Talent Pool

Entertainers can make a splash via video on Yobi — if their peers give them a vote of confidence


 Think you’ve got what it takes to be a star? Instead of waiting for America’s Got Talent auditions, a new Web site allows aspiring performers to post a video of themselves online for peer review.

Yobi.tv, the creation of West Bloomfield Township entrepreneur Dianne Victor, debuted in June and already has registered users from 30 countries. Yobi lets users post videos in several categories — film, fashion design, photography, comedy, vocal talent, and (beginning in January) innovation — and compete with others for cash prizes. Winners are chosen by site users’ votes.

Yobi “is about empowering any individual who wants to get out there and try it,” Victor says.

The site offers 30 one-week contest periods, with winners advancing to the semifinals and losers able to re-enter the next week if they want. Competitors may submit multiple entries, but only one entry is allowed to advance to the semifinals. The winners in each category at the end of the 30 weeks will split a minimum of $10,000 — and potentially much more, if advertising on the site takes off. 

Victor calls Yobi an “Internet social network with a conscience.” Five percent of Yobi’s profits will go to support One Village One World, a nonprofit organization Victor founded to support economic development in impoverished African villages. She created One Village after meeting Michigan native and famed economist Jeffrey Sachs and traveling to Africa with his Millennium Promise.

“For me, the reason this all started was to support Africa,” Victor says. “Think about John Lennon and Bono meets You Tube and American Idol.”

In addition to being a competitive forum, Yobi offers an opportunity to connect with users from around the globe at Yobi World, a portion of the site devoted to forums on key international issues such as trade, energy, and human rights.

Yobi’s globally oriented social conscience has landed some high-profile support. Yoko Ono created a profile on the site and linked to Yobi on her Imagine Peace site after Victor reached out to her representative, Simon Hilton.

Victor says Yobi is already pulling in promising short films, many of them from the United Kingdom. She says that’s likely due to Iain Alexander, a U.K. filmmaker who featured Yobi in his Facebook group, the 12,000-member Film Industry Network.

Alexander says he’s “particularly drawn to the social message Yobi has, and the kind of world forum that is lacking in You Tube and MySpace.

“The ease of use of this site makes it exciting for someone who wants to develop their passion and have the ability to win prizes and garner feedback from others,” he says. “I think it will bring out the best in people who may find it difficult to present their ideas.”

Voting on the site began in late August, which Victor expected to give it a major boost. She says she’s looking forward to seeing the payoff for her cherished cause. As she puts it, “To be able to get to the end of the first profitable month and actually have a check to send to charity — that will be awesome.”

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