The selling point of Australian startup Padlokt is live, two-way conversation. It's about "bringing fans closer to their idols than ever before," says Trent Sydney, Padlokt managing director and co-founder.
"It's the little personal moments. Things that don't come across in a tweet or on Facebook," says Adam Hollioake, ex-cricketer, MMA fighter and now serving as Padlokt's director of global partnerships and another co-founder of the platform. Hollioake is also one of the celebrities with his own Padlokt channel on the platform.
Padlokt connects celebrities with fans in informal, live video chats that give fans the chance to ask the kinds of questions and see celebs in the kind of situations that they'd normally never be able to see. It's all in the drop-the-last-vowel startup name, which Sydney says is about "unlocking" the personal side of fandom.
Here's how it works.
The Padlokt website itself is divided into channels. There are six right now: Julius Randle (LA Lakers), Randall Cobb (Green Bay Packers), Sanya Richards-Ross (Olympian), Marquel Martin ("The Bachelorette") and Adam Hollioake (MMA, Cricket). Apart from the individual celebrity channels, the UFC has its own dedicated portal on Padlokt.
You can subscribe to a channel for $2 (around AU$2.50 or £1.50) per month, and that gives you access to video and text updates, as well as all live events that month and a backlog of recorded content.
To take part, you submit a ballot for one of the scheduled live conversations along with the question you'd like to ask. Around 30 people will be selected for the video chat, and Sydney says it's a selection system that favours people who haven't had a chance to participate directly before. The whole lot is liver streamed for every subscriber, even the ones who aren't on camera asking questions. After the chat ends, the video will be packaged and available on demand.
Once you're in the chat, it's a live video call with that particular celebrity in situ. Just hanging out. An emcee moderates the discussion and the question curation is more to filter out language and inappropriate questions, but the end goal is "facilitating unique connections," says Jason Blewitt, Padlokt director and the third co-founder.
That's how it stands apart from Reddit's popular Ask Me Anything (AMA) threads and Twitter's live Periscope video snapshots, says Sydney. It's live, and it's two-way
Hollioake is already seeing those connections, with repeat callers engaging with fans in new ways and being asked questions that he never got in media interviews. Like Hollioake, he says celebrities sign up for multiple appearances, so there's the chance to show more of their personal lives, fill in the picture of who they are for their fans.
The big news for Padlokt is its newly announced partnership with UFC. That's a different beast, tying to the brand as a whole, with fighters getting the chance to promote upcoming bouts, talk prep regimes or even debrief after big wins. But it comes back to that core idea of connecting them directly with their fans.
While Padlokt is being built on sports stars, Sydney says that these first three months were just the beginning. A partnership with one of the world's biggest talent agencies will see the talent on offer expand to other entertainers and artists in early 2017.