Yellowbrick, the New York-based online education platform that focuses on developing training and certification programs for careers in arts, entertainment, media and sports, has acquired the Animation Mentor platform that targets animation-specific instruction.
Yellowbrick has also landed a seven-figure investment from Sony Innovation Fund by IGV, a venture capital fund led by Sony and others to help launch mid- to late-stage startup firms focusing on services shaping the future of business and entertainment.
“Yellowbrick’s focus on growing the creator economy through education fits with our mission to support promising startups who bring creative and promising innovations to the world,” said Gen Tsuchikawa, CEO and chief investment officer at Sony Innovation Fund by IGV. “The team has developed high-quality educational content that has attracted top universities and marquee brands to develop the next generation of creators. Additionally, their focus on education and promoting diversity through their work with corporations to bring opportunities to underrepresented students, aligns with our (environmental, social and governance) efforts.”
Yellowbrick was created in 2014 to provide film school-like courses and extensive curriculum online for those looking to pursue careers in film and TV production, entertainment and media — what the company calls the “creative economy.” It charges $1,000 a year for access to courses on the platform. The material is designed for aspiring industries and mid-career professionals looking to make a career-track change.
“The next iteration of our company is getting to the point that wherever someone is in the entertainment field, we have a learning solution for it,” said Rob Kingyens, president and CEO of Yellowbrick.
Yellowbrick to date has teamed with notable institutions such as NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and New York’s Parsons, Fashion Institute of Technology and Columbia University. It has also partnered with authoritative media brands including Rolling Stone, IndieWire, Billboard, Footwear News and WWD (all owned by Variety parent company PMC). It offers classes through the Yellowbrick platform, and it has been commissioned to create custom programs for institutions and employers.
With the addition of Animation Mentor, Yellowbrick at present has about 50 full-time employees and more than 100 contractors who help run the education system. The company’s other investors include Conde Nast and University Ventures. Financial details of the Animation Mentor acquisition were not disclosed but it is known the transaction was completed with cash and stock in Yellowbrick.
Animation Mentor was founded in 2005 by alums of Disney and Pixar. The company offers online instruction that weaves in live mentoring sessions with industry professionals who are assigned to students through the school. Animation Mentor is based in Emeryville, Calif., just down the road from the spacious Pixar campus in the Northern California town just north of Oakland.
Animation Mentor is looking to expand its online certification process as the demand for artists with animation skills has led to entire classes being hired to work en masse on new toon projects.
“It’s exciting to see where we can take it if [Yellowbrick] helps us plug in to bigger partners,” said Bobby Beck, CEO of Animation Mentor.