The Gold Rush of Digital Media Funds

Story by Tom Taulli


Editor's note: We'd like to welcome author Tom Taulli as an occasional contributor to socalTECH. Tom is the author of The Complete M&A Handbook, and has contributed to Forbes and AOL's Bloggingstocks. Tom comments on the recent spate of digital media venture capital funds which have hit the market this month.

So far this month, we've seen a couple new digital media funds hit the market. They include:

  • Saban Capital, which is headed up by Craig Cooper (who has served as a venture partner at VantagePoint Venture Partners and the SoftBank Capital Technology Fund).
  • A joint fund that includes William Morris Agency (WMA), Accel, Venrock, and AT&T (NYSE: T). The fund has no name (so we'll just call it the "Joint Fund" for now).

    Oh, and in December, Creative Artists Agency (CAA) joined with Draper Fisher Jurvetson to raise a fund of $150 million to $200 million.

    As seen with the success of Google's YouTube and Will Ferrell's, there is definitely potential for monetizing digital entertainment. Even former Disney CEO, Michael Eisner, has been spinning some interesting digital properties.

    So where are these new venture funds planning on investing their money?

    "We are taking an opportunistic approach to our investments," said Cooper, in an interview. "We can invest $500,000 in a venture or millions. We are also not limited to Hollywood either."

    It will certainly help that he has the backing of Haim Saban. After all, he sold Saban Entertainment to Disney for $5.2 billion in 2001.

    "I'm think there are big opportunities with mobile and entertainment," said Cooper, who was actually a co-founder of Boost Mobile USA. "There are some disruptive changes in the space, such as with Google's (Nasdaq: GOOG) Android and the iPhone."

    Of course, the Joint Fund also sees massive opportunities. "We see digital entertainment as a major secular trend," said David Siminoff, a general partner at Venrock, in an interview with me. "It's a ripe time."

    Interestingly, he has an MFA from the USC Film School (as well as a Stanford MBA) and even worked at WMA.

    "Venture capital and Hollywood are about relationships," said Siminoff. "And this new fund has been something that we thought was a great idea and we have a good cast of characters."

    In fact, he says there are likely to be other corporate partners that will join the fund. "AT&T has an opportunity to test how its brand equity is perceived," said Siminoff. "It's a forward-looking attitude."

    Like the Saban offering, the Joint Fund will be mostly opportunistic. "We are looking for original content," said Siminoff. "But this is meant to be broad. It could include a fun tool bar. Or it could be a Wikipedia site that has videos of cats."