On Tuesday night, Dil-Domine Jacobe Leonares, the 29-year-old founder of a tech company called Breakr, told CNET that his company was responsible for the viral explosion of Texas teenager Alex Christopher LaBeouf and the Alex From Target meme over the weekend.
Breakr is a bootstrapped startup from Los Angeles. The company’s website describes it as a platform that “connect fans to their fandom.” It’s currently in beta.
Leonares told BuzzFeed News that when the company started in November it was an anonymous location-based chatroom app. The company changed directions in June, he said, when a member of Australian YouTube band The Janoskians tweeted about it.
Leonares described in a LinkedIn post how Breakr started adding fuel to the fire by tweeting about Alex From Target to their bigger YouTube influencers. He told BuzzFeed News that Breakr’s network of “fangirls” were instrumental in making sure LaBeouf became internet famous.
“It’s one of those things where you put a good looking person in front of a bunch of fangirls and they’re going to take it and run with it,” Leonares said.
Leonares said the company discovered the photo of LaBeouf after it was first tweeted by UK Twitter user @Auscalum.
“One of our fangirls, Abby, who’s based in the U.K., tweeted the photo,” he said referring to @Auscalum, the first user to tweet the photo of LaBeouf.
@Auscalum said Tuesday night that she had never heard of Breakr and doesn’t follow them.
Leonares said Breakr’s three-person team and their social media network then drummed up support for it in a Google Hangout full of small-time content creators and Twitter users who work with the company. He likened their effect on the hashtag to when One Direction’s millions of followers create trending topics.
Leonares refused multiple times to name specific members of Breakr’s Twitter user network. Breakr’s Twitter account has only 1,200 followers but he said they’re strategic influencers.
Leonares also wouldn’t give a concrete reason why they chose LaBeouf’s photo to pass around social media, merely stating that LaBeouf was attractive enough for it to work.
“We rallied a lot of our followers to retweet the hashtag #AlexFromTarget,” he said.
According to Twitter tracking site Topsy, however, the first Twitter user to use the #AlexFromTarget hashtag was @_twerkcam. Leonares told BuzzFeed News that he did not know that user or ever communicate with him.
In Leonares’ Linkedin post, he mentions YouTuber Stephen Edward’s Alex From Target parody. Leonares wrote that Edward was in a Google Hangout with him the whole time.
Edward told BuzzFeed News that he never collaborated with Breakr on any content.
“I decided to make my ‘parody’ video of the whole Alex From Target trend on my own,” Edward said. “I do know the CEO of Breakr and have spoken to him before, but in no way has he ever reached out to me and asked me to be apart of his network.”
Leonares said that ultimately the #AlexFromTarget hashtag and meme were pushed out by larger YouTubers who follow and are influenced by his network of fangirls. He said it was a misunderstanding that any Twitter users are claiming to not know him or be associated with him.
“I think that a lot of [the fangirls in Breakr’s network] have bigger YouTubers that follow them and started to see a lot of the conversation with the hashtag #AlexFromTarget,” he said.
When asked specifically if he felt like Breakr could really claim responsibility for Alex LaBeouf’s viral rise, Leonares said that it was all a chain reaction that Breakr happened to be a part of.
LaBeouf tweeted a statement about Breakr on Tuesday night. He wrote that at no point was he ever aware of a company called Breakr being involved with his meme.
“Apparently, there is a company trying to take credit for how the pic taken of me went viral,” LaBeouf wrote. “My family and I have never heard of this company.”
Leonares said that at no point did Breakr contact LaBeouf or exchange any money with any Twitter users involved with Alex LaBeouf’s viral campaign. For Breakr, he said, it’s all about rallying different fanbases and different groups that care about something.
“I think working with the fandom community is good because if you work with them to build, they support other people,” Leonares said. “They want to get the people they care about trending. It wasn’t about Breakr.”
As CNET’s story about Breakr and Leonares’ LinkedIn post began spreading Tuesday night, many Twitter accounts — some associated with the fandoms Leonares insists are part of his network of fangirls — began attacking Breakr, demanding proof that the company was ever involved in the meme.
On Tuesday, Ellen Degeneres’ Twitter account posted a photo of LaBeouf posing with Degeneres.
This article originally referred to “Alex From Target” by his Facebook display name, Alex Lee, it has been updated to reflect his real name.
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