HeyHey! is helping brands across the entertainment industry enter web3 and navigate new waters: founder & CEO Caleb Franklin

HeyHey! is helping brands across the entertainment industry enter web3 and navigate new waters: founder & CEO Caleb Franklin

India’s readiness to be more immersed in web3 and the metaverse is a big opportunity for HeyHey!

Caleb Franklin

Mumbai: HeyHey! is a leading-edge online platform that facilitates new forms of experiential engagement between fans and global celebrities, creators, and influencers by utilising new-age tech like web3, blockchain, and NFTs to create digital products that are ahead of the curve. The platform also acts as a gateway through which fans can discover and directly interact with their favourite stars, while empowering celebrities to develop memorable bespoke experiences for their fanverse through personalised video messages and shoutouts.

Having launched in key international markets like the US and Japan, HeyHey!’s foray into India brings with it an appreciation of the celeb-fan relationship nuances that may differ from one market to another.

HeyHey! uses its innovative tech to partner with brands, celebrities, and entertainment entities to deliver unmatched experiences with the help of cutting-edge web2 and web3 solutions to fanverses. HeyHey! helps connect fans with over 2,500 artists on its robust roster, ranging from famous Indian names such as Govinda, Amish Tripathi, Sharman Joshi, Evelyn Sharma, Elnaaz Norouzi, Kaneez Surka, Sarfaraz Khan, and K. Gowtham. Apart from films, they also have leading television stars like Rupali Ganguly, Divyanka Tripathi, Rashmi Desai, etc., alongside regional stars like Angel Thomas, Monal Gajjar, Deeksha Joshi, Ojas Rawal, and more, and leading Hollywood stars such as Johnny Depp, Keira Knightley, Michael Fassbender, Mariah Carey, and Tom Hardy.

Indiantelevision.com caught up with HeyHey! founder and CEO Caleb Franklin. He currently operates out of HeyHey!’s Mumbai office, building an exclusive platform for fan-celebrity engagement with some of India’s biggest talent being present on the platform. In addition to its India operations, HeyHey! is present in Japan and attracts some of the best regional and international talents in sports, media, literature, and art.

He is also Matter Entertainment founder and CEO. Matter produces premium television and film series for top OTT platforms such as Netflix, Disney+, Amazon, etc. Matter is a premium literary management company representing some of the leading global artists from India in the realms of writing, direction, books, and production.

Before founding HeyHey!, Franklin spent a decade working for the Creative Artists Agency (CAA). In his time at CAA, Franklin represented the company’s clients across the global landscape of media, entertainment, technology, and sports. Caleb spearheaded many of the agency’s international initiatives and was part of the founding team of CAA’s presence in India and the Middle East.

Franklin graduated magna cum laude with a B.A. in Social Studies from Harvard University with a minor in South Asian Studies. In his personal time, Franklin is a board member of the Ron Brown Scholar Program and serves on the founding committee of Soho House Mumbai. He currently lives in Mumbai with his wife Anisha and their dog Morty.

Edited excerpts:

On the idea of HeyHey!

Caleb: HeyHey!’s mission is to help fans connect with their favourite celebrities, brands, and creators and provide premium experiences at scale. We started as a platform which helped customers get personalised video messages for their loved ones from our roster of more than 2,500+ celebrities. HeyHey! was a growing and touching success, with requests for every occasion ranging from birthday wishes to marriage proposals, haircuts, and even breaking up with someone! We wanted to bridge the gap between a fan and their favourite creator and also help creators build a community.

On NFTs and the metaverse, allowing celebrities and brands to build better fan engagement

Caleb: Until now, we’ve seen the focus in the NFT and metaversal spaces revolve around the collectible and novelty aspects. NFTs and the metaverse are still in their nascencey, but we’ve seen that a lot of our partners are interested in this space and are curious to explore it more. As we see more adoption from fans who want to have a more personal touch from their favourite celebrities and creators starting to realise the potential of dedicated fanverses, we will witness a great shift in how both personal and corporate brands start to develop better trust and cultivate a more organic approach to showcasing their products and services with interactive opportunities and experiential engagement.

On leveraging these opportunities

Caleb: Staying true to our mission of providing premium experiences to fans at scale, we realised the power of web3. Our aim is to build fanverses, communities, and a platform where fans and celebrities get to build a deeper connection. The concept behind HeyHey! NFTs is to allow fans to have pathways into their favourite celebrity’s community with exclusive perks that are only available upon ownership of that artist’s NFT.

Apart from making the NFT community in general bigger, we’re trying to provide community building provisions to our NFT creators as well as NFT enthusiasts. HeyHey!’s idea, however, includes having global artists and a global fanbase. We want to create a fanverse where the confines of geographical barriers are broken and both artists and fans worldwide can come under one umbrella.

On the celebrities that HeyHey! is working with currently

Caleb: We help connect fans with over 2,500+ Indian and global artists from our network, ranging from famous Indian names such as Govinda, Amish Tripathi, Sharman Joshi, Evelyn Sharma, Elnaaz Norouzi, Kaneez Surka, Sarfaraz Khan, K. Gowtham, Rupali Ganguly, Divyanka Tripathi, Rashmi Desai, etc., to regional stars like Angel Thomas, Monal Gajjar, Deeksha Joshi, Ojas Rawal, to Hollywood stars like Johnny Depp, Keira Knightley, Michael Fassbender, Mariah Carey, and Tom Hardy.

On creating awareness among celebrity fans to use its service

Caleb: Our previous collaborations have worked as a great case study for us to pitch to other celebrities and potential NFT creators. Being able to show them both what the market is like and what we have done with other artists only gives them a better understanding of what the space is like and they can further decide upon things.

Creators are now understanding the several use cases web3 offers that are not available in existing web2 solutions. Fans are also understanding the importance of dedicated fanverses and communities built around creators they follow/brands they use and feel like a part of their journey.

On the experiences that fans can get with celebrities using NFTs that otherwise would not be possible

Caleb: To give a simple example, we’ve gamified Sunny Leone’s ‘I Dream Of Sunny’ NFTs, which gives its owners many benefits that go above and beyond monetary, ranging from coffee dates, set visits, joining her on Instagram live, attending a private yacht party with her, to even going skydiving with her! All these benefits depend on the category of the NFTs the enthusiasts have purchased.

One of the NFT owners, who lives in another country, was a winner in one of the weeks, and he got to go on an Instagram live with her. To the ones who didn't know how he did it, he was flooded with queries about how he got an opportunity like that. Sunny too received many DMs asking her how they would also get an opportunity to go live with her. That’s the power of having ownership of her NFT.

We don’t think that the same would be possible otherwise, because when you think of it, she has millions of followers and she would not go through her list to select a person who she would want to go live with. Also, there would be no purpose. It is because of the NFT that a particular owner owned that enabled him to go live with her. These NFTs allow Sunny to get to know her fans up close and personally, and vice versa.

On the impact that NFTs and the metaverse will have on the M&E industry

Caleb: NFTs and the metaverse are already here, having an immense impact on how the media and entertainment businesses approach new avenues. We see it as various stakeholders in the industry are looking to get in on the action, whether to use it as a tool for showcasing an already-existing product or giving users a preview of what they can expect.

That’s not all. We can see a lot of entertainment businesses incorporating NFTs and metaverse in a way that it’s an extension of what they already offer, essentially helping to offer a more holistic and complete experience.

In the very near future, we are going to see a lot more NFT projects from big and small creators alike, bringing great ideas to the forefront using the crowdfunding method. This comes through the power of community and the feeling of being part of something you genuinely believe has great potential to be something remarkable, and we believe this is just the tip of the iceberg in how the industry can be part of this movement.

On the opportunity that HeyHey! sees in India

Caleb: India as a market has always been selective in what appeals to the masses and if it’s new or revolutionary enough to warrant learning something entirely new. Web3 is the same and in the last two years, we’ve already seen so many ambitious projects from different industries utilising web3. It’s only a matter of time before the infrastructure is adopted all over, and when that happens, our consumers are going to enjoy some exceptional experiences by being part of like-minded communities.

We want to approach this section of the market and help provide the tools to make such a reality accessible and usable. We are confident that India is ready to be more immersed in web3 and the metaverse.

On the collaboration with Viacom18 Studios

Caleb: Viacom18 Studios has been a behemoth in the industry for many years. As a market leader, HeyHey! helped them understand the importance of community building and how web3 was a way of building this long-lasting community. With a full proof concept and plan in place, Viacom18 Studio’s Shabaash Mithu was the perfect opportunity for them to step into the web3 space. With a solid understanding of how we would have liked this to be, and with HeyHey! as their technological partner, we made it a point to show them the path and process.

On the other projects that HeyHey! is working on in India

Caleb: We have some exciting projects in our pipeline. A lot of our partners are curious to understand the potential of web3 and NFTs. HeyHey! is helping brands across the entertainment industry enter web3 and navigate new waters. As showcased with our partnership with The Olive Group, we’re also gearing up to put into production some projects for top-tier brands who want to re-imagine their own existence in the upcoming (virtual) reality.

We’re working with some hard-working teams who want to ensure that they offer their consumers the best possible version of their products they can, whether the consumer is at their store or at home staring at their phone screen.

On some of the misconceptions that exist when it comes to NFTs

Caleb: Due to the high NFT prices we’ve seen in the media, there has been a common misconception that NFTs are only art, a way to "get rich quick" or a scam. This has led to people buying NFTs as an investment with the hope or expectation that they’ll increase in price. We have seen a trend of multiple industries, including art, gaming, ticketing, and entertainment, venturing into the web3 space to understand more about it and explore the multiple use cases it can offer.

HeyHey! NFTs will provide every buyer with utilities, including offline exclusive experiences and the opportunity to join a community of like-minded individuals. Our agenda is to help brands and creators create a community around themselves and also for fans to feel deeply connected.

On web3

Caleb: We see web3 as a means for creators and brands to build communities around themselves or their IPs and for fans to feel more connected and build a deeper relationship with these creators and brands. HeyHey! wants to empower these creators and brands to help build these fanverses and communities.