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Thursday, Feb 2, 2023

Entertainment Professional Network Closes $15 Million series B

Impact, an online professional networking site for the film and television industries, has secured $15 million in series B financing. Impact principals said the funding will strengthen its platform as the company attempts to capitalize on a production boom in the entertainment sector.

The funding brings Impact’s total raised to more than $21 million and marks the arrival of Shasta Ventures Managing Director Jason Pressman onto Impact’s Board. Funds will be used to add talent to Impact’s product and engineering teams and to build and ship new features.

The round was led by Shasta Ventures with participation from Benchmark Investment. The round also included strategic investors such as Skydance, Riviera Partners, Michael Lynton, the chairman of Snap and former chairman & chief executive of Sony Entertainment, Eric Fellner, producer and co-chairman of Working Title Films, Anthony Wood, the founder and chief executive of Roku, and others.

Impact’s platform gives productions and crews the ability to connect with colleagues and offers tools that can help teams hire new crew members, check workforce availability and organize their hiring efforts in one place. The company was founded by academy award-winning filmmakers and Imagine Entertainment Executive Chairmen Brian Grazer and Ron Howard.

“Entertainment is a network-driven industry that does not have an online network,” Impact Chief Executive Tyler Mitchell said in a statement. “With production spending continuing to break global records and $4.6 billion being invested to build new studios and hundreds of state-of-the-art sound stages around the world, now is the time for us to accelerate our development of network-driven features that will connect the industry.”

Impact founders, from left, Ron Howard, Brian Grazer and Tyler Mitchell.

Production boom

Los Angeles is feeling the weight of the production boom mentioned by Mitchell, despite being the global leader in soundstage capacity with 5.4 million square feet of stage space, according to nonprofit production-permitting agency FilmLA. In a previous story published by the Business Journal, Adam J. Fowler, founding partner of CVL Economics, a West Hollywood-based consulting firm active in entertainment, said soundstages have been underbuilt over the years in Hollywood and that a lot of industrial space is being repurposed for stages in the region.

Firms like Hackman Capital Partners have invested significantly in meeting production demands. In October, it closed a $1.6 billion capital raise for its HCP Studio Fund, and last year announced a $1.25 billion investment to upgrade Television City, a facility in the Fairfax District of LA.

Part of meeting that demand, however, is not only upgrading or acquiring new production space, but being able to accommodate increased production activity with a sufficient workforce and productions that can track down crew members with speed. This is where Impact sees a chance to capitalize.

The platform’s tools, according to Mitchell, are primarily designed to save people time. Mitchell provided an example of building out a crew made up of hundreds of people and how such a process can take thousands of hours to complete between getting contact information, calling around, sending emails and waiting to hear back.

“The system is able to search by role, by location, and then send out a high volume of emails to qualified people,” Mitchell said. “We usually send out about 20 availability checks, and we’ll find about four available people who would be appropriate for that production.”

Approved users do not have to pay for the platform, according to Mitchell. However, Impact does see a revenue opportunity in pitching its services to studios and production companies as a time- and cost-saving measure.


Crew lists

Mitchell said a production company could also use Impact to lessen time commitments of production secretaries who have to manually enter hundreds of names, phone numbers and email addresses into spreadsheets that they then distribute via PDF as the official crew list.

With this process, any changes to a crew’s makeup must also be handled through manual changes to a spreadsheet.
Mitchell did not share exact numbers on what the cost of Impact might look like for production companies and studios.

Impact is entering a professional network already inhabited by the likes of major platforms including LinkedIn and Meta’s Facebook, where industry professionals convene for business networking.

Ali Aksu, a film producer and entrepreneur, said he has seen casting and crew networking done via Facebook. Aksu is also the founder of Untold, an investment platform that provides vetted entertainment financing.

He said one of Impact’s challenges is convincing industry members already using established websites to transfer to something new.
Impact’s case for itself is based on the fact that its platform is strictly focused on professional communication and profiles.

“On Facebook, you get all kinds of messages. Your friends are on there, your family is on there, and there are groups that you’re associated with,” Mitchell said. “But it’s not like the notifications you’re receiving are strictly for your work. Your identity on Facebook may not necessarily be the same identity that you want to display on a professional network.”

Impact’s database has 1.1 million verified profiles, according to Mitchell, who said that searching for a crew member on Impact is not like making an open-forum post on Facebook. Instead, hiring can be done with fine-tuned search filters.

Mitchell added that one of the main priorities moving forward for Impact, which is still a young company, is increasing user registration and getting more people to understand its value proposition.

“We went from 2,500 people at the end of last year to more than 25,000 currently,” he said. “We’re hoping to get that number to more than 30,000 by the end of the year.”


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