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CFC Media Lab's IdeaBOOST accelerator imbues content creators with entrepreneurial spirit

On Wednesday evening, the Canadian Film Centre’s Media Lab IdeaBOOST hosted Launch Pad, an event that saw seven companies graduate from the startup accelerator’s several months long program. The seven companies present at the event – AsapSCIENCE, ApprenticeA Productions, Intuitive Pictures, Smokebomb Entertainment, Phantom Compass, Ramen Party, and Yamantaka // Sonic Titan – were given the task of presenting their business cases to investors and potential partners, as well as showcasing their products to interested attendees. If the inclusion of an artistic collective like Yamantaka // Sonic Titan seems odd, it’s because IdeaBOOST is not a traditional startup accelerator. There are several characteristics that differentiate IdeaBOOST from its peers in the tech space, and those differences are what make IdeaBOOST a potentially game changing idea for the entertainment and media space. 

According to Ana Serrano, CFC’s chief digital officer, IdeaBOOST is primarily focused on helping entertainment companies, not just tech companies. This past term, the accelerator focused on content creation companies. However, businesses looking to bring innovative technologies to the entertainment space are also welcome, and for its next cohort, IdeaBOOST will focus exclusively on incubating companies creating content delivery platforms. The plan is to eventually create a curriculum that can accommodate both content and platform creators in the same term.

The CFC and IdeaBOOST understand that most investors are reluctant to fund an entertainment venture, especially given the upheaval the space has gone through in the past decade as a result of new and evolving technologies. However, it is the belief of the CFC that helping Canada’s most promising entertainment companies learn how tech startups work will not only make investors comfortable in financing them, but that doing so is also the key to creating sustainable companies in the space going forward. In that respect, with the exception of Turner/Time Warner’s Media Labs in New York and Los Angeles, IdeaBOOST is one of the first organizations to trying to meld the disparate worlds of startups and media.

Ana Serrano, Chief Digital Officer of CFC Media Lab. Image courtesy of CFC.

In part because of its heavy focus on entertainment companies, IdeaBOOST doesn’t limit itself to helping only startups. Instead, the CFC is willing to offer the services of its accelerator to both new and old companies, particularly if the company in question is attempting to change its focus. On Wednesday, one of the graduating companies was Smokebomb Entertainment, which is a subsidiary of one of Canada’s leading film production companies, Shaftesbury Films. With its new web-series The Path, Smokebomb is attempting to find new ways in which to engage its core audience, in addition to exploring alternative distribution models. By working with the CFC, companies that that might be traditionally risk adverse are given an opportunity to try out new ways of doing business. 

When a band like Yamantka // Sonic Titan leaves its comfort zone and decides to build a game called Your Task // Shoot Things, it needs outside help. In the case of Yamantka, the band has several band members talented in multiple disciplines, but creating a game is a complex technical undertaking. To help create and design their game, Yamantka enlisted the help of Toronto indie dev Golden Gears. That is the most important difference between a tech startup and the companies that the CFC helps: the best startups pride themselves on being lean, but that’s something that might not be practical with most media company. After all, creating a game or television series often requires a large staff of talented individuals knowledgable in multiple fields. However, that’s not to say that needing outside help is a bad thing: When Yamantka decides to create a iOS game, it creates meaningful work opportunities for companies outside its space, and more than just the band benefits from the success of its game. In other words, there are very real economic benefits to helping artists and creatives execute on their vision. 

In our phone interview, Serrano mentioned several other characteristics that make IdeaBOOST different from other accelerators, but perhaps the most important aspect of how IdeaBOOST functions is something that is not so different from how a traditional accelerator works. On Wednesday, the best pitches shared their artistic vision, but also made sure to present a clear plan for how they intended to make money; if a presentation didn’t include important information like a company’s revenue model, then investors were quick to ask about such things in the short Q&A session that followed each presentation. It was refreshing to see a creative endevour have considerations like how it was create value for an investor. Obviously, not all creative endevours can be run like one of IdeaBOOST’s companies, but for the companies that it makes sense, IdeaBOOST presents an exciting new way to create a business.


Igor Bonifacic is a writer working for the Toronto Standard. You can follow him on twitter @igorbonifacic

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