The links that unite the technology industry and Hollywood continue to tighten as the Creative Artists Agency launches a startup studio to develop new businesses with – and for – its list of clients .
Continuing a tradition that began with the incubation and launch of Funny or Die (alongside Sequoia Capital and Gary Sanchez Productions by Will Ferrell), one of the best Hollywood agencies is partnering with a group of Canadian investors to fund a new Labs, with $ 12.5 million.
"We have incubated businesses at CAA over the years," says Michael Yanover, Business Development Manager at CAA.
Yanover was the principal architect of the agency's work with Funny or Die and Whosay, an influential marketing company, as well as the work of the company with CAA Ventures – its venture capital branch. This company has supported some solid companies, including: August, Bark + Co., Drone Racing League, Giphy, Middle and Patreon.
For Yanover, the creation of Creative Labs was a response to the changing expectations of venture-stage investors, including its own CAA Ventures, he said.
"Whenever we found one of these ideas, we had to collect money and collect money … it was a little tedious to build these things to from scratch, "he said. "The market was changing [and] today, you can not really do that, you have to build something because investors want to see a product and launch something."
Thus, in 2015, as the start-up capital crisis began to take shape, Yanover and his team decided to build a start-up foundry model that could incubate and create businesses with fully-cooked products.
A sign of the globalization of the entertainment industry and the technology industry, the new studio will be based in Vancouver and will benefit from the support of major players in the Canadian and British media sector such as Entertainment One, Boat Rocker Media venture arm) and The Telegraph Media Group.
"We chose Vancouver for two very clear reasons," says Leonard Brody, co-founder of Creative Labs, a Canadian entrepreneur and serial investor. "There was a very strong developer base that was more loyal and less troublesome than other centers … [and] you have that real strength around project management and product management."
For start-up companies that in some cases are nothing more than an idea and celebrity advocate, the need for a project manager to guide a business is critical, according to Brody .
Creative Labs general manager Mike Edwards was in agreement. A former social media marketing executive, Edwards was hired to head Mobio Technologies' operations where he had served as CEO.
To ensure alignment of interests, the studio's employees have an equity interest in the venture capital studio and will be able to receive equity in all the companies that come from it. They also have the opportunity to graduate from the studio to participate in the development of individual startups as these companies mature, Edwards said.
"Part of the history of the genesis of the lab was also an awareness that the world of media and entertainment and sports really changed," said Brody. "The industry itself has changed.The old model was used to sell products for other people … you were selling products for others … like the flat ones. -forms evolved where talent could speak directly to consumers, you realized that you could sell your own products and create your own brands. "
That's what Creative Labs is trying to capture.
Yanover said the venture studio identified three types of opportunities that correspond to the three ways in which it built internal affairs at CAA in the past.
An idea is developed around an artist or athlete that the agency represents – such as Funny or Die. Already, Creative Labs has such a business waiting behind the scenes.
Founded by actress Emma Roberts and former video producer and creative talent creator Huffington Post, Karah Preiss, Belletrist is sort of a new generation reading club for a new literary ensemble.
The company was launched in April with an interview with Roberts, a lifelong lover of literature, and the literary icon Joan Didion
If Belletrist is an example of a platform created around a CAA client, then another creative idea from Creative Labs, Ground Control is a company that was created with the list CAA talent in mind.
The startup is looking to harness players, athletes and other celebrities and bring their talents to vocal operating systems developed by technology companies like Apple, Amazon and Alphabet. Founded by former Aol CEO, Michael Macadaan, Yanover said that Ground Control is apparent to Whosay's development by the firm, as it is a platform that can use the list of CAA customers to succeed.
Finally, there are companies that integrate into the work that CAA performs internally, or that employs the talented group of developers, designers and programmers of the company. According to Yanover, Edwards and Brody, there is a game development company still to launch that falls into this category.
Yanover, Edwards, Brody, veteran media and games executive Pauline Moller, and CAA Mobile Service Manager Michael Blank will all be members of Creative Labs' board of directors.
"The premise of all we will incubate is that we want to integrate some of CAA's DNA," says Yanover. "We want to embrace the company as one of our children and we want to give it all the resources the CAA has."
[Update: This story has been updated to correct the identification of investor Boat Rocker Media, not Boat Rocker Entertainment as was originally indicated.]
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