by Sheridan Tatsuno, Dreamscape Global, San Francisco, CA
How do you launch a successful global media company? Where are the opportunities, challenges and pitfalls?
As a screenwriter and a Silicon Valley tech strategist and serial entrepreneur who has co-launched 9 tech startups and advised VCs on semiconductor startups during the 1980s, I believe we’re at the cusp of a revolution in Hollywood 2.0 – streaming, VR and AI-driven avatars — which will create new opportunities in entertainment, education, training, and climate action.
With the explosion of mobile media, crowdfunding and digital currencies, “blue ocean” opportunities are limitless. Today, there are 1+ billion PC users and 6+ billion mobile users worldwide who are locked down during Covid-19 and reinventing their careers and lives.
COVID-19 MARKET OPPORTUNITIES
Where are these opportunities and how can you capitalize on them? The fastest-growing media opportunities lie in gaming ($180 billion), streaming content + merchandising, virtual events (like Fortnite), and VR content creation and asset libraries.
The gaming market is saturated so some gamers are shifting to business, education, nonprofits, and government since these organizations need to attract and retain Millennials who prefer enjoyable ways to collaborate in real-time. Unity and Unreal VR gaming engines are expanding into these non-gaming sectors.
Personal training is ripe for reinvention since Covid-19 has permanently eliminated many jobs, accelerating the digital transformation to new business models. Telework, telestudy, telehealth, Covid-19 healthcare, delivery services, EVs, batteries, smart grids, space technologies (micro-satellites) and other new sectors are rapidly emerging. Fortunately, ESG (Environmental, Social & Governance) funds are competing for $120 trillion in investor funds in these emerging growth sectors, nearly 6X the size of the $21.5 trillion U.S. GDP. So there is plenty of money, but investors are seeking new solutions with viable and scalable business models. Dreamscape Global has experience advising companies in tapping these emerging markets.
EMERGING BUSINESS MODELS
The era of “build it and they will come” is over. Today, discovery is the biggest challenge facing all gaming, video and fashion companies since app stores and the Internet are saturated with competitors. How does one build a strong fan base and community?
Creating compelling videos on YouTube and Tumblr to a loyal fan base has moved beyond periodic ads to news channels. Crowdfunding using social media is a way to test the viability of new products, but tends to favor hardware products and media celebrities. If you don’t have a celebrity, how do you attract attention and build traffic?
Today, you need to build an interactive and iterative process where you are constantly in touch with your customers and fans, from sample content and MVPs (Minimum Viable Products), through crowdfunding, full production, marketing and distribution. Ask customers what they want and how they want it and offer contests and challenges.
For early startups, building on AWS, IBM, and other cloud services is cheaper and faster. There are dozens of CRM (customer relationship management) and social marketing services that you can use to engage and track your fan base. See these vendor sites for Use Cases on how their media customers are using their services and study their success stories. Many platforms offer startup services and incubators so shop around for the best deal.
Once you build a core audience, post your startup on AngelList.org and local angel groups. Look for accelerators in your area that can connect you with investors.
Silicon Valley investors and media giants are currently seeking to invest in and acquire media platforms with market traction, so think through your value proposition to them and your “exit strategy” since investors seek a return within 5 to 7 years.
In San Francisco, my colleagues and I are building California Digital New Wave community to package and promote Bay Area and California indie filmmakers and VR storytellers. My Renaissance SF VR welcomes you to join us: https://www.facebook.com/groups/renaissancesf
STEPS YOU CAN TAKE NOW
Most media creators I meet are “starving artists” because they only focus on creative production and forget the business side. It’s called “showbiz” for a reason, so focus on finding a savvy business partner. George Lucas was able to build Star Wars into a sustainable global franchise because he mastered the business aspects of the film industry.
Here are some immediate steps to take:
- Learn as much as possible about business (finance, accounting, marketing, sales, distribution, partnering, negotiations, etc.) through online sources, e-learning, books, classes, workshops, events, business clubs, and friends. Your business experience should be a lifelong process since markets are constantly changing.
- Study and interview successful gamers and filmmakers to learn how they succeeded, especially in the critical first years. Post your learning and discuss them with your team, fans and partners to find ideas that are applicable to your business.
- Establish your own media club on Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter and/or other social media services in order to build your community of partners, fans and volunteers and share games and videos online, not just promote your company site. Media is a collaborative effort so you need to build a loyal fan base like Star Wars or Minecraft by starting small and building over time. In 2010, I launched Silicon Valley Global Network to connect entrepreneurs around the world; it now has 28,000 members and is growing organically. SVGN has opened many doors to new business ideas, partners, and opportunities. Building it has only taken a few minutes a day; it could be monetized as an entrepreneurship channel. https://www.facebook.com/groups/109971182359978/
- Find a seasoned business partner who can manage these issues full time, so you can spend most of your time creating. The best referrals will come from friends and people in media companies, business clubs, incubators, and alumni groups
- Work with local business groups, chambers of commerce, universities, tech hubs to build a critical mass. In the mid-1980s, I volunteered with SIPA.org to introduce Silicon Valley chipmakers to Bangalore, which had the ambitious goal of becoming “the Silicon Valley of Software.” I thought it would take 20 years, but they shocked us all by taking off in 10 years. So aim high, start small, collaborate and work hard!
In Silicon Valley, we’ve learned that nobody can predict the future, so we focus on building software and hardware products, moving fast, learning from mistakes and failures, and constantly iterating. There’s no easy way to the top, but as former Apple and Disney designer Alan Kay said: “The best way to predict the future is to invent it.” So invent your own future with your business partners and fans! Then you’ll have something valuable to share with the world.
Silicon Valley Global Network: https://www.facebook.com/groups/109971182359978/