Contact, a platform for creatives backed by Maisie Williams, raises $1.9M Seed led by Founders Fund – TechCrunch

With the pandemic digitizing each facet of our lives, the Creator Financial system has taken off like by no means earlier than, with some estimates saying it’s now a $100Bn+ market. And but, managing your skilled life as a mannequin, actor, author or designer stays a mish-mash of emails, guide reserving processes, and dreaded PDFs. Creatives face late funds, usually opaque business practices, whilst high expertise businesses have collectively achieved a valuation of $20Bn in worth. However whereas modeling expertise could be charged as a lot as a 20-40% fee charge, social media has been step by step displacing conventional businesses by lowering the obstacles to entry and making expertise extra accessible. Nonetheless, as everybody is aware of, social media is nowhere close to a spot anybody can handle their profession.

Late final 12 months the Contact platform launched, initially providing fashions a approach to take bookings and handle some elements of their work. It’s now trying to deal with the broader issues referred to above, with a brand new spherical of funding involving some key gamers within the artistic industries.

It’s backed and supported by Maisie Williams, finest identified for her work on Recreation of Thrones, who has develop into Inventive Strategist and Advisor to the startup after changing into a passionate advocate for higher circumstances for creatives within the business.

Contact has now raised a $1.9 million (£1.4 million) Seed spherical of funding led by Founders Fund. Additionally collaborating is LAUNCH (the fund led by buyers Jason Calacanis), Candy Capital (by way of Pippa Lamb), Rogue VC (by way of Alice Lloyd George) and Angel buyers Simon Beckerman (co-founder of Depop), Eric Wahlforss (co-founder of SoundCloud and now Dance), Abe Burns and Joe White.

Though Contact’s preliminary incarnation is addressing the modeling world, its imaginative and prescient is much larger. Contact co-founder and CEO Reuben Selby — a dressmaker who was previously of William’s founding workforce, when she began her profession — has labored with Nike, Thom Browne, and JW Anderson. He says the platform goals to develop into a scalable back-end resolution throughout the $104.2 Billion Creator Financial system, “democratizing” entry to the world’s finest artistic expertise.

Reuben Selby

Selby, who lately spoke about being a founder with autism can also be the founder and artistic director of his personal label Reuben Selby, and co-founder of Cortex a artistic company and neighborhood. Selby is joined by CTO Josh McMillan beforehand of Deliveroo, Daisie, the Authorities Digital Service, and amongst others.

Whereas its opponents may, broadly talking, embrace Patreon, Creatively, and The Dots, it’s truthful to say that Contact’s imaginative and prescient to convey many elements of those platforms below one roof might be described as bold, it is usually tantalising.

In a radical transfer for what’s an business dominated by businesses, people and companies can uncover and e-book creators and artistic companies immediately, with out going via an company.

Contact initially launched its platform in October 2020 with the power to find and e-book trend fashions, however post-fundraising plans to roll out different artistic verticals equivalent to photographers, stylists, videographers, and extra.

Selby says the concept for Contact has been knowledgeable by his personal private experiences attempting to interrupt into the artistic business as a mannequin, photographer, and artistic director. After discovering scant strategies for safe and secure methods to receives a commission – whereas reserving corporations lacked fundamental technological instruments – he realized that ‘middle-men’ and businesses have been there fundamental ones that benefitted, taking cuts on either side and infrequently nonetheless delivering a sub-par-product.

So how does Contact work?

When a Creator joins, they’re able to showcase their portfolio throughout totally different artistic companies and take direct bookings.

A enterprise can then browse and uncover expertise utilizing filters, shortlist artistic expertise, offering particulars in regards to the job, and e-book creators immediately. Creatives can settle for or reject jobs by way of the net platform or, quickly, by way of a smartphone app. As soon as the job has been accomplished, the expertise will get paid out by way of Contact.

Since soft-launching throughout the modeling vertical, Contact says it has onboarded virtually 600 creatives and over 1,400 purchasers together with Depop, Farfetch, Nike, Vivienne Westwood, and Vogue. Customers of the platform have elevated 100% YoY, says the startup.

Selby says Contact intends to stay within the background and permit the expertise to model itself independently throughout totally different verticals. Crucially, Contact doesn’t take cash from creators, solely reserving corporations, from which it’ll levy a 20% charge on transactions.

Commenting, Trae Stephens, Companion at Founders Fund, mentioned: “We’re all the time excited after we discover founders who appear to have been born to construct a particular firm. Reuben positively looks like a kind of founders. We’re actually excited to look at the corporate scale and broaden into new artistic verticals.”

Pippa Lamb, Companion at Candy Capital, added: “The workforce at Contact have been pushing frontiers within the creator financial system lengthy earlier than ‘the creator financial system’ grew to become a buzzword. Contact possesses a uncommon mixture of world-class technical expertise with the uncooked innovation of at present’s most artistic minds. We’re enthusiastic about this subsequent chapter.”

Williams, finest identified for enjoying Arya Stark on Recreation of Thrones, is not any stranger to engaged on startups. She beforehand contributed to the Daisie platform, which continues to attach creators with each other to work on every others’ tasks, serving to creators discover collaborators for his or her artwork.

However clearly her need to disrupt the artistic world largely managed by ‘center males’ was not sated by the expertise.

Talking to me in an unique interview, Williams and Selby outlined their imaginative and prescient:

Selby mentioned the present market for fashions is simply the beginning: “The imaginative and prescient has all the time been about creatives, and getting creatives paid for his or her work. We principally began out in a single vertical, the modeling business… and we’re within the means of rolling out new verticals so bringing on photographers, make-up artists, stylists, and many others. However that’s a really very small a part of the general imaginative and prescient.”

He mentioned the main target now could be “on the distribution of labor, how that relationship works with that viewers, how they’ll monetize it. So it’s principally giving them a toolkit to monetize their creativity relatively than simply the bodily constraints. That’s what we’re exploring proper now. We’ve this market however we see that as being a really small half, however the bigger piece.”

He mentioned {the marketplace} mannequin can join manufacturers on to creators or creatives, however, he mentioned, manufacturers proceed to have an excessive amount of energy: “The creators are simply sitting there ready for any individual to provide them one thing. So we’re now figuring out how they’ll simply distribute by their very own work and monetize it in their very own methods, with the again finish of how all the logistics work, and the operational aspect dealt with by the product that we’ve constructed, dealing with the funds and the licensing and insurance coverage.”

Regardless of being a serious Hollywood star, Williams instructed me the artistic and leisure business she’s conversant in and works in stays caught in an outdated world of emails and hyperlinks, relatively than the sorts of platforms the tech business is used to constructing and utilizing: “Being somebody who has been represented by expertise businesses for my profession, that complete interplay on-line is emails. At no level are any of the belongings digitised. There’s no ‘vault’ the place all of my scripts go. There’s no place the place I can add all of my audition tapes. It’s all the time only a hyperlink in an e mail. There’s not likely an business normal. From an company perspective, not one of the work that they may be very streamlined or directional.”

She says that want to alter: “There’s a casting course of and in the meanwhile, and it’s a massively dated method of doing issues between the casting administrators and the actors, the writers and many others. We wish to construct a really streamlined course of.”

Talking in regards to the buyers he’s assembled to again Contact, Selby mentioned the workforce selected Founders Fund to be their lead investor due to their strategy: “The way in which that they work with founders… I discovered that personally very empowering. [They] provide you with loads of freedom and area to suppose creatively. So there was a transparent alignment.”

Speaking in regards to the different Angel buyers within the spherical he mentioned: “Individuals like Eric and Simon are majorly linked in trend and music tradition on the whole.”

Talking about how the leisure business may react to Contact, Williams mentioned: “Actors have many different issues that they do. With the ability to have a platform that they’ll monetize all these different issues is actually vital, particularly as a result of, as an actor you spend loads of time unemployed.” However mentioned the system is constructed in equivalent to a method that “you’re solely precious because the auditions your agent places you up for. It’s not very inspiring or rewarding. So loads of actors make their very own exhibits on streaming platforms or create their very own documentaries or promote their work in different methods.”

She mentioned Contact needs to have the ability to facilitate that via the platform, and for creatives to have extra independence: “The movie business and the music business is filled with extremely gifted people who find themselves multi-talented throughout many alternative industries. However they’re nonetheless, type of held by representatives and businesses and report labels or managers who’ve loads of energy in, type of, retaining them ‘small’. With the ability to introduce one thing which might provide so many different instruments, I feel, is actually vital.”

It’s clear that the imaginative and prescient Selby, his co-founders, and Williams have, may be very huge. The query is, will they be capable to pull it off?

It needs to be mentioned, nevertheless, that the mix of a passionate Gen-Z-influential workforce (with added star energy), a full-blown know-how platform, heavyweight US buyers, and Angels pulled from artistic industries actually factors to the potential for fulfillment.

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