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Brian Grazer and Ron Howard’s Imagine Impact Closes Financing With Benchmark (EXCLUSIVE)

Ron Howard Brian Grazer Nat Geo
Chelsea Lauren/Variety/REX/Shutterstock

Imagine Impact, an offshoot of Ron Howard and Brian Grazer’s production company Imagine Entertainment, has closed its Series A financing round led by Silicon Valley venture capital firm Benchmark.

Imagine Impact joins eBay, Hipcamp, Instawork, Nextdoor, OpenTable, Stitch Fix, Uber, Yelp, and Zillow, in Benchmark’s investment portfolio. Benchmark partner Bill Gurley spearheaded the deal and will join the board.

“The old way of sourcing talent in the entertainment industry is based on who you know, which presents high barriers-to-entry for the fresh voices we need to hear from,” said Gurley. “Impact is knocking down these barriers through a marketplace model that reduces information asymmetry and levels the playing field.”

Grazer said, “We could not be more thrilled to be working with Benchmark. They have an unrivaled track record in building marketplaces and companies that have changed the world.”

The company was launched in 2018 by Grazer and Howard with Tyler Mitchell as CEO, as a means of accelerating and democratizing the script development process by attempting to remove bias from the submission process allowing the writer’s voice to speak for itself and the most viable projects to move forward. Imagine Impact has built a network of 30,000 writers from over 80 countries and developed 72 projects, 25 of which have been set up at major studios including: Netflix, Sony, Amblin, Legendary, Village Roadshow and Sony.

“With Benchmark, we are now in a better place to serve the greater creative community worldwide,” said Howard. “Their investment enables us to go wider and deeper in bringing great storytellers to the forefront and connecting them to the entertainment industry.”

With the financing, Imagine Impact will become Impact Creative Systems. It plans to use the financing to launch the Creative Network this fall as an online marketplace and professional networking platform designed specifically for entertainment industry professional.

Mitchell said, “The response to our mobile/web app was so overwhelmingly positive that it became immediately clear that there is a huge demand for a platform that can connect people across all aspects of the entertainment industry, from development to production — a content and labor marketplace with social networking aspects and specialized tools that will make the business of creating content far more efficient and enjoyable.”

Grazer and Howard launched Imagine Entertainment in 1986 and have producing credits on numerous best picture winners and nominees, including “A Beautiful Mind,” “Frost/Nixon,” “Apollo 13,” and “American Gangster.” Imagine’s TV credits include “Arrested Development,” “24,” “Friday Night Lights” and “Empire.”

Grazer told Variety that Impact can lead to the discovery of more unique voices such as Aaron Sorkin, who developed “Sports Night” at Imagine. “He was so authentic that we had to be in business with him,” he said.

Impact and Netflix announced a collaboration in June. Impact launched its first international accelerator program in Australia last month in association with Gentle Giant Media Group and Screen Australia.