Lebanon has reportedly banned Lady Gaga's new Born This Way album because it's offensive to Christians. But that's not stopping the pop star from pushing out her latest venture: A social network.
Dubbed Backplane, the superstar is lending her creativity to building a social network aimed at the unique needs of entertainers and other celebrities. The New York Times reported that Backplane will be a blend of music, celebrity and technology. Gaga's business manager, Troy Carter, founded the start-up with Matthew Michelsen, a technology investor and entrepreneur.
"Backplane will provide a platform and tools for communities to socialize and communicate on a more focused level," Carter told the Times. "We needed a more concentrated base."
Google's Schmidt Gets In
Backplane has raised more than $1 million in venture funding led by Tomorrow Ventures, the venture firm founded by Eric Schmidt, Google's executive chairman. The Times said Lady Gaga owns 20 percent of the yet-to-be-launched site.
Backplane will do what Apple's Ping doesn't -- integrate updates from Facebook and Twitter as well as other social sites. In fact, the Times said Carter got the idea for Backplane after meeting with Apple CEO Steve Jobs to talk about Ping. Carter reportedly listened to Jobs explain Apple's music social network and decided he could do better.
Lady Gaga is a social-media superstar. She recently surpassed the 10 million-follower mark on Twitter, and about 35 million "like" her on Facebook. She also tops the Social 50, a new chart Billboard launched to rank how popular people are on social-media sites. The Social 50 includes Twitter, YouTube and Facebook.
Gaga's latest album, Born This Way, debuted number one on the Billboard charts. She also has a new mobile game out called Born This Way Revenge through Tapulous that sells for $4.99. And Zynga launched a homestead in FarmVille to honor Gaga earlier this month.
Lady Gaga's latest deal proves once again that she has talents outside of entertaining the masses, according to Jake Wengroff, global director of social-media strategy research for Frost & Sullivan.
As he sees it, in years past celebrities, entertainers and athletes -- apart from simple product endorsements -- regularly declined offers for business ventures featuring their name. The business world is chock-full of such failed ventures, most notably clothing lines, restaurants and real estate, he noted.
"Lady Gaga is different, as she is quite aware of the power of technology to drive interest in her music -- while simultaneously netting her outsize returns," Wengroff said. "Not all of her and her business partners' ventures will make money, but her willingness to lend capital and credibility to even the tiniest of start-ups and concepts can only be a boon to the industry overall."