Creative Artists Agency launches Start-up Studio Creative Labs

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By Ted Liu

Creative Artists Agency (CAA) has launched Creative Labs, a start-up studio focused on developing consumer-facing technology companies and next-generation media and entertainment experiences.

Led by CEO Mike Edwards and based in Vancouver, Creative Labs will ideate new businesses in such areas as OTT, VR/AR, gaming, and AI/messaging, in addition to digital consumer brands in ecommerce, mobile, social, and publishing.

Serial entrepreneur, two-time Emmy Award-nominee and venture capitalist Leonard Brody serves as Chairman and co-founder of the new venture.

Edwards, Brody, Pauline Moller, Michael Yanover, CAA’s Head of Business Development, and Michael Blank, CAA’s Head of Mobile serve as board members of Creative Labs.

Creative Labs has raised $12.5 million in financing from institutional investors, Boatrocker Ventures, Entertainment One (eOne), Real Ventures, Seedcamp Ventures, The Telegraph Media Group, and private investors, such as Saul Klein, Jeff Mallett, and Lane Merrifield.

“Throughout the past decade, we have conceptualized and launched several successful start-ups 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, Head of Business Development, CAA. “Our clients are innovative and entrepreneurial, and Creative Labs will play an integral role in helping develop their new business ideas from concept to launch, and beyond.”

CAA has a proven incubation track record, having conceptualized and co-founded six venture-backed companies, including FunnyorDie and WhoSay, for which the agency has collectively raised more than $100 million in third-party funding. With expertise in principal investing, CAA manages CAA Ventures, a venture fund that invests third-party capital in consumer technology businesses with high-growth opportunities. To date, the fund has invested in more than three dozen companies, including August, Bark + Co., Drone Racing League, Giphy, Medium, Patreon, and Toronto based 500px, a photography community.

“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. 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. It’s a massive opportunity and I’m incredibly excited to be a part of it,” said Edwards.

Creative Labs has already launched two companies – Belletrist and Ground Control.

Creative Labs worked closely with CAA client Emma Roberts and Karah Preiss to conceptualize and develop Belletrist, a new product-driven media company focused on the link between millennial women, the arts and culture, which launched its first phase in April, and includes photo and video sharing, live community discussions, and a subscription book recommendation service curated by Roberts.

Ground Control is an interactive audio platform rooted in the growth of voice operating systems, such as smart speakers. The company has distribution on iTunes, Spotify, Amazon Alexa, and Google Assistant and is led by highly regarded tech entrepreneur Michael Macadaan. Ground Control is developing foundational original content with well-known personalities across entertainment, sports, politics and beyond. In September, Ground Control launched “Biden’s Briefing,” a daily audio program in which Vice President Joe Biden shares what he is reading on issues that are sparking conversation across the country. Most recently, the company unveiled “Full Count Baseball Trivia” with baseball All-Star Buster Posey. The first in a series of voice-activated games, “Full Count Baseball Trivia” has a daily offering of baseball trivia questions of varying difficulty, enabling players to earn points to graduate through seven levels – from Rookie to Minor League, Major League to Hall of Fame. With an initial focus on current affairs and interactive games, Ground Control aims to grow into health & wellness, hospitality and other promising categories.

“This is a transformative time for the media and entertainment business as more and more talent are able to speak directly to their audience and develop meaningful brands around that,” said Brody. “It is an honor to be working with an industry leader and legend like CAA to develop this new generation of products, companies, and entrepreneurs.”

Creative Artists Agency (CAA) represents many of the most successful and innovative professionals working in film, television, music, video games, theatre, and digital content, and provides a range of strategic marketing and consulting services to corporate clients. CAA is also a leader in sports, representing more than 1,000 of the world’s top athletes in football, baseball, basketball, hockey, soccer, tennis, and golf, and works in the areas of broadcast rights, corporate marketing initiatives, licensing, and sports properties for sales and sponsorship opportunities.

photo credit: Creative Labs