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Crew Me Up Transforms How the Entertainment Industry Hires Crew Members

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The entertainment industry is characterized by its long-hours and unpredictability with crew members’ availability subject to constant change. This makes it difficult for production to staff properly and efficiently. Crew Me Up is the database of filmmakers that adds structure to and centralizes the crew member hiring process, also making it easy for film professionals to expand their networks and explore job opportunities. The free service allows professionals to set up a profile that contains a link to a website, resume, and/or IMDB page to verify credibility. Employers are able to search availability in real-time through the database.

AlleyWatch caught up with CEO and Cofounder Joshua Friedman to learn more about the marketplace, how the pain points he experienced working in the entertainment industry since 2007  led to the launch of Crew Me Up, the experience navigating the pandemic when much of the entertainment industry was shut down, and much, much more…

Tell us about the product or service that Crew Me Up offers.

Crew Me Up is a mobile app reinventing the way filmmakers connect from the inside out. We offer a database of working filmmakers to hire in-app; we offer employers the opportunity to post or make an offer in a few clicks; we manage the hires in a calendar system for easy tracking and provide industry-tailored searches for short-term shift work.

What inspired the start of Crew Me Up?

Crew Me Up was born out of a personal need. It actually replaces me. I started as a production assistant (PA) on Law & Order: Criminal Intent back in 2007. As a PA, I wrote a book bridging the gap between film school and professional production called Getting It Done: The Ultimate Production Assistant Guide. I then worked 600 days on over 50 productions over three years in order to join the Directors Guild of America as an assistant director (AD). Throughout this journey, I was always looking for work or looking to hire crew in my department. I had a network of over 700 filmmakers in New York, but no way of knowing who’s available. I would literally make 60 phone calls to hire six people. And I’d have to do it while standing on set and focusing on the shooting day. When I noticed this problem back in 2014, I wasn’t in a position to do anything about it. Assistant directing led me to producing the movie Warning Shot starring Tammy Blanchard, David Spade, and James Earl Jones. During a prep tech scout, our gaffer, who provides light and power to the set, got into a disagreement with our director of photography, who is responsible for the creative look of the movie. It escalated to the point where we flew the gaffer back to New York and needed a last-minute replacement… in Texas. This was the point where I turned to my producing partners and asked… is there a resource out there that could find us qualified crew members anywhere and let us know if they were available? At the time, the only three options were Staffmeup, Mandy, or Craigslist, none of which satisfied all of our hiring requirements. I looked at my producing partners and restated the problem… “You’re telling me there’s no resource to find and hire available crew quickly and easily?” Crew Me Up became the solution.

How is Crew Me Up different?

Crew Me Up differs from the competition by flipping the power dynamic of the hiring model. Instead of an employer posting a job and blindly hoping for a response, Crew Me Up offers them a database of crew to hire. Each user profile contains a link to a website, resume, and/or IMDB page to verify credibility. We also offer an availability calendar so time is not wasted connecting with crew who are already working.

We do have competitors in the film and TV technology market. The main difference between our products is the approach. Most of our competitors have been outside the industry and view the problem from a higher level, but at Crew Me Up are in it and building our product from the inside out.

What market does Crew Me Up target and how big is it?

Crew Me Up targets anyone working in film, television, commercials, documentaries, and any other “behind the camera” gig in the United States. According to a 2018 MPAA study, our total U.S. market is around 660,000 filmmakers, with 115,000 of those filmmakers in our backyard of New York City.

If we are asking about the size of the financial opportunity, I would say it depends on which business model we focus on long term. As a SaaS platform, Crew Me Up is entering a market that spends upwards of $90B  per year, roughly 40% of that on labor.

What is the business model?

Our current business model leverages partnerships and resources so we can bring the app to users on both the hiring and the crew side free of charge.

How has COVID-19 impacted the business?

COVID-19 has affected our business in many ways.

Inside the company, it forced us to downsize and rethink our approach to development. We are a community-based app, and our internal team is very important to us. It’s been hard to make good on promises when there are a lot of question marks in your marketplace. Fortunately, we’ve been seeing a pathway through to the other side.

COVID-19 has also affected our ability to raise capital. We’ve been working at this for a little over a year now, and my cofounder, Voravong Nachampassak, and I have chatted and pitched many VCs. One thing we learned is that our journey and pathway to success does not necessarily align with the VC model. We do appeal more to Angels, Family Offices, or Private Equity with a vested interest in the entertainment sector. Before COVID-19, we would go to networking events, happy hours, panels, pitch competitions, and many more places where it’s very easy to turn an elbow bump into a handshake. COVID has turned that into Zoom networking with five-person breakout rooms.

The chat becomes your sidebar conversation for follow-ups and loses the personal touch of a real conversation. Fortunately, we’ve found that investors we spoke to a year ago are impressed with the evolution of our business models and our perseverance enough to have new conversations about the potential for Crew Me Up in a post-pandemic world.

While there have been challenges, Crew Me Up has also had an opportunity during the pandemic to reshape the brand and connect with our users in different ways. COVID has created a new health & safety department with many new positions that didn’t exist before. Film crews now need access to PPE and testing, which we can help connect them to. Back in March, all of the work stopped. At that point, we decided to support our community by keeping them informed and up-to-date on the latest legislation and back-to-work practices, as well as news about productions that were up and running or down and out. We were able to connect with users we never would have had an opportunity to meet. The pandemic has been a very mixed bag.

What are the milestones that you plan to achieve within six months?

Complete our $1M Seed raise, 10X the number of crew members on our platform, secure and support 150 vendors on Crew Me Up, release our 2.0 version, launch a podcast interviewing working crew member, and release industry courses with partners like Film Launch.

What is the one piece of startup advice that you never got?

Be patient and grow your company naturally. Early on I was mentored by some individuals who pitched me a nine-step startup plan for growth and scale. Within a year they had our company at 12 people with full salaries and benefits. I think the idea was to get ahead of whatever market need you are in… bigger, faster, stronger… burn and grow. But we didn’t want to be Myspace… we were looking to build Facebook. Knowing then what I know now, I would’ve taken a much different route though I am thankful for the lessons I’ve learned.

If you could be put in touch with anyone in the New York community who would it be and why? 

Tommy O’Donnell, head of IATSE Teamster Local 817. I’ve been working in film and television since I was a 22-year-old kid and the one constant in my life has been the brotherhood of teamsters. They’ve kept us safe after 16-20 hour days, banded together in times of hardship, and really supported our community by accepting underrepresented filmmakers into their ranks in departments other than transportation. We would love to support that kind of leader and organization.

I’ve been working in film and television since I was a 22-year-old kid and the one constant in my life has been the brotherhood of teamsters. They’ve kept us safe after 16-20 hour days, banded together in times of hardship, and really supported our community by accepting underrepresented filmmakers into their ranks in departments other than transportation. We would love to support that kind of leader and organization.

Why did you launch in New York?

New York is where I’ve put down roots. I moved here right after college, worked on Broadway, and fell into film and TV. This city and community have given me so much over the years. These personal ties, paired with the high concentration of people working in the film/TV industry, make it the obvious location choice for our company’s base.

What’s your favorite outdoor dining restaurant in NYC

44 and X on the Northeast corner of 44th Street & 10th Avenue. I’ve been going there for 10 years and have never had a bad meal.


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Source: https://www.alleywatch.com/2021/01/crew-me-up-crew-hiring-filmmaker-platfomr-joshua-friedman/

SaaS

Investors still love software more than life

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Welcome back to The TechCrunch Exchange, a weekly startups-and-markets newsletter. It’s broadly based on the daily column that appears on Extra Crunch, but free, and made for your weekend reading. Want it in your inbox every Saturday morning? Sign up here.

Ready? Let’s talk money, startups and spicy IPO rumors.

Despite some recent market volatility, the valuations that software companies have generally been able to command in recent quarters have been impressive. On Friday, we took a look into why that was the case, and where the valuations could be a bit more bubbly than others. Per a report written by few Battery Ventures investors, it stands to reason that the middle of the SaaS market could be where valuation inflation is at its peak.

Something to keep in mind if your startup’s growth rate is ticking lower. But today, instead of being an enormous bummer and making you worry, I have come with some historically notable data to show you how good modern software startups and their larger brethren have it today.

In case you are not 100% infatuated with tables, let me save you some time. In the upper right we can see that SaaS companies today that are growing at less than 10% yearly are trading for an average of 6.9x their next 12 months’ revenue.

Back in 2011, SaaS companies that were growing at 40% or more were trading at 6.0x their next 12 month’s revenue. Climate change, but for software valuations.

One more note from my chat with Battery. Its investor Brandon Gleklen riffed with The Exchange on the definition of ARR and its nuances in the modern market. As more SaaS companies swap traditional software-as-a-service pricing for its consumption-based equivalent, he declined to quibble on definitions of ARR, instead arguing that all that matters in software revenues is whether they are being retained and growing over the long term. This brings us to our next topic.

Consumption v. SaaS pricing

I’ve taken a number of earnings calls in the last few weeks with public software companies. One theme that’s come up time and again has been consumption pricing versus more traditional SaaS pricing. There is some data showing that consumption-priced software companies are trading at higher multiples than traditionally priced software companies, thanks to better-than-average retention numbers.

But there is more to the story than just that. Chatting with Fastly CEO Joshua Bixby after his company’s earnings report, we picked up an interesting and important market distinction between where consumption may be more attractive and where it may not be. Per Bixby, Fastly is seeing larger customers prefer consumption-based pricing because they can afford variability and prefer to have their bills tied more closely to revenue. Smaller customers, however, Bixby said, prefer SaaS billing because it has rock-solid predictability.

I brought the argument to Open View Partners Kyle Poyar, a venture denizen who has been writing on this topic for TechCrunch in recent weeks. He noted that in some cases the opposite can be true, that variably priced offerings can appeal to smaller companies because their developers can often test the product without making a large commitment.

So, perhaps we’re seeing the software market favoring SaaS pricing among smaller customers when they are certain of their need, and choosing consumption pricing when they want to experiment first. And larger companies, when their spend is tied to equivalent revenue changes, bias toward consumption pricing as well.

Evolution in SaaS pricing will be slow, and never complete. But folks really are thinking about it. Appian CEO Matt Calkins has a general pricing thesis that price should “hover” under value delivered. Asked about the consumption-versus-SaaS topic, he was a bit coy, but did note that he was not “entirely happy” with how pricing is executed today. He wants pricing that is a “better proxy for customer value,” though he declined to share much more.

If you aren’t thinking about this conversation and you run a startup, what’s up with that? More to come on this topic, including notes from an interview with the CEO of BigCommerce, who is betting on SaaS over the more consumption-driven Shopify.

Next Insurance, and its changing market

Next Insurance bought another company this week. This time it was AP Intego, which will bring integration into various payroll providers for the digital-first SMB insurance provider. Next Insurance should be familiar because TechCrunch has written about its growth a few times. The company doubled its premium run rate to $200 million in 2020, for example.

The AP Intego deal brings $185.1 million of active premium to Next Insurance, which means that the neo-insurance provider has grown sharply thus far in 2021, even without counting its organic expansion. But while the Next Insurance deal and the impending Hippo SPAC are neat notes from a hot private sector, insurtech has shed some of its public-market heat.

Stocks of public neo-insurance companies like Root, Lemonade and MetroMile have lost quite a lot of value in recent weeks. So, the exit landscape for companies like Next and Hippo — yet-private insurtech startups with lots of capital backing their rapid premium growth — is changing for the worse.

Hippo decided it will debut via a SPAC. But I doubt that Next Insurance will pursue a rapid ramp to the public markets until things smooth out. Not that it needs to go public quickly; it raised a quarter billion back in September of last year.

Various and Sundry

What else? Sisense, a $100 million ARR club member, hired a new CFO. So we expect them to go public inside the next four or five quarters.

And the following chart, which is via Deena Shakir of Lux Capital, via Nasdaq, via SPAC Alpha:

Alex

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Source: https://techcrunch.com/2021/03/06/investors-still-love-software-more-than-life/

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Start Ups

The Product Manager asterisk

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Product manager might be one of the most grey roles within a startup. However, as a company progresses and the team grows, there comes a time when a founder needs to carve out dedicated roles. Of these positions, product management might be one of the most elusive — and key — roles to fill.

Ken Norton, who recently left his job as director of product at Figma to consult rising PMs, thinks it’s easier to start with defining what they aren’t: the CEO of the product.

“Product managers need to realize that there is a lot of janitorial work that gets done in product management,” he said. “It’s not fun or glamorous, and it’s certainly not being the CEO of the product. It’s just stuff that needs to get done.” I wrote up a guide on how and when to hire your first product manager that expands on some of these insights, including how focus might be the biggest trait to interview for:

Hiring continues to be one of the hardest parts of building a startup, and those early employees can define the trajectory, culture and eventual success of it. Even during TC Sessions: Justice this past week, Precursor’s Sydney Thomas explained how startups need to make “pretty final decisions, pretty early on in what type of company you want to build.”

It’s a slight asterisk to the common narrative of how startups pivot every other day. It’s not that simple, and I’ll probably remind you of that every other week, dear Startups Weekly readers.

The rest of today’s newsletter will include notes on a hot up-and-coming edtech IPO, an exit that includes Jay-Z, and the latest in agricultural tech robots. Also, remember you can always find me on Twitter @nmasc_ or e-mail me at natasha.m@techcrunch.com.

The public markets get educated

It’s been yet another busy week for the public markets. I published a scoop earlier this week that Coursera is filing to go public soon, which would be one of the first debuts that will let us see how an education company’s finances changed, and accelerated, amid the pandemic’s impact on remote learning.

Here’s what to know: Like clockwork, Coursera’s S-1 dropped late Friday, giving us the first glance of the numbers behind the business. The startup tried to pain a picture of a path of profitability, with rising revenues as well as rising net losses. We get into the meat of it here. 

Image Credits: Fotograzia / Getty Images

What’s better than one billionaire? Two 

One of the biggest headlines of this past week was Square buying a majority stake of Tidal. A fintech and music collaboration might not seem that obvious, but the music economy remains one of the most under-tapped (and under-innovated) opportunities that remains out there.

Here’s what to know: Square CEO Jack Dorsey used his other company, Twitter, to share more information about the $297 million deal. As part of this transaction, Tidal owner Jay-Z got a board seat with Square, triggering conversations about the future of musical NFTs. The deal also officially confirmed that Jay-Z isn’t just a businessman, he’s a business, man.

Singer Jay-Z performs before US President Barack Obama speaks at a campaign rally in Columbus, Ohio, on November 5, 2012. After a grueling 18-month battle, the final US campaign day arrived Monday for Obama and Republican rival Mitt Romney, two men on a collision course for the world’s top job. The candidates have attended hundreds of rallies, fundraisers and town halls, spent literally billions on attack ads, ground games, and get out the vote efforts, and squared off in three intense debates. AFP PHOTO/Jewel Samad (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)

Decentralized insect farming, anyone?

In this week’s Equity Wednesday episode, we brought on TC’s climate tech editor, Jonathan Shieber, to talk about the opportunities within agtech right now. We covered a lot within the 20-minute episode: from $100 million for mealworms, farm-to-grill robots and decentralized insect farming.

Here’s what to know: Farms have always had a compelling reason to turn to robotics to make tedious work much, much easier. We got into two different businesses and their approaches on how to serve farm robots, from SaaS leases to selling the robots one by one.

Image Credits: Fernando Trabanco Fotografía / Getty Images

Around TechCrunch

Thanks to all of you who tuned into TC Sessions: Justice this past week, it was so fun to hang — and make sure to give virtual kudos to my colleague, and showrunner, Megan Rose Dickey.

Next up is TechCrunch Early Stage, our yearly event that is all about tactical advice to help new and first-time founders navigate the Wild West world that is venture capital and startups. We just announced the judges of the pitch-off competition, and have already landed top-tier venture capitalists to share what you won’t find on Twitter: behind the scenes startup advice that is beyond 180 characters.

It’s the bootcamp you always wished you could attend, so get your tickets here.

Across the week

Seen on Extra Crunch

Understanding how investors value growth in 2021

Dear Sophie: Can you demystify the H-1B process and E-3 premium processing

11 words and phrases to cut from your VC pitch deck

Making sense of the $6.5B Okta-Auth0 deal

Seen on TechCrunch

SoftBank makes mountains of cash off of human laziness

Mary Meeker’s Bond has closed its second fund with $2 billion

The technology selloff is getting to be somewhat material

What China’s Big Tech CEOs propose at the annual parliament meeting

And finally…

I wanted to end by using this platform to address the rise of anti-Asian violence across our country. Conversations around how to be a more inclusive and anti-racist society need to be more loud, and more collaborative in order for change to actually happen. Intention around inclusion will impact the world we live in, the startups we create and the success of our collective. Here are some resources to donate, petition and learn.

Thanks,

N

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Source: https://techcrunch.com/2021/03/06/the-product-manager-asterisk/

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EdTech

A first look at Coursera’s S-1 filing

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After TechCrunch broke the news yesterday that Coursera was planning to file its S-1 today, the edtech company officially dropped the document Friday evening.

Coursera was last valued at $2.4 billion by the private markets, when it most recently raised a Series F round in October 2020 that was worth $130 million.

Coursera’s S-1 filing offers a glimpse into the finances of how an edtech company, accelerated by the pandemic, performed over the past year. It paints a picture of growth, albeit one that came at steep expense.

Revenue

In 2020, Coursera saw $293.5 million in revenue. That’s a roughly 59% increase from the year prior when the company recorded $184.4 million in top line. During that same period, Coursera posted a net loss of nearly $67 million, up 46% from the previous year’s $46.7 million net deficit.

Notably the company had roughly the same non-cash, share-based compensation expenses in both years. And even if we allow the company to judge its profitability on an adjusted EBITDA basis, Coursera’s losses still rose from 2019 to 2020, expanding from $26.9 million to $39.8 million.

To understand the difference between net losses and adjusted losses it’s worth unpacking the EBITDA acronym. Standing for earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization, EBITDA strips out some non-operating costs to give investors a possible better picture of the continuing health of a business, without getting caught up in accounting nuance. Adjusted EBITDA takes the concept one step further, also removing the non-cash cost of share-based compensation, and in an even more cheeky move, in this case also deducts “payroll tax expense related to stock-based activities” as well.

For our purposes, even when we grade Coursera’s profitability on a very polite curve it still winds up generating stiff losses. Indeed, the company’s adjusted EBITDA as a percentage of revenue — a way of determining profitability in contrast to revenue — barely improved from a 2019 result of -15% to -14% in 2020.

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Source: https://techcrunch.com/2021/03/05/a-first-look-at-courseras-s-1-filing/

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Start Ups

Coursera Files To Go Public After Online Learning’s Big Year

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Following a busy year for edtech, online learning platform Coursera has filed to go public.

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Coursera is backed by investors including The World Bank and EDBI. The investors set to receive the biggest payout from the IPO include New Enterprise Associates, G Squared, Kleiner Perkins and Future Fund.

As a private company, Coursera raised more than $443 million in funding, according to Crunchbase. It last raised a $130 million Series F led by NEA in July 2020.

Coursera reported $293.5 million in revenue in 2020, up 59 percent from $184.4 million in 2019. Its net loss also grew in that period from $46.7 million in 2019 to $66.8 million in 2020.

As of the end of 2020, the company has over 77 million registered learners on its platform. More than 4,000 academic institutions, 2,000 organizations and 300 government entities had used Coursera for student, employee and resident training, the company said in its S-1. 

Edtech in general has been a topic of discussion over the past year as the COVID-19 pandemic has forced distance learning on teachers and students. The company acknowledged how the pandemic “sharply increased the need for online learning beginning in 2020,” but also stated in its Risk Factors section that it couldn’t predict if the online learning trend would stick.

“Although we believe our business has also been positively impacted to some extent by several trends related to the COVID-19 pandemic, including the increased need or willingness of businesses, governments, and educational institutions to adopt remote, online, and asynchronous learning and training, we cannot predict whether these trends will continue if and when the pandemic begins to subside, restrictions ease, and the risk and barriers associated with in-person learning and training decrease,” Coursera wrote.

It also acknowledged among its risk factors that, “while the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the market for online learning solutions, it is still less mature than the market for in-person learning and training, which many businesses currently utilize, and these businesses may be slow or unwilling to migrate from these legacy approaches.”

Coursera is one of the bigger names in the world of edtech, partnering with well-known institutions like Stanford University and Princeton University to offer courses such as Introduction to Logic, Machine Learning and Essentials of Palliative Care. 

One of its more interesting risk factors: Coursera acknowledged that the reputation of for-profit postsecondary institutions and the scrutiny they’re under could negatively impact its business, despite the company steering clear of them.

“Even though we do not market our solutions to these institutions, this negative media attention may nevertheless add to the skepticism about online higher education generally, including our solutions,” the company wrote.

Coursera is one of several venture-backed companies to file to go public in the past week. ThredUp, AppLovin, Compass and Vizio all filed S-1 registration documents with the Securities and Exchange Commission this week. 

Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs and Citigroup are among the underwriters for Coursera’s IPO. The company has applied to list on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker COUR. 

Illustration: Dom Guzman

Stay up to date with recent funding rounds, acquisitions, and more with the Crunchbase Daily.

While 2020 wasn’t a banner year for most things, that’s also true for M&A dealmaking in cybersecurity. However, last month saw some interesting…

While shares opened at $39, they slid throughout the day to close at $34.80, down 12 percent.

The company reported about $1.45 billion in revenue in 2020, up from $994.1 million in 2019.

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Source: https://news.crunchbase.com/news/coursera-files-to-go-public-after-online-learnings-big-year/

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