The California tech company party balloon has landed on Longboat Key — along with a sweet bottle of rum.
The rum comes from Rumble. The publicly traded video-sharing platform, which rose to national prominence by catering to a conservative-leaning audience, especially during the pandemic, officially opened its new U.S. corporate headquarters Feb. 27 on Longboat Key. It celebrated the opening with a party Feb. 24 attended by some notable video content providers and national and local convservative luminaries, including Donald Trump Jr. The company’s main corporate offices were previously in Toronto.
Traded on the Nasdaq under the symbol RUM, Rumble has been operating in some capacity on Longboat for more than a year. It reported revenue of $22.36 million in the trailing 12-month period through February — more than double the $9.4 million it did in 2021. The revenue gains have been accompanied by heavy losses, including $20.8 million in the past 12 months. Rumble shares closed at $9.34 on March 6.
Rumble, which went public Sept. 19 through a merger with a special purpose acquisition company, known as a SPAC, makes most of its money from ad revenue, where rates increase based on viewership metrics. On that front, Rumble has been on a tear: It hit 71 million monthly active users in the 2022 third quarter, according to a January report from Statista. That’s up 61.3% from 44 million in the 2022 second quarter.
The official office opening, announced in a short press release sent over the business news wires March 2, was both a news item and a call to action: The company, says Chairman and CEO Chris Pavlovski, is hiring people to work from the Longboat office, mostly in engineering and software, but in sales and support, too. It seeks to hire at least 25 people right now, with more, says Pavlovski, “in bunches of 25,” to come.
In documents Rumble filed in 2021 with Sarasota County for a potential jobs-based incentive package — it never materialized — the company indicated it aimed to create 165 local jobs. It said at the time that management jobs would pay $170,000 a year, while non-management positions would pay $80,000 a year.
In a one-on-one interview the day the new office press statement was released, Pavlovski talked about Rumble’s history, his plans for the company’s near future (what he could disclose publicly) and the rapidly shifting video platform industry. He spoke with the Business Observer from a second-floor balcony as the occasional boat motored by and light chatter from Dry Dock could be heard below. “My focus,” Pavlovski says, “is to live here and grow here and make us the free speech capital of the world.”
The free speech mantra is a throwback to when Pavlovski, 39, first thought of the idea of Rumble. That was in 2010, when, he says, he saw YouTube, the pioneer in uploaded video content, had “been going with big brands and getting corporate. They weren’t for your aunts and uncles and friends and family anymore.”
His answer, Rumble, was founded in 2013. “I saw an opportunity to help provide tools YouTube was no longer giving people,” he says.
The company picked up a lot of “little wins,” Pavlovski says, until summer 2020, when then-U.S. Rep. Devin Nunes, R-California, joined Rumble. Pavlovski says it took Nunes, a conservative and major ally of then-President Donald Trump, a decade to get 12,000 subscribers on YouTube. On Rumble, Nunes reached 300,000 subscribers in three months. “That was a key moment people in the conservative sphere noticed,” Pavlovski says.
More wins after Nunes came from election night 2020, when conservative comedian Steven Crowder surpassed 3 million views. British comedian Russell Brand, citing Rumble’s more open, free speech-embracing platform, joined Rumble in 2022, another big win. Brand attended the opening night party.
Another big decision? The move to Longboat Key. Like many others who’ve moved businesses to the Sarasota-Bradenton region, Pavlovski had family here; his parents, he says, have had a place on Longboat Key for more than 15 years.
“I’ve been to a lot of places all over America, but once you come here, you don’t leave,” says Pavlovski, a Toronto native and lifelong Maple Leafs hockey fan. “It captivates you. It’s a little piece of heaven here.”
That’s part of the pitch the company uses to recruit and retain employees — to live and work in a “piece of heaven.” Similar themes are part of employees' social media posts.
A new Rumble employee, when they come to work at the firm’s new Longboat Key digs, will get a taste of what, pre-pandemic at least, had become the standard Silicon Valley-style office. The stylish renovated, two-story office is in the back building of the Sailboat Square office complex, next to Dry Dock Waterfront Grill and across the street from the Resort at Longboat Key Club. The back of the office, built in 1981, has docks and unobstructed views of Sarasota Bay.
Although the views aren’t unusual for Longboat, what’s different is the inside. One floor has back-to-back rows of tables with large computer monitors lined up, one next to another. Another floor has a sleek kitchen with a coffee bar, near a wall adorned in green faux grass. (Green is a primary Rumble color.) Another wall is painted with detailed comic book-style murals, including one with green fighting red, which is YouTube’s primary color.
The office’s inside, combined with the location, combined with Florida’s popularity, resonated with some of the company’s already 200-strong employee base when the Longboat move was announced. Employees relocated to Longboat Key from Canada, California and other places. Pavlovski says he could see it in real time on the company’s internal Slack messaging channel. “Within days,” he says, “people were posting pictures on Slack of the moving trucks.”