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CAA launches $100 million venture with Silicon Valley firm to finance post-pandemic projects

Creative Artists Agency headquarters in Century City.
(Benny Chan / Fotoworks/CAA)

Creative Artists Agency and the Silicon Valley capital firm New Enterprise Associates announced a new investment partnership that aims to support early-stage businesses centered on commerce, content and media.

The two companies formed Connect Ventures, which launches this week with $100 million, with plans to invest up to $400 million. Its initial focus will be on supporting projects in a post-COVID-19 environment.

While Beverly Hills-based CAA will pull resources and connections in the entertainment and sports industries, New Enterprise Associates, which has invested in technology and healthcare companies globally, will provide experience in investing and company-building.

“In creating Connect Ventures, we’re bringing together two proven platforms built on decades of experience to unlock a really exciting opportunity set that is emerging at the intersection of culture and commerce, as well as data and software,” said Tony Florence, general partner and head of technology investing at NEA.

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NEA has entered the world of media entertainment with investments in Buzzfeed and Masterclass, among others.

As talent agencies struggle to adapt to the rise in streaming platforms and a changing media industry, many have dipped their budgets into content creation to expand their reach. CAA formed the TV company Wiip, while William Morris Endeavor created Endeavor Content, which invests in production companies and television shows.

Connect Ventures’ first investment is in Spire Animation Studios, a feature animation studio founded by producer Brad Lewis (“Ratatouille,” “How to Train Your Dragon: Hidden World”) and P.J. Gunsagar, who cofounded Los Angeles-based Prana Studios and multiple other tech-based media companies.

The studio also wants to create next-generation technology that helps smaller production teams work more closely together. With $5 million raised and plans to open an office in Los Angeles, Spire Studios expects to release its first animated feature film in 2023.

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“The animation industry is ready for a new voice in feature animation. We’re super excited about forging creative chemistry with talented filmmakers from across mediums to make inspiring original stories for global audiences,” Lewis, Spire’s cofounder and chief creative officer, said in a statement. Lewis spent a decade at Disney-owned Pixar and has produced projects with DreamWorks Animation and Warner Bros.

Spire Studios said it aims to attract talent from diverse backgrounds to “tell stories with depth and distinct vision.” Last week, CAA hosted a virtual town hall supporting collective action to combat misrepresentation and systemic racism in the entertainment industry.


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