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Dobie Media adds Rick Blair; A-round to give EvieSays more to talk about
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Rick Blair

DOBIE MEDIA, the West End startup that provides its EvieSays online events calendars for media outlets, has enlisted strategic advisor and former Examiner.com CEO Rick Blair for its investor ranks.

Next-up: A fresh go at a Series A capital round. Bruce Dobie, who co-founded the company with CFO Ben Gray (a Massey Burch Capital alumnus), said the 9-employee venture is likely by midyear to seek $1.5MM-$2MM. Its previous raises in 2008-to-date have totaled nearly $1.9MM, he said. Its clients include FoxTV, Gatehouse Media and CNHI (community newspapers).

Blair, a 59-year-old new-media startup wrangler, helped guide Examiner.com, a new-media reincarnation of the San Francisco Examiner brand, as it became one of the most heavily visited Internet networks. Its 240-or-so hyperlocal sites in the U.S. and Canada are populated with content produced at minimal cost by outsourced writers. Some view Examiner.com as competing with AOL's Patch and other AOL Local assets. (The Examiner newspaper was sold in 2011 to Canada-based Black Press Group.)

Blair followed his adult children to Tennessee four years ago, after playing entrepreneurial roles in Denver and elsewhere. The native Ohioan and his wife have family in Nashville and Knoxville, Blair told VNC.

Asked for his take on Nashville's entrepreneurial scene, Blair said, "there's a lot more going on here than I thought," adding that he senses that the Nashville venture sector is "waiting to explode."

Blair attributed Nashville's energy, in part, to its very entrepreneurial Music sector, which, he noted, attracts Creatives who often play key roles in startup culture.

Blair's responses to such questions came quickly, as though he'd already given some thought to where Nashville-as-product or -destination might reside on Americans' mental maps.

Such musings might be hard to suppress for a fellow who has spent the past 30 years amid the economic and technologic tumult of Media and Internet.

Most famously, perhaps, Blair was CEO and, earlier, consultant to Examiner.com and its owner, multi-billionaire entrepreneur Philip Anschutz, whose Anschutz Corporation holds controlling interest in Knoxville-based NYSE-listed Regal Entertainment Group. Anschutz, often described as an unassuming man, derived much of his early wealth from the oil fields. He was dubbed a "Media Wildcatter" in an absorbing 2005 Bloomberg piece.

In addition to a total six years associated with Examiner.com, Blair's posts have included VP-newspaper for Knight Ridder; president, Knight Ridder PressLink; VP-AOL; and, VP for sales/marketing with Picture Network International, according to his LinkedIn. Earlier, he did a four-year stint with Deloitte Haskins & Sells. He continues to do some consulting via his Virginia-registered LLC, Ash Meadows, he confirmed.

With emphasis primarily on digital- and wireless-sector opportunities, Blair does Angel investing via Investor's Circle, as well as directly, he said. A year ago, Blair signed-on with CellJournalist, the Nashville startup that supports user-generated news and community content for media outlets, he confirmed. CellJournalist is profitable and already receiving suitors, as previously reported by VNC.

There are a dozen-or-so other ventures in which Blair serves as adviser, equity holder and/or member of the board of directors.

Some of his holdings are potentially synergistic with EvieSays: For instance, Closely.com (combines daily deals, social promotion and mobile); VerveWireless helps local media outlets tap into the mobile-advertising stream; HappeningsMedia produces hyperocal lifestyle content in 14 U.S. markets; ListAfterList, user-generated lists (being redeveloped); and, The Pursuit Group (automated marketing).

Blair's other investments include, but are not limited to: TransplantConnect (SaaS supporting constituents in organ-donor industry); Boston Heart Diagnostics (coronary disease management platform); ParentEarth (sponsored videos on child nutrition); Avancen (medication on-demand dispensers); and, Solmetric (tools for solar-installation workers), among others.

Blair also confessed, with a broad smile, to steadily collecting Internet domain names ranging from utilitarian to much more colorful, when they strike his fancy.

Is he thinking of further ventures? Yes, including one idea that may have been spurred by relocating to Tennessee a few years ago. That's when he was reminded how difficult it is for highly mobile citizens to identify and access their corresponding elected officials within state and local government agencies. That's a story Blair's not quite ready to air.

Immediately, Blair is putting his industry and investor network to work for Dobie Media, as it attempts to reach scale sufficient to produce the long-term exit options it seeks, Dobie and Blair explained in separate interviews.

Bruce Dobie

Dobie Media profitability is projected within 12 months; and, assuming funding is secured, 2013 revenue is ballparked at $5MM, said Dobie. Its competitors include Zvents and Eventful, among other actual and potential foes.

The business assumed its present form in 2007; Dobie had explored related concepts for several years prior to that, after exiting co-ownership of Nashville Scene, the alternative weekly that sold first to Village Voice Media and then to Southcomm Communications.

In addition to founders, friends and family, Nashville's Claritas Capital invested a reported $500K in 2008 and was associated with a further $240K SEC filing in 2010.

A multi-million-dollar raise explored for Winter 2010 was not consummated, Dobie confirmed. VNC

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Tags: , angel investors, Anschutz Corporation, AOL, Ben Gray, Claritas Capital, Dobie Media, EvieSays, Massey Burch, Philip Anschutz, Regal Entertainment Group, Rick Blair, Southcomm Communications, startups, venture capital, Village Voice Media

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