Danny Zappin, The Ex-Con Founder Of Maker Studios, Is Keeping His Cards Close To His Chest


The Hollywood Reporter’s in-depth feature on YouTube multi-channel network Maker Studios features a crazy cast of characters — the kind you’d only find when combining Hollywood creatives with Silicon Valley techies.

Here are a few of the interesting things we learned:

Founder Danny Zappin is an ex-con and failed actor: Danny Zappin spent most of his 20s trying to land acting gigs in NYC and Los Angeles, and eventually served a two-year prison sentence for smuggling Ecstasy.

Here’s a video he posted under his YouTube alter ego ‘Danny Diamond,’ getting maced by the LAPD:

-Zappin was a great salesman: He originally envisioned Maker Studios as a United Artists for the YouTube generation, bypassing traditional media gatekeepers. He and his (now ex) girlfriend Lisa Donovan built the company up from 7 employees in 2009, to around 365 employees currently.

He was also a terrible leader: He brought on VCs (including our ol’ pal Mark Suster of Upfront Ventures), and then balked when they wouldn’t let him stay on as CEO. On April 16, he sent a resignation letter to the board, ensuring that he still retained a board seat. However, he lost the board seat when VCs and investors voted him out — with participation from his ex-girlfriend Lisa Donovan — and he now has no operational control despite holding a 20% equity stake. He is currently in the midst of a lawsuit with Maker Studios, and also recently purchased the site New Media Rockstars.

-The Maker Studios campus is legit: …like really legit, especially for YouTube vloggers. The 71,000-square-foot Culver City campus serves as the headquarters for the company’s operations and many of its creatives. Maker Studios has over 50,000 individual creators and 4 billion monthly video views.

-Maker Studios is valued at around $200 million: Time Warner purchased a 10 percent stake in the company for $25 million in December 2012, according to AllThingsD.