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Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s artist-collaboration platform HitRecord raises $6.4M – TechCrunch



In the early 2000s, actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt was frustrated with the roles he was being offered. Instead of starring in critically acclaimed indies, he was typecast as “the funny kid on TV” due to roles like Tommy from “3rd Rock from the Sun.”

So like anyone who matured alongside the internet, he created a website where he could ideate, produce and share his work. More than 10 years later, he wants to turn that pet project, called HitRecord, into a full-fledged technology company.

Onstage at Upfront Venture’s annual summit outside of Los Angeles, Gordon-Levitt announced a $6.4 million Series A funding to do just that. Javelin Venture Partners has led the round, with participation from Crosslink Capital, Advancit Capital, YouTube co-founder Steve Chen, Twitch co-founder Kevin Lin and MasterClass co-founder David Rogier.

Gordon-Levitt, known for starring in “Inception,” “Snowden” and, my personal favorite, “10 Things I Hate About You,” tells TechCrunch that HitRecord has a team of 24 employees, with himself at the helm as chief executive officer, co-founder Jared Geller serving as president and co-founder Marke Johnson as creative director. The trio plan to use the investment to transform HitRecord from a traditional production company to a new collaborative media platform.

The company provides an online portal for artists to work together on projects, “building off of each other’s contributions, to create things [they] couldn’t have made on [their] own.” If projects created within the HitRecord community are sold, the creators are paid based on their original contributions. Since 2010, HitRecord has paid its community roughly $3 million.

HitRecord hasn’t accepted outside capital, until now. Initially, Gordon-Levitt used his own cash to push the company forward, and for the last five years, the startup has been cash-flow positive. I sat down with Gordon-Levitt to learn more about what he’s been working on and why he decided to pursue venture capital dollars. The following conversation has been lightly edited for length.

TC: How do you explain HitRecord in one sentence?

JGL: It’s a collaborative media platform where people make all kinds of creative things together. I guess that’s one sentence, but if I can keep going… As opposed to places where people post things that they’ve made on their own, this is a place where people collaborate, right? So they submit their ideas onto the platform and then they find people who want to collaborate with them and then they’re able to make money if the projects [find] a buyer.

We’ve done all kinds of monetized productions, but I certainly wouldn’t include money in the third or fifth or even 10th sentence of why people come to HitRecord.

TC: HitRecord launched a decade ago… what inspired you to create it?

JGL: I started HitRecord as this little hobby message board with my brother and it grew very slowly. It came out of a time in my life when I wanted to be an actor and I wanted to be in sort of like more serious Sundance movies and everyone was like, ‘oh, but you’re the funny kid on TV’ and you know, it was really painful for me. I said, okay, you know what, I can’t just wait around for someone to give me a part. I want to make my own things. And I started making my own. I started making videos and songs and stories and stuff. And my brother helped me set up a website that we called HitRecord. We didn’t spend any money; we had no intention of making any money. It was just a fun thing we were doing.

TC: And now you want to expand it into a full-fledged tech platform. But… you’re cash-flow positive and you’ve built a solid community of avid users, why take venture money?

JGL: You know, it started as just a hobby that I was doing for fun. We launched it as a production company as a way to do more ambitious, creative things and do it with everybody. But if you talk to our users, what people really enjoy is having that experience of being creative and being creative with other people because I think honestly, being creative is really hard alone. Venture money will not only allow us to do even cooler productions, but it’ll also allow this whole other world and more people to participate.

TC: Now that you’re venture-funded, how do you plan on making money for your investors?

JGL: So historically, the way we’ve made money was as a production company, and the collaborative efforts of our community and our staff made money because we turned something into a TV show, or we licensed it to a brand or we did any number of things that generated revenue. [HitRecord partnered with Ubisoft earlier this year to allow artists and musicians to contribute their own content to be used in its game, for example.] So moving forward, as we grow into a collaborative platform, the idea is that it’s not just our staff that’s leading these projects and letting people collaboratively finish them. The idea is anybody could come to start their own thing and there will be better tools to self-organize and find your collaborators.

TC: And how do you better monetize once you’ve expanded your user base?

JGL: I think, look, we were not ready to talk about exactly how we would make money that way. I think we have a number of ideas. There are ways that the internet gets monetized these days that I think incentivize the wrong things like attention for myself and I don’t want to enter into a business model that incentivizes that kind of behavior.

Actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt attends the 2014 Creative Arts Emmy Awards at the Nokia Theatre L.A. Live on August 16, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Tommaso Boddi/WireImage).

TC: What was the process of raising venture capital like? Did being Joseph Gordon-Levitt make it a little less terrible?

JGL: I think, honestly, it was a double-edged sword. I think there was justified skepticism and people would assume that oh, I’m an actor so I can’t start a company and I faced a certain amount of that skepticism. I don’t blame anybody for having that. The assumption is that there’s not any substance behind the company or the idea, that it’s all sizzle and no steak.

But we’re also not really a startup, per se. It’s not like I was going into these offices and saying, like, I have an idea. It’s like, here’s what we’ve done for the last 10 years and we’ve been cash flow positive five years. We know how to run a business. It’s just we’ve been running a production company business, now we want to run something that’s more like a technology business.

TC: What’s your long-term vision for HitRecord?

JGL: My ultimate goal is for my acting career and HitRecord to kind of become one in the same thing. I would love to be, you know, developing a movie not for a Hollywood studio, but like in this new collaborative way for HitRecord. I mean, we won an Emmy for our TV show. We’re about to release this special that we’re doing with Logic, the rapper, and he used the platform to lead a collaboration and make a song and a music video and we documented the process and that special is going to come out on YouTube. What I really want is to be able to put an app in Logic’s hand where he goes like, oh, I understand this and is able to use it instantly. We don’t have that app yet. This is why we raised capital.

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Windows Your Phone Apps feature could be expanding to more phones



After giving up on its own attempts at creating its own mobile platform, Microsoft switched to integrating Windows better with Android and iOS. Not all phones or mobile platforms are created equal, of course, and Microsoft has struck a sweet deal with Samsung for even deeper integration that’s exclusive to a select number of Galaxy phones. One of those features includes the ability to run an Android app from the phone in its own window, a feature that might soon be expanding to other phones or at least other Samsung phones.

In addition to a poor choice in naming, Windows’ Your Phone has a confusing number of features that depend on what phone you have. The most basic is Link to Windows, which lets you seamlessly transfer files between an Android phone and a Windows device. Phone Screen, on the other hand, mirrors the entire phone’s screen on the desktop, allowing you to interact with it while keeping your phone away.

And then there’s Apps, which lets you run those Android apps in their own windows. Like the other three features, however, these are mostly exclusive to Samsung’s phones. More recent premium flagships even get extra perks, like the ability to run multiple apps at once.

@ALumia_italia now reveals that the list of supported phones for Your Phone’s “Apps” feature could be expanding. A screenshot reveals a Galaxy A52 having access to a list of Apps, ready for launching any time. The Galaxy A52 supports Phone Screen, also shown in the screenshot, but not Apps.

Just like the Your Phone itself, there is still some confusion over what this means. Microsoft might simply be expanding the compatibility list to more Galaxy phones, or Microsoft could finally be bringing the feature to phones outside of Samsung’s line. The latter, however, requires that Microsoft open up Your Phone itself to other manufacturers’ devices, and one can only hope that will be the case soon.

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Chromebooks and tablets growth in Q2 2021 beat global chip shortage



Just when things were starting to look up for consumer computing devices last year, 2021 brought its own big problem that’s shaking up more than just the tech industry. PCs, tablets, and Chromebooks enjoyed a surge in interest and sales in 2020 because of new work from home and remote schooling arrangements, but this year’s ongoing component shortage threatens to upset those gains. Despite that bleak scenario, tablet shipments managed to grow in Q2 this year, with Chromebooks showing the biggest wins.

According to IDC’s numbers, Chromebooks grew by 68.6% in the second quarter of 2021 compared to the same period last year. The 12.3 million units that the market shipped may not be as large as the previous two quarters but still comes close to those. HP has the highest growth at 115.7% year-over-year and also has the lion’s share of that market.

The rapid growth of the Chromebook market has been attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic, for better or worse, as Google’s Chrome OS continues to spread to new markets. The market analysis company shares that there is a noted uptick in Chromebook sales in Europe, while some countries in Asia are starting to look into the devices for use in schools.

Compared to Chromebooks, tablets had a more modest growth of 4.2%, with 40.5 million units sold. Considering how close tablets were to obsolescence, that’s still a significant improvement. Apple still leads the market with a 31.9% share, while Samsung is at a far second at 19.6%.

Nothing lasts forever, of course, and there are already concerns that this positive status for Chromebooks and tablets could start deteriorating soon. Due to supply concerns, some manufacturers seem to be focusing on more profitable Windows laptops instead. Demand for tablets, on the other hand, is expected to slow down sooner in comparison.

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Old Android devices won’t be able to sign in to Google accounts soon



Android’s fragmentation has long been cited as one of its biggest problems, but, to some extent, it is also a strength. While the majority of today’s Android devices run versions of the operating system from at least two to three years ago, there is still a number of those that are able to keep functioning with even older versions. Of course, these can’t keep on running forever, and it seems that Google is slowly pulling the plug on these, especially the most ancient versions of Android.

For the longest time, Android 2.3, a.k.a. “Gingerbread,” was the most-used version of Android in the market. After the disaster that was Honeycomb and even with the reparations of Ice Cream Sandwich, Gingerbread remained the go-to release for many devices. That was pretty much a decade ago, which is eons for the fast-moving smartphone industry, and it’s surprising to hear that there are still a few active devices out there that might be using it.

Those probably just number in the dozens, but Google is playing it safe by issuing a notice that these devices might be left in a broken state next month. Starting September 27, devices running on Android 2.3.7 or lower will no longer be able to sign in to Google accounts. Google explains that this is to ensure a Google account’s security, implying that these older Android versions most likely have unpatched vulnerabilities that could compromise said accounts.

This change applies not only when signing into apps like Gmail or YouTube but even when signing into a Google account on the phone itself. This means that if you reset your phone or get signed out of it (because you initiated a password change elsewhere), you won’t be able to sign in to your Google account anymore. You can, however, still sign into Gmail or other Google services from a mobile web browser.

It seems that Google is slowly cutting off older Android devices by shutting down access to its servers. Early last month, it announced that phones running Android 4.3 Jelly Bean or older would lose access to Google Play Services, which could effectively break some apps. It’s somewhat amazing that there are still some devices running on these nearly ancient Android versions, but for their own security and convenience, they should probably upgrade to newer ones if they still haven’t.

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