Waywire, the video sharing startup founded by Newark mayor Cory Booker and funded by Google's Eric Schimidt, Oprah, and LinkedIn's Jeff Weiner, is for sale. What a shock! But no one's really certain how much the company is worth, and it's increasingly becoming a headache for Booker when he wants to focus on a Senate campaign. But that problem may not last much longer.
This morning, The New York Times reported Waywire's leadership have been trying to cash in via a purchase or merger with another company. So far, nobody's buying. They've approached multiple companies in the last few months, unprompted, inquiring about a potential interest in buying Waywire. But no one is certain how much the startup is worth, and the looming departure of its biggest asset, Cory Booker, would certainly drive down the asking price:
Spurring that push by Waywire, according to people who were told the thinking of the partners, were two factors: an increasingly clear sense that the company was not making progress toward its goals, and the likely need to sever ties with Mr. Booker, a Democrat, once he entered the race — and instantly became the front-runner — for the now-vacant Senate seat in New Jersey.
If Waywire loses one of the few things keeping them relevant -- their relation to Booker and his millions of Twitter followers -- once he enters the Senate race, it will go south, fast. You know, in case things weren't heading there already.
To hear Waywire and Cory Booker tell it, his founding investment was between $1 million and $5 million. But, shockingly, there are some who disagree with that valuation. Waywire is one of many Pinterest for video knockoffs, as Quartz's Tim Fernholz has explained, and not a particularly good one at that. The startup has already gone through a round of layoffs and moved out of their Manhattan office since its inception a little . Things aren't bleak yet, but they're heading in that direction.
Which is probably why Waywire's value has a very high ceiling and very low basement. Waywire could be worth anywhere between zero dollars and $10 million, an industry expert recently explained to The Atlantic Wire's Phillip Bump. The valuation would be on the higher end of that spectrum if there was some interesting technology working behind Waywire, but he guessed that wasn't the case. It's "all about how many users they have," he said, and the answer for Waywire is not good. Earlier this week, the Times reported Waywire only had 2,207 unique visitors in July.
For Booker, his connection to the company is increasingly becoming a problem. Since the story about Waywire broke in the Times earlier this week, he's increasingly faced scrutiny from the press and other candidates in the Senate race for his involvement. It was also embarrassing when the Times revealed Andrew Zucker, the15-year-old son of CNN president (and Booker pal) Jeff Zucker, was on the Waywire advisory board, for whatever reason. (Heckuva summer job, kiddo.) Zucker resigned shortly after. (Sorry, kiddo.)
But, at the same time, Booker's political prospects are like teflon at this point. Whether or not he's involved in a messy startup won't hurt his Senate chances. The Democratic primary is Tuesday.