac in Geneva?” I’m like, “Sure, yeah. Why not? I’ve never been to Switzerland.” I did it for a year. It was really exciting. GM is super, super corporate. I’ll leave it at that.

 

Damian Pelliccione:

Then I found myself back in startup. The startup that I ended up leaving GM and Cadillac for was a German streaming company called Make.TV. I promise, this is the last one before I get to Revry. I’m giving you my entire resume right now.

 

Chris Erwin:

No, it’s a great story.

 

Damian Pelliccione:

Make.TV, which has since been acquired by LTM group, I was head of VD for North America. Then someone got pregnant in Germany and they get a four year option. They gave me Globe. During my time there, I created a partnership with YouTube Space LA in New York. I actually trained creators at Space LA and Space New York on how to use this proved technology. It was a proven vendor of YouTube on how to stream live, and using multi cam and all that great stuff. I really got my feet wet with SaaS, and SaaS tech ed. I knew everybody in the YouTube market, all the influencers, all the execs, all the players, all the Space people in New York and LA, even in Space Dubai and Space Japan. It was really cool. They sent me all over the world. I went to Dubai for [inaudible 00:23:08]. I went to Singapore for broadcast Asia. Of course I was always at IBC in Amsterdam. I always at NAB here in Vegas. I went to all the entertainment tech shows and met everybody, and really understood the technology in a way and where it was going.

 

Damian Pelliccione:

I did that with Make.TV up until 2016, so almost three years, two and a half years.

 

Chris Erwin:

Were you developing a relationship as, okay, Damian is one of the preeminent digital producers, also with a specialty in live streaming as well? That was the brand you were creating for yourself.

 

Damian Pelliccione:

And understanding the technology, first and foremost. Going to all these technical trade shows, you’re in front of all the new SaaS tech players, which used to when you went to NAB, a small section of one of the convention room floors. Now it’s multiple floors, because it’s all software. It’s no longer hardware. Software and SaaS obviously in streaming is so huge. We were very OG SaaS tech streaming technology. Definitely carved a space for my knowledge. I just love this stuff. It was combining my love of technology and producing and content and entertainment into distribution and understanding really the ins and outs of how technology effectuates the consumer experience, and how that was my vision of how that would shift. Of course all of the things I thought of back then are all now definitely coming true today, or are already at fruition.

 

Chris Erwin:

Hey, listeners. This is Chris Erwin, your host of The Come Up. I have a quick ask for you. If you dig what we’re putting down, if you like the show, if you like our guests, it would really mean a lot if you can give us a rating wherever you listen to our show. It helps other people discover our work, and it also really supports what we do here. All right, that’s it everybody. Let’s get back to the interview.

 

Chris Erwin:

Damian, I think next up is that you found Revry with three other co-founders. Tell me about that.

 

Damian Pelliccione:

Ironically enough, I was in Germany prepping for IBC in Amsterdam. I only speak a few words in German, and there’s nothing to watch. There’s not that much English content on TV that was in my hotel room. I watched the Apple broadcast every September, and then even when it was… before I’d even watch it every September when they had the new product launches with Steve Jobs, who’s a hero of mine.

 

Damian Pelliccione:

I saw the announcement of the Apple TV, and specifically TV OS, the new operating system. I was like, wow, this is going to be huge. This is going to change TV. I see something here. I want to build something. I was inspired to do something. Of course, I didn’t know what right away, right? It hadn’t dawned on me.

 

Damian Pelliccione:

Cut to November, around Thanksgiving of 2015. When Chris, my partner, broke his iPhone, the glass on the iPhone. You used to go to the Apple store and they’d fix it there for you. Apple Care. I was playing a new Apple TV, and Alia, who is now my co-founder and our COO, she had gotten it in October when it came out. She’s like, “It’s super cool. You should get it. You should get it.”

 

Damian Pelliccione:

I bought it, and you install it on your TV at home, and you search for apps, just like when you get an iPhone that’s blank, of apps that are of interest to you. I searched lesbian, gay, bi, trans, queer. Nothing came up. I was like, ding. The light bulb went off. I was like, this is it. We’re going to create the first LGBTQ streaming network. I had Alia, LaShawn and Chris in my living. I said, “I have this idea. What do you guys think?” They were like, “Yeah, let’s do it. We’re all in.”

 

Chris Erwin:

That just sounds so easy, because many people will say, “Oh yeah, I was recruiting them and they had different jobs, and someone just had a baby. They have financial obligations.” But you guys, you’re sitting in a room. You tell them the idea, and they’re like, “Yeah, let’s do it.”

 

Damian Pelliccione:

I think everyone, besides… I’m just an entrepreneur who’s crazy and has all the ideas. One of out of ten works. This is the one that’s worked the biggest, in the biggest way. Alia wanted to be in entertainment. She was an attorney, went to law school with Chris. Her background is more small business and startup and employment law. I think she was over working at the firm she was at.

 

Damian Pelliccione:

LaShawn, besides being an Army veteran, woman of color like Alia, she is a graduate of the American Film Institute for editorial. She knows all the editorial, and she’s our Chief Product Officer, is amazing at what she does in terms of spinning up channels. She was working on a freelance project, editing a film at the time. She was ready for the next big challenge.

 

Damian Pelliccione:

Chris, who was I think the most interesting story, he was the attorney for Shark Tank, and even worked on People’s Choice awards. That was his biggest legal job. Prior to that he was at Original Productions doing a lot of the reality TV production contractions. When you’re on a studio like that, it’s not necessarily the most exciting thing. Depending on who your bosses were at the time… that’s all I’m going to say about that. They’re not necessarily the nicest people to work for. He was ready for a change. He’s like, “This wasn’t what I thought it was going to be.”

 

Damian Pelliccione:

It’s also difficult when I’m the one that’s all over the place doing a whole bunch of different jobs. I’m like, “Let’s quit both of our jobs, make no money for five years, and start this startup.” Chris will tell you, it’s the greatest decision he’s ever made his entire life, the same with Alia and LaShawn. What we have built and what we have accomplished in five years consumer basing, this June, when we first started marketing our product at San Francisco Pride in 2016, drove ourselves up to SF, because gay capital of the world. Bigger Pride than Los Angeles, of course. We had a lot of friends up there that were going, so we’re like why not? It’s going to be a fun weekend. Self printed pink tshirts with a horrible old Revry logo on it. Giant postcard size fliers. I don’t know why we thought that was a good idea. We hit the streets handing out the fliers.

 

Chris Erwin:

What were you promoting?

 

Damian Pelliccione:

Download our app, download our app, download our app. Just download our app and watch some great content. For those who you know, San Francisco, everyone parties in Delores Park on the Saturday before the Sunday of the parade. We were just walking through Delores Park handing out fliers with these hideous pink tshirts, fuchsia tshirts on with the Revry logo, old school Revry logo. People are like, “Oh, what street marketing team do you work for?” I’m like, “No, that’s the CBO, that’s the CPO, that’s the COO. I’m the CEO.” They’re like, “What?” They’re like, “You must really believe in what you do.” I’m like, “No, we totally do.” We were positing it on the porta potty stalls. We were trying to stick them up to walls and on posts.

 

Damian Pelliccione:

By the end of the weekend, we ended up getting booked on Oakland News. Two days later, San Francisco News. Bay Area News.

 

Chris Erwin:

What was the reception as you were telling people in the streets in Delores Park about Revry? Did they immediately get it? Were they confused?

 

Damian Pelliccione:

They got it, and they downloaded it, and they were watching stuff. They were subscribing. Again, this is the easiest sell, because it’s queer capital of the world and San Francisco, tech capital of the world. They totally were in it to win it. I think they were just more astounded by our commitment, and that we’re doing it in a very nontraditional, grassroots way.

 

Damian Pelliccione:

By the end of that weekend, had a friend of a friend of a friend who introduced us to Mac World. He was queer. He was a writer for Mac World. He’s like, “I got to do a story on you.” He did the interview that weekend. It didn’t come out until about a month later, but once it was published, it was instantaneous downloads that rippled into 10 different languages and 100 different media publications, because Mac World is such a major player that we were the first LGBTQ TV OS app ever created for Apple TV.

 

Damian Pelliccione:

Even today, I will say we are bound to be featured again on IOS this next month in June. Everyone at Apple are big fans of Revry, and they keep featuring us, which I’m very happy about. I said it in this interview. If Tim Cook is listening, my ultimate dream is to have lunch with him in Cupertino at the Spaceship. I would fly up there in a heartbeat if he said yes. We’ll see. You never know. Dream. Dream big.

 

Chris Erwin:

I think that’s something I’ve seen in tracking your business over the last couple years since I first met you at that dinner, was that your resilience, persistence, and passion just always pays off. You’ve gotten a lot of nose in raising money and pitching partnerships, but then you call me three, six months later, and you’re like, “I ended up getting that partnership. Yeah, we just got a check. Yeah, we just closed that round.” Feels like the Tim Cook lunch in Cupertino is coming up. I’m excited to get that call from you.

 

Damian Pelliccione:

You’ll be the first one to know, for sure.

 

Chris Erwin:

You mentioned that you launched QueerX in 2016. I want to hear about that, and then there’s a pretty crazy moment in 2018 when you were running out of money. You had to do some unique financing structures to figure it out. Tell us about that.

 

Damian Pelliccione:

We’re crazy. We launched two things at the same time. The former name of it was Out Web Fest. Then we rebranded to QueerX in 2019. We launched our own festival, kind of playing off the LGBT film festival circuit, but more focused on the short form side. Digital content, shorts, music videos, things that are typically not as publicized as feature films in the LGBTQ film festival consumer markets.

 

Damian Pelliccione:

We wanted to carve out that space and really highlight these new up and coming emerging voices. The big caveat to this was this is a great way to connect, create, an experiential event, create community, and also find content for Revry. At the end of the day, this is how we even seeded our application at the early stages, because folks were excited not to play in the festival. I would say about 50-60% were also excited to license us their content. It became a tool to curate content for our platform.

 

Damian Pelliccione:

Cut to 2018, an investor didn’t write a check when we thought they were going to. That was going to be a thing that was going to float the festival. I was two weeks out from the festival, freaking out trying to figure out how to raise $10,000. I ended up getting a creative mortgage. I say that because it was a hard money loan, and not that it has interest… not terrible. I think at the time it was only 6%, but definitely-

 

Chris Erwin:

That’s pretty good for hard money.

 

Damian Pelliccione:

Yeah, definitely on the high end, but because my credit wasn’t the greatest, because when you start a business your finances drop a little bit. You’re not making as much money. You’re taking a pay cut. That was the only available loan to me, but I was able to close it quick enough to be able to float what we needed for the festival. I remember how stressful that was and tears and joy when it did all come through. That’s I think the testament to our resilience. That’s just one story. There’s multiple stories on how… not to get too down in the weeds, but how anytime we were close, and this is any startup has this problem, running out of money or close to the end of your burn or your runway, and you’re like, “Oh shit, when is the next check going to come in? Is that investor really going to come through the door and cross the line? Are we going to get the revenue we need?” These are the stressors of your first five years.

 

Damian Pelliccione:

Then eventually as time goes on and you sustain, you get… this becomes less and less of an issue. I can count at least two or three moments in time with Revry where I thought we were going to go bankrupt, or we weren’t going to be able to pay our payroll, or whatever. There is always some saving grace, whether it was my home and our mortgage, that first time, or an investor that just came out of nowhere that then we would be able to get a check from to be able to sustain the difference in what we weren’t making up in our burn for revenue. That’s been kind of our mode, that and staying lean and really understanding how to run a business and scale a business with not a lot of money. We are four minorities. We represent veteran, LGBTQ, Latina, African American women, immigrant. I do consider myself non-binary.

 

Chris Erwin:

Just to be clear, these are the four co-founders of Revry. I think it’s the most diverse founding team that I’ve ever worked with or been exposed to.

 

Damian Pelliccione:

That’s our superhero strength. Because we represent so many different cultural, racial, sexual identities, gender identities and backgrounds, I think is a testament to our resilience, our skillset, and our ability to move at a really fast pace. We even got knocked in the beginning from being four co-founders. They’re like, “It’s never going to work. Someone’s going to drop out. Something’s not going to happen,” whatever. It’s like being in a rock band, I always say. It’s like if you can get past your first few years, you probably can sustain.

 

Damian Pelliccione:

Alia, LaShawn, Chris, and I are very close. We even have founders night out once a month, just social time for the four of us. We support each other in every possible way of our business. I am saying, I proved all the nay sayers wrong that no, you can have four co-founders. You can diversity and inclusion. We believe that diversity and inclusion starts, authentic leadership starts from ownership. That’s why we’re four equal co-founders. No one owns any more equity than the next person. We leave from that pillar when I’m talking to a tech partner or a vendor, when I’m talking to a content creator, filmmaker, or distribution company. When we’re talking to, even advertisers, like Lexus or [inaudible 00:35:53] who we work with, the main pillar and mission with our company is true reflection, authenticity, and diversity, and inclusion within our community.

 

Damian Pelliccione:

Because the great thing about being LGBTQ or queer, we like to add queer. We’re adopting unapologetically queer, is that you’re not one race. You’re not one gender. You’re not one sexual orientation. You’re not one cultural background. You’re not one language. Queer exists all over the world. This is a really exciting moment for us, and the rest of the world, and the entertainment business to be embracing what we’re doing with Revry in such a big way where we’ve got some pretty big wins coming down the pipeline which we’ll have announcements for in Pride month in June.

 

Chris Erwin:

Which leads to the next question of what is next for Revry? Now that you’ve been doing this, I think you said, for the past five years that you’ve now been officially consumer facing, right, with the product in the market, tell us how many different apps, how much programming do you have? Let’s fast forward three to five years out. Where are you headed?

 

Damian Pelliccione:

Yeah, so right now Revry is available in over 280 million households and devices. That is our reach. This is our sweat equity over the last three years, and really understanding the market and the differential between… we call ourselves a trihybrid of fast, free, ad supported streaming TV, AVOD, ad video on demand, and SVOD, subscription video on demand. We started as a subscription video on demand platform when SVOD was not as big of a thing as it was today, and building that subscription audience. That was hard. Now today, it’s super competitive and competing Disney+, Hulu, and Amazon, and Apple TV Plus, and all the ones that have way deeper pockets than I do. I think where we saw a major opportunity, which was in 2017, we started with Pluto TV, a fast channel. Revry was the first LGBTQ network on Pluto TV. Then a year later we launched on Xumo TV in 2018. We crushed it and we brought in advertisers like Lexus. They were the first advertiser. They actually unbounded us six months after we launched.

 

Damian Pelliccione:

So, launched in 2016. January 2017 I receive an email from our info at Revry.TV email from this agency that represents Lexus and asked if we did advertising. Of course we get that, we’re like, “Yes, we do.” You figure it out, because you don’t want to say no to that opportunity. Luckily we have the Pluto TV channel to be able to figure that out on, which launched the next quarter. It was great, and they’ve increased their spend year over year and we’re a major partner of Lexus, specifically in the LGBTQ space. We’re very honored to have worked with them for so long now since 2017, but we saw just based on that one advertiser and that one channel, the opportunity for having free, linear TV.

 

Damian Pelliccione:

Today it’s the cable killer. It’s fast. It’s going to overtake the market. I believe that the new cable networks are the smart TV manufacturers. The Samsung, the Vizios, the LGs, the Sonys even now are getting into this space. These are the ones that will lead the charge and why you won’t need a subscription pairage package to your teleco broadcaster like Comcast or AT&T, and what Comcast bought Xumo, and why AT&T is mostly likely going to go into facet as well, to catch up to the market.

 

Damian Pelliccione:

Cut to day, we’re on 35 fast platforms, more than half of which we are the exclusive and/or only LGBTQ provider. We are also on SVOD platforms, like Xfinity. We’re about to launch on a few other big ones coming down the pipe this summer. Our distribution footprint is so massive, and it’s not just US. We just launched May 12th with Samsung UK. We launched in a territory in March, which I can’t talk about, because we’re still in beta for that. We’re launching with Australia this week. Actually in just a few days we launch TV across Australia. Next month we’re launching in another Latin American territory. Then later on in North America, and hopefully Canada.

 

Damian Pelliccione:

It’s just been this rolling explosion of opportunity with big partners like TV and Samsung and Vizio, and really embracing what we’re doing in the content and how we’re distributing. I think the next phase, to answer the question of the business, outside of continuing to spin up channels and build more connections for our networks so now we’re not just one network, we have multiple networks… we have our North American English feed, our global English feed, our USA English feed, but we also have Revry News, the first ever LGBTQ 24/7 news network. We have OML under our Revry, which stands for Oe More Lesbian, the first ever queer women acts lesbian network, which has exploded. Revry LatinaX, the first LGBTQ Spanish language network.

 

Damian Pelliccione:

Then we have a few more announcements coming up later this year for specialty channels of language specific channels, because, again, we exist as people, LGBT people everywhere, and we’re massive underserved in the market other than the few things you can watch on Hulu, Netflix, Amazon, or whatever territory that you live in, or on YouTube. There’s no global network like Revry for our community until now.

 

Damian Pelliccione:

Really, for us, it’s taking over all those global markets and tapping into… even outside of just English speaking markets, the community in Brasil, the community in Mexico, the community in India, the community all over Europe, and very soon the community in Africa. That’s exciting to me. What’s more exciting from a social impact standpoint is we don’t have a barrier to entry. Yes, we still have our subscription product. We call it Revry Premium. That’s upgrade from our… just like Peacock, right? The idea there is that if you want greater access and no ads, you pay the subscription price. You don’t need to register to our site. You can just go on and start watching. Download the app and start watching anywhere on any device.

 

Damian Pelliccione:

The social impact site is like no matter your socioeconomic background, or where you are in the world, you can access Revry content. You as a trans person in Saudi Arabia, as a lesbian in Russia, as a gay man in South Africa can watch great, free content that is ad supported to see your story, to see yourself reflected.

 

Damian Pelliccione:

We’ve had letters from all over the world. The letter was after the Mac World article. That was from a gay man in Saudi Arabia who wrote me a message on LinkedIn of all places, from an anonymous profile saying, “I’m a queer man from Saudi Arabia. I read your Mac World article. I didn’t know really what gay meant. I’m closeted, and I now see that there are other people out there like me. Thank you for doing what you’re doing. I love this film, so and so.” That was powerful. That’s not the first. I have that framed, by the way. That message is framed and sits next to my desk, a reminder for why I do what I do every morning. When you’re creating something way bigger than yourself, it gives you so much more purpose and drive than any other job you could ever have. That, I equate to our success.

 

Damian Pelliccione:

The other opportunity that I had where I saw the impact that Revry is having as a platform was when I was in India in June of 2019. I went to Mumbai to speak at the queer film festival, KASHISH. At the opening night ceremony, they had all the guest speakers come in and just say hello and give a little insight into what their talk would be later on in the week. All these queer female filmmakers surrounded me at the after party. We had this one title called The Other Love Story by this great filmmaker, [inaudible 00:42:50] in London, about this lesbian relationship in Bangalore. It was a scripted show. We branded it as a Revry original distributed in 2017 and ’18, and it exploded, like these numbers from India, which we never expected. Again, testament to massively underserved market, but big opportunity. No one’s tapping that.

 

Damian Pelliccione:

These queer women were so excited to meet Revry, a representative from Revry, let alone the CEO. I was like, “Oh my God. I’m so excited to meet you, too. Tell me what your project is. Can I license something?” That’s where my mind goes in distribution, licensing and acquisition. This one girl’s like, “No, no, no. Damian, I want to show you something.” She pulls out her phone and shows me her Tinder. I’m like, “Why are you showing me your Tinder?” She funnels for lesbian, right? All the images in the grid were images were from The Other Love Story, our acquisition original from that territory.

 

Damian Pelliccione:

For context, we’re celebrating 50 years of Stonewall right now in the United States, but for context, they only have their stonewall moment in 2018 where they decriminalized being LGBTQ. This is a year later that I’m in that territory. For fear of discretion, for their friends, their families, their jobs, or their places that they live or worship, that’s how they identify themselves. Queer women specifically, and I started crying. I took this girl to dinner. I woke up Alia, LaShawn, and Chris in the west and was like, “Hey you have to, have to hear this story. This is huge. Everyone was crying.”

 

Damian Pelliccione:

Even when I tell this story, I still get a little emotional, but it shows the power of the impact that media and a platform like Revry can have for the greater good of our community on a global scale. I’ve been quoted saying this story and the Saudi Arabia story multiple times in the past, but I will continue to quote it on all the interviews that I do, because that is the impact that we’re having. That is the most exciting and biggest reward that I can receive as a founder.

 

Chris Erwin:

Beautifully put. Look, before we move on to the rapid fire, Damian, in terms of reward, what are the exit opportunities as you think about Revry? Where does this go? Do you just continually raise funding, or is there an exit that you’re targeting in the next two to three years? I know the common answer is heads down building, we have a lot more to do, but what are you really thinking there, you and the three other founders?

 

Damian Pelliccione:

Heads down building, we have a lot more to do for sure. A lot more that we want to do and where I’d like to take this company, and where the founders, collectively, Alia, LaShawn, Chris, and I would like to take this company. We always knew from inception that this was not an idea business. We were an acquisition. When you look at the consolidation that’s happening right now, MGM being bought by Amazon, Disney buying Discovery, I don’t think that my thesis of acquisition is going to have very much longer before we’re sucked up into a bigger machine. I wouldn’t hate that, to be honest. I don’t think any of the founders… I think we’re all excited for that opportunity once it presents itself with the right partner.

 

Damian Pelliccione:

Right now, what am I doing? We’re raising our next round. Series day is next. We’ll see where the future takes us, but there’s other conversations happening in the background. I think we’re a really hot ticket item. We are the market leader, clearly, hands down the market leader for LGBTQ end streaming. We would be a great acquisition for any of the major studios at this point. And for the right price, not just the right pice, the right upside, but more or less being able to be capitalized in a way with the powers of a bigger studio and keep running the business the way we want to, which is to focus now more into the original side of content, and to create our whole slate of content and market and distribute that. I think that is a big value proposition.

 

Damian Pelliccione:

When you look at the stuff that we’re coming out with this Pride season, I’m very proud of our slate of originals and content and shows and specials that we are about to announce just in a few days.

 

Chris Erwin:

Awesome. Last thing before I move on to rapid fire, Damian. I want to give you and the team some kudos. I remember, I threw an executive event nearby when our office was in Culver City. I think this is in the summer 2019. I did not know you, nor Revry before this. I think one of the guests that was commenting was like, “Oh, I want to bring this guy, Damian. He’s electrifying. Can I add him to the guest list?” I was like, “Sure. Let’s see.” I remember, I think there was three or four long tables. You ended up sitting directly across from me. I just remember from the moment that we sat down, you not only lit up the space between us, but the entire table. I had such a good time talking to you. I got so excited by your vision and your gumption and your energy. That kicked off us working together on a few different fronts.

 

Chris Erwin:

I remember, and I was like, this is just a show that existed for this couple hours together, or does this persist? As I have continuously gotten to know you and the team better, and going to your office for an offsite and meeting the other members of your team, like you said, I had hesitation. I’m like, four co-founders? How does that work? But you guys have something very special in what you’re building in your product, very special between the four co-founders, and your mission is fantastic. I know without a doubt that you guys are going to be coming out in a very, very special place. Keep on doing what you’re doing. It’s been amazing to track your journey, and it’s fun getting to know you.

 

Damian Pelliccione:

We love you, Chris. You’ve always been a big cheerleader since we’ve met, and we appreciate your support.

 

Chris Erwin:

Cool. With that, we’re going to move into the rapid fire round. Six questions. The rules are as follows. The answers are to be very brief, at most one to two sentences, but could also be one or two words. Do you understand the rules?

 

Damian Pelliccione:

Yes.

 

Chris Erwin:

Great. Let’s dive in. Proudest life moment?

 

Damian Pelliccione:

Mumbai, India.

 

Chris Erwin:

What do you want to do less of in 2021?

 

Damian Pelliccione:

Work. No, I’m kidding.

 

Chris Erwin:

That’s totally fair.

 

Damian Pelliccione:

What do I want to do less of? I want to eat less.

 

Chris Erwin:

You want to eat less, okay. What do you want to do more of?

 

Damian Pelliccione:

Exercise.

 

Chris Erwin:

What one to two things drive your success?

 

Damian Pelliccione:

Passion, innovation, love.

 

Chris Erwin:

Final three. What advice do you give media execs going into the end of 2021?

 

Damian Pelliccione:

Fail fast, fail big, and learn.

 

Chris Erwin:

Any future startup ambitions?

 

Damian Pelliccione:

Cannabis.

 

Chris Erwin:

Huh. Okay, I have to ask, what are you thinking on the cannabis front?

 

Damian Pelliccione:

Don’t know yet. I have a passion for it, too. I think there’s a frontier and a gold rush. I think there’s so many healing qualities to it and so many unlocked potential and scientific research on what this plant can do. I wanted to be a part of that in some way. It hasn’t revealed itself exactly, like what sector of cannabis, but I just know that I definitely want to… if I were to start another startup, it would definitely be in the cannabis sector.

 

Chris Erwin:

That’ll be a good reason to have you on the show a second time, about your new venture.

 

Damian Pelliccione:

Yeah, there you go.

 

Chris Erwin:

Last one, very easy. How can people get in contact with you?

 

Damian Pelliccione:

Easy. You can go to our website, Revry.TV. You can also find me on Instagram, Damian, D-A-M-I-A-N media, M-E-D-I-A, or Revry TV, R-E-V-R-Y T-V.

 

Chris Erwin:

Awesome. All right, Damian. Thanks for being on the show. This was a delight.

 

Damian Pelliccione:

Thank you so much for having me, Chris. Always a pleasure to talk to you.

 

Chris Erwin:

I got to say, I just love spending time with Damian. He is so positive. He is so effusive. He always brings a smile to my face. That interview was a real delight. All right, before wrapping up, we have an exciting announcement. Rock Water has launched our second podcast. It’s called the Rock Water Roundup. In under 15 minutes, me and my colleague, Andrew Cohen, breakdown recent media and commerce news. We already have, I think around seven or eight episodes up, and we cover topics like live stream commerce and whatnot’s $40 million capital raise, the growth of creator competition series, including the recent Logan Paul and Floyd Mayweather fight, the rapid growth of the resale market, including Etsy’s $1.6 billion acquisition of Depop, and so much more.

 

Chris Erwin:

You can get it wherever you listen to your podcast: Apple, Spotify, Google, Amazon, you name it. And you can also go to Rounduppodcast.com. We’re getting some really good feedback on the short, what we like to call micro cast format. Would love to have you check it out. All right, that’s it everybody. Thanks for listening.

 

Chris Erwin:

The Come Up is written and hosted by me, Chris Erwin, and is a production of Rock Water Industries. Please rate and review this show on Apple Podcasts, and remember to subscribe wherever you listen to our show. If you really dig us, feel free to forward The Come Up to a friend. You can sign up for our company newsletter at wearerockwater.com/newsletter. You can follow us on Twitter at @TCUpod. The Come Up is engineered by Daniel Tureck, music is by Devon Bryant. Logo and branding is by Kevin Zazzali. Special thanks to Andrew Cohen and Mike Booth from the RockWater team.

 

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