Webchat with pro athletes via Greenroom

September, 11, 2012
Ray RiceCourtesy of greenroom.comHow much is a 15-minute video chat with Baltimore Ravens star Ray Rice worth to you?
Remember that MTV show “My Super Sweet 16”? Thanks to overindulgent parents, the kids on the series were often serenaded by celebrities at comically lavish 16th birthday parties. Seemed crazy at the time, didn't it? But now, thanks to a new company called Greenroom, which launched Sept. 5, just about anyone can get a celebrity serenade on their birthday -- or any day, for the right price.

Founded by Dr. Drew Pinsky and Curtis Giesen, Greenroom allows users to bid on conversations with their favorite celebrities, athletes and other personalities via webchat.

“It is unprecedented personal access,” said Giesen, who is the company’s CEO. “These are relaxed and friendly conversations. It is not a speech or performance or webcast. It is you and your hero relaxing on a couch in the greenroom.”

How enticing all of this sounds to you probably depends on which athletes are available to chat. So far, Giesen lists the following as active participants: NFL players Ray Rice, Kevin Faulk and Golden Tate; NBA players Ty Lawson, Tobias Harris, Paul George, Jason Thompson and Kim English and retired greats Darryl Dawkins and Tim Hardaway; and Olympic track-and-field world champion Sanya Richards-Ross and speed skater Allison Baver.

OK, it's not exactly Jordan and Jeter, but this is still a work in progress. Greenroom is collaborating with a network of talent agencies, sports leagues, musicians, TV stars and more to broaden its array of VIPs. Partners thus far include the US Ski Team, National Football League Players Association (NFLPA) and Major League Baseball Players Alumni.

[+] EnlargeGreenroom
Courtesy of greenroom.comDr. Drew co-founded the site with Curtis Giesen.
The patented technology allows a Greenroom host to observe each conversation and interact with both parties. Every web meeting is recorded for security purposes.

Bids for any athlete (expert or celeb) start at $200 for 15 minutes, and the user can also get an MP4 souvenir of the chat. VIP participants determine whether they want to keep the proceeds or donate a portion to charity (NFLPA takes a small cut).

According to Giesen, one of the biggest challenges to the startup was acquiring the domain name (as a domain hoarder -- I own talknerdy2me.com, for starters -- I had to ask). He says the original owner of greenroom.com was a surfboard designer in San Diego. “In surfing, the Holy Grail is being in the tube, the greenroom,” Giesen explained. Giesen met the owner in Paris for dinner and after a year of negotiations -- he won't disclose the final price -- the new incarnation of Greenroom was born.

Come to think of it, wouldn't a Greenroom chat make the perfect gift for a Steelers fan? Fifteen minutes with Ray Rice to let him know how you really feel about him.
Katie Linendoll is an Emmy Award-winning technology expert contributing to ESPN, ESPN.com and ESPN The Magazine. She contributes tech segments to CNN and hosts a tech show on Spike TV. She has a degree in Information Technology New Media from Rochester Institute of Technology and is a diehard Buffalo Bills fan.



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