Berkeley boys aim to be web sensation

Why would two 26-year old Berkeley natives, one a graduate from Yale, the other from Harvard, give up their cushy desk jobs to train to be boxers?

To reinvent web television, of course.

On September 21, Nate Houghteling and Kai Hasson, who were born and raised in Berkeley, debuted an interactive web documentary series called White Collar Brawler. For the next three months, viewers can watch these former office workers try and transform themselves into elite amateur boxers. Cameras will follow them as they do their punishing workouts with their trainer, run sprints on Ocean Beach, and bulk up on carbohydrate-rich foods. The finale in December will show the men fighting at a boxing competition.

New episodes of their training will be posted each Tuesday and Friday to their website and uploaded to You Tube and BlipTV. Fans of the show can also join in by coming to the pair’s workouts on the beach or in the gym, by consulting with the pair’s nutritionist, or by following them on Facebook or Twitter. (The video posted above is the first episode. Disclaimer: commercial comes first.)


Their goal is to create “a true local cultural phenomenon, with thousands of viewers checking in daily for new content on our site and following live, real-time updates on social media,” according to a press release sent out to announce the series.

Sound too ambitious? Well, Houghteling and Kaisson are no strangers to creating successful web videos. The pair has already created some of the most popular videos on You Tube, including the 2006 sensation GhostRide the Volvo, made shortly after Houghteling graduated from Harvard and Hasson graduated from Yale. Disguised as a plea to keep the A’s in Oakland, the video showed Houghteling dancing on top of a moving – and driverless – Volvo. It got more than 2.5 million views on YouTube.

The pair also filmed Damn It Feels Good to Be a Banker, a 2006 video about a “feud” between bankers and corporate consultants, which got 938,000 views. They also created the website Huge in Asia, which was huge, and which documented their travels through Asia with videos and blog entries.

Houghteling and Hassan parlayed those video successes into traditional jobs at media companies. Hasson worked at Current TV in San Francisco, the company started by former Vice-President Al Gore, and Houghteling worked for Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation in New York. They left those companies a few years ago to start Portal A Interactive, an online marketing firm in Los Angeles.


It did well, but not spectacularly, and left both men feeling somewhat dissatisfied with their lives, according to Zach Blume, who grew up with both in Berkeley and is now serving as director of business and marketing for a reinvented Portal A Interactive. They decided to strike out in a new direction, with themselves at the center of the project.

“They wanted to do something big and make a big splash,” said Blume. “Kai came up with the idea to ditch the office and to do something totally crazy, to do something that no one would expect them to do.  They wanted to test their mettle, to document it, and to do a video series and to put it online.”

Kai Hasson

The first episode, showing Houghteling and Hasson working out with Angelo Merino, a San Francisco trainer at K-One Fitness in San Francisco, was posted online on Tuesday. The second episode, featuring a workout the pair did at Ocean Beach in San Francisco on Wednesday (which they tweeted about and put up on Facebook) will be online tomorrow.

“It’s 100% real time,” said Blume. “That’s what we’re excited about. It’s a constant stream of live action. The plot is not predetermined. That’s why the web is the only place it can happen.”

Frances Dinkelspiel is co-founder and executive editor of Berkeleyside. Email: frances@berkeleyside.com.