CAA is looking to launch more startups in next-gen media and entertainment and consumer-facing technology spaces through Creative Labs, a venture that has raised $12.5 million in financing.
Creative Labs’ investors include institutional investors Boatrocker Ventures, Entertainment One (eOne), Real Ventures, Seedcamp Ventures, and London-based Telegraph Media Group, in addition to individual investors including Saul Klein, Jeff Mallett, and Lane Merrifield.
Based in Vancouver, Canada, the Creative Labs incubator is led by two tech entrepreneurs and investors: CEO Mike Edwards and chairman and co-founder Leonard Brody. The Creative Labs team includes engineers, designers, and developers who are tasked with forming new businesses in such areas as over-the-top video, virtual reality and augmented reality, gaming, artificial-intelligence messaging, in addition to digital consumer brands in e-commerce, mobile, social, and publishing.
“Throughout the past decade, we have conceptualized and launched several successful startups on behalf of the agency and our clients, and now, through the formation of Creative Labs, we are able to further our efforts in a scalable, systematic manner,” said Michael Yanover, CAA’s head of business development.
Creative Labs has already launched two companies: Belletrist and Ground Control. For Belletrist, Creative Labs worked with CAA client Emma Roberts and Karah Preiss to develop the product-driven media company focused arts and culture for female millennials. Belletrist launched its first phase in April, and includes photo and video sharing, live community discussions, and a subscription book-recommendation service curated by Roberts.
In June, Creative Labs launched Ground Control, an interactive-audio programming platform based on the growth of voice operating systems such as smart speakers. The company, led by tech entrepreneur Michael Macadaan, has distribution on iTunes, Spotify, Amazon Alexa, and Google Assistant.
Edwards, who has invested in and/or been actively involved in more than 40 technology startups over the past two decades, said that one of the biggest challenges facing entrepreneurs is getting their product or company in front of the right audience.
“Having a good idea is not enough,” Edwards said in a statement. “CAA’s expertise combined with its access to the world’s best talent enables us to create, test and develop innovative products and experiences for built-in, highly engaged audiences.”
Creatives Labs’ board members are Yanover, Edwards, Brody, media and gaming executive Pauline Moller, and CAA head of mobile Michael Blank.
Separately, CAA to date has developed and co-founded six venture-backed companies, including Funny Or Die and WhoSay, for which the agency has collectively raised more than $100 million in outside funding. The CAA Ventures fund invests third-party capital in consumer-technology businesses, with stakes in more than three dozen companies, including August, Bark + Co., Drone Racing League, Giphy, Medium, and Patreon.