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Friday, Sep 30, 2022

Entertainment Search Engine Finds Way to Series A

Tech startups in Los Angeles are figuring out ways to help consumers navigate the increasingly fractured world of media consumption.

El Segundo content discovery platform MediaHound officially launched its website and mobile app this week while also announcing a $4.5 million Series A funding round from Beverly Hills’ United Talent Agency and a group of undisclosed private investors. The capital raise brings MediaHound’s outside investment total to $5 million.

The company’s service helps people search for, discover and purchase entertainment content, including TV shows, movies, books, video games and music.

Rather than having to navigate services such as iTunes, Amazon.com and other online retailers separately, MediaHound shows users all the ways they can consume their favorite content, with the company taking a cut of between 5 percent and 15 percent of each sale, depending on the distributor.

In addition to a search function, MediaHound is powered by a proprietary service it calls “The Entertainment Graph,” which recommends content in a feed based on what you and your friends are watching, playing, reading and listening to. Users can also make playlists of their favorite content and share them via various social media platforms.

Each piece of content on MediaHound has its own dedicated page, and the startup also makes money by charging content owners, such as Hollywood studios, for that prime real estate.

“We give them the ability to take control of that page, post ads and release sneak peeks,” said MediaHound founder and Chief Executive Addison McCaleb. “Then we’re also able to provide them with the data and analysis behind that.”

McCaleb founded the company while studying at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts and took MediaHound through the USC Viterbi Startup Garage accelerator. Other backers of the accelerator include UTA and Menlo Park venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.

Chatter Box

Meanwhile, Santa Monica’s Vyu Inc. announced last week that it has raised an $825,000 seed funding round led by Dubai’s Jabbar Internet Group to continue developing its social entertainment app for smartphones.

While MediaHound is more interested in connecting consumers directly with the content they’re interested in, Vyu is focusing on the social conversations and hype surrounding the shows themselves, said founder and Chief Executive Ahmed Nassef.

“With Vyu, a user simply begins by choosing a few of her favorite shows and right away she gets an aggregated real-time feed of all the latest news, video clips, images and social chatter about the show that she can in turn easily share with her friends on her social platforms,” Nassef wrote in an email.

Users won’t be able to purchase content through Vyu, though Nassef said the company hopes to incorporate that feature down the line.

Nassef, an L.A. native, served as vice president and managing director of Yahoo Inc.’s Middle East and Africa region between 2009 and 2013.

Nassef came to Yahoo after it acquired Arabic Web portal Maktoob.com. He had been at Maktoob, where he was vice president and general manager, for eight years.

The Vyu founder said that in his previous roles he discovered that mobile users’ desire to share and discover content on their phones had not been adequately met, particularly in emerging markets.

“We think this can be very interesting to advertisers who also want to connect with their consumers, given the vast budgets that are being spent on TV,” he said. “Also, the aggregated data about viewer habits and social sentiments can be very valuable to brand marketers and content owners.”

Nassef said he hopes to launch the app in the United States and Middle East sometime in the next couple of months, with other markets to follow.

Deal Flow

New York’s Dow Jones VentureSource has released its third-quarter venture capital report, which reveals both good and bad news for the L.A. metropolitan area.

While the total number of financing rounds during the quarter decreased to 33 from 41 in the second quarter, the amount of capital raised more than doubled, jumping from almost $380 million to nearly $860 million.

The spike was due in large part to a $250 million investment in Burbank’s Legendary Entertainment Inc. by SoftBank Corp. of Minato, Japan, a telecommunications and Internet giant that’s making bold moves in the content arena. Another huge chunk of the funding pie came from Kuwait Investment Authority’s quarter-billion-dollar investment in Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong’s NantHealth in Culver City.

Local information technology companies also raised $14 million from five separate financing rounds, compared with $12.8 million in four rounds in the second quarter.

Staff reporter Omar Shamout can be reached at oshamout@labusinessjournal.com or (323) 549-5225, ext. 263.

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