Is Lady Gaga’s Backplane Based in San Diego? Inquiring Minds Want to Know

7/20/11Follow @bvbigelow

[Updated 8/24/11, 8:35 pm. See below.] Here’s a tantalizing tidbit for all the Little Monsters and online celebrity gossip mongers:

In a breakout of data from the MoneyTree Report on venture capital investments that were made in San Diego during the three months that ended June 30, there is an interesting entry for a $1 million investment in “The Backplane.”

Could this be the new celebrity social media network by the same name that’s backed by Lady Gaga and former Google CEO Eric Schmidt’s venture fund, Tomorrow Ventures?

The startup was the subject of a feature in The New York Times last month by Evelyn Rusli, who writes that the company remains under wraps and never mentions where it is based. According to the Times, Lady Gaga’s business manager, Troy Carter, and his friend and partner Matthew Michelsen, founded The Backplane as an online platform to help high-profile entertainers, sports heroes, and other celebrities manage their fan base across all major social networks.

The article describes Carter as a Hollywood power broker who is spending more time in Silicon Valley, and drops names from his meetings at Apple, Google, and Zynga. It also says The Backplane has raised more than $1 million from a group of investors led by Tomorrow Ventures, and that Lady Gaga holds a 20 percent stake in the startup.

There’s nothing conclusive in the cursory entry about The Backplane deal in the MoneyTree Report, although the data was specific to San Diego. So in one sense it is just one entry alongside 28 other venture deals that were done in this area during the second quarter. On the other hand, it does identify the San Diego Backplane’s investors as Tomorrow Ventures and two unidentified investors—so that makes the odds pretty good it is the real deal, unless Schmidt’s fund has invested in two startups by the same name. There’s also an outside chance that the MoneyTree Report put The Backplane deal in San Diego by mistake. Yet it is considered an authoritative source on venture investing data, and is prepared every quarter by the National Venture Capital Association (NVCA) and PricewaterhouseCoopers, based on data from Thomson Reuters

There’s precious little information about The Backplane beyond the Times’ article. The company appears to be in lockdown stealth mode, and it’s website does not indicate where it is based. But it is listed as a portfolio company on Tomorrow Ventures’ website, which indicates The Backplane is based in Palo Alto, CA.

[Updated 8/24/22] The Backplane’s headquarters is based in Palo Alto, and has a small operation in San Diego, according to an email I got over the weekend from Davis Corley,  Tomorrow Ventures’ director of operations. A description of The Backplane on the firm’s website reads:

“The Backplane is a communities platform for influencers focused on creating technology around deep fan interaction and exclusive content. The Backplane is launching with the web’s largest and most hardcore fan community, Lady Gaga’s “Little Monsters.”

As they say in Hollywood, “If you build it, they will come.”

Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at bbigelow@xconomy.com or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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