How Cory Booker Is Making Millions Off His Second Job

Like an unconventionally dressed restaurant might prompt a second look on a ride downtown, one quirky headline may elicit the same double take on your way down the information superhighway. This particular eye-catching headline reads "CNN Chief's 15-Year-Old Son Leaves Advisory Role At Cory Booker's Start-Up," the story itself was as unique as the title suggests.

You can imagine, then, what type of questions sprung to mind. Why is CNN involved? Who is this kid? The only board I was thinking of when I was 15 was the one that had my homework on it written in chalk, what's he doing advising a start-up? The biggest question to ask, however, was more straightforward. "Cory Booker has a start-up!?"

Yes, it appears he does, in part at least. The mayor of Newark, who soon hopes to be inaugurated as a U.S. senator, is heavily involved with #Waywire, a video sharing web site in its "beta" stage of development that is aiming to make it easy for you to “collect, curate and share” videos.

The politician has attracted others in Silicon Valley, the tech capital of the world, to invest in the site, including Oprah Winfrey and Google executive chairman, Eric E. Schmidt. Booker, who is one of three co-founders, has also invested in #Waywire himself, which is where the teenager comes in.

Andrew Zucker, who is the 15-year-old son of CNN chief and father Jeff, was brought on as an adviser to #Waywire after co-founder Sarah Ross said he was described to her as the "Doogie Howser of start-ups." The young Zucker resigned after the New York Times reported Cory Booker's interests in the company after the mayor filed a financial disclosure last month. According to that document, Booker's stake in the company is worth between $1 million to $5 million.

The revelation prompted Zucker, for unclear reasons, to resign yesterday afternoon.

“Despite the fact that his affiliation with Waywire was extremely limited to only an advisory capacity, in order to avoid even the perception of a conflict, Jeff’s son is resigning,” a CNN rep was quoted as saying by the New York Daily News.

With or without a wealthy teenage prodigy, though, the story of how an immensely popular politician from Newark came to dip his toe into the entrepreneurial waters of the tech industry is a fascinating one.

“What was exciting to me was that it was expanding entrepreneurial, economic, and educational opportunities for so many,” Booker told the Times in a telephone interview.

Despite the fact that #Waywire had just over 2,000 visitors last month, a number which may be attributed to the fact that the site is still under development, the Times says that experts have noted the potential the start-up has to grow into a fairly successful project, citing curation of videos as the "next big thing".

Meanwhile, Booker himself intimated that the "power of the idea" made it easy to find funding for a project, which he says will save credible voices from getting lost through the internet.

“I see high school kids who are doing incredible videos, but their voices are not breaking into the national conversation,” Booker said, as he further explained why he got behind the company. He then recalled how Ross pushed him into signing on. “‘You know what? You should do it, found the company," he says Ross told him. "Obviously you don’t have to be involved — you’ve got a full-time job. But found the company.’”

And found the company he did, along with Ross and former Gilt Groupe executive Nathan Richardson. The role, for the man who has a following on Twitter (≈ 1.4 million) that is four times the amount of people that live in the city he governs (≈ 277,000), appears to be straightforward: campaign for the company, provide inspiration behind the idea, and attract the big names, amongst other things.

“Cory is the inspiration architect,” Ms. Ross said. “He really is the thought-leader soul part of the business.”

Should he win the senatorial election however, Booker, who has the largest stake of the three founders, will likely have to give up his position with #Waywire. For now, however, it looks as though Newark's mayor is reasserting his knack for inspiring change with a start-up that has the ability and potential to do just that.

Photo credit: WENN