New Enterprise Associates goes to Hollywood and launches a venture firm with CAA

Jonathan Shieber
Los Angeles, California, USA - March 23, 2016: Aerial view of the Hollywood sign at dusk in Los Angeles. The image has been taken from an helicopter flying over LA.

New Enterprise Associates has launched a new investment initiative with the Hollywood talent agency Creative Artists Agency .

The new partnership, called Connect Ventures, said it will identify and accelerate the growth of early-stage, consumer-focused businesses formed in the wake of the global pandemic.

In a world where everything is a commodity and nothing is more commoditized than influence, the merger of these two entities — one which develops technology platforms, the other which tries to make money from the celebrities that have capitalized on those platforms and the whole attention economy — makes total sense (in an "everything is a dumpster fire and more than 120,000 Americans have died from an epidemic, but who cares," kind of way).

“Connect Ventures is uniquely positioned to identify and support the most innovative entrepreneurs, helping accelerate the growth of their businesses by providing access to the expertise, knowledge, and relationships of both CAA and NEA,” said Richard Lovett, president, CAA, in a statement. “Connect Ventures will be deeply integrated into CAA’s ecosystem to help unlock new opportunities in service of our clients.”

Cool.

CAA has celebrity endorsers at the ready across movies, television, social media and sports -- with around 2,000 athletes and others at the ready to pitch products for profit.

This new initiative is CAA's umpteenth shot at breaking into startups or later-stage media investing. Other programs that the company has initiated include an incubator and business development arm, a late-stage investment fund and now Connect.

“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, in a statement. “Heightened consumer demand for new ways to explore, engage and transact across nearly all categories of daily life will give rise to powerful new creative tools and distribution platforms—a trend already underway but accelerated as a result of the global health crisis.”

The new endeavor will be led by NEA's general partner, Rick Yang; CAA's Michael Blank, the head of the firm's Consumer Investments, will lead the agency's involvement in Connect Ventures.

The new firm also has made its first investment in Spire Animation Studios, a new feature animation studio from the Academy Award-winning producer of "Ratatouille," Brad Lewis and serial entrepreneur P.J. Gunsagar. The studio said it will release its first animated feature in 2023.

“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,” said Lewis.