Angel Gambino: The Ultimate Early Adopter Sets Her Sights on Detroit

1/30/12Follow @XconomyDET

Serial entrepreneur Angel Gambino has every right to be arrogant—as people with resumes like hers often are—but she’s as down-to-earth and polite as they come.

Sure, a casual question about which local gym she prefers reveals that she’s currently training to be an Olympic soccer-team liaison, the Olympics’ most senior volunteer role and one which oversees every aspect of the team’s participation in the international games, but the answer is delivered in such a gradual, casual manner that it’s hardly bragging. (She’s awaiting confirmation from the Olympic Committee whether she’ll be overseeing the American, English, Italian, Australian, Brazilian, or Argentine men’s team.)

Trust me when I say Gambino’s life is way more interesting than mine and probably yours. She helped develop Gameplay.com, an early gaming site that eventually had 900 employees in nine countries; was instrumental in helping to popularize the social network Bebo, which was sold to AOL Time Warner in 2008 for $850 million; helped oversee the BBC’s expansion into mobile, broadband, and on-demand platforms; and helped launch social and video-on-demand platforms for Viacom channels such as MTV, VH1, and Comedy Central.

Gambino is still a co-owner of Sonico, the third largest social network in Latin America—Gambino describes it as “the Facebook of Latin America before Facebook became the Facebook of Latin America”—as well as Spoonfed Media, a popular website that directs Londoners to upcoming arts and entertainment events.

So what the heck is she doing in Detroit?

Gambino and her partner, Scott Griffin (more on his story later), purchased a massive building on Rosa Parks Blvd. for $270,000 in September, which they plan to turn into retail, restaurants, and space for local startups, the first step in a plan to further revitalize the Corktown area so it attracts not only the suburban visitors that are already coming in droves to eat at the neighboring Slow’s Bar-B-Q, but also to send the message to entrepreneurs around the globe that Detroit is the place to be.

“Detroit is a city of tremendous opportunity—I don’t know any other cities like it in the world,” Griffin says. Responding to the question of why two people as worldly as he and Gambino would choose Detroit as their base of operations, Griffin says, “I wonder why there aren’t more of us here already. I don’t understand why there aren’t a thousand of us here competing for these deals.”

Gambino was actually born in Detroit, though she spent her formative years in the suburbs outside of the city. Even in her youth, she says it was obvious to her that there were a lot of things lacking in Detroit.

“I knew Detroit was famous for sports and music, but not much else,” Gambino says. … Next Page »

Sarah Schmid is the editor of Xconomy Detroit. You can reach her at 313-570-9823 or sschmid@xconomy.com. Follow @XconomyDET

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