Starting Up: From Founding to Funding
Gain insights into founding and funding an entertainment startup from this case-study style session focusing on indie film distributor and digital pioneer SnagFilms. Dana Harris, the editor-in-chief of IndieWIRE, will moderate this discussion featuring Snag’s CEO and co-founder Rick Allen, with two of the company’s investors, Harry Weller from NEA and Sam Landman of Comcast Ventures. With funding from individuals, traditional VCs, corporate VC arms and even a national foundation, SnagFilms has pulled in the full range of investors, and established relationships with all of the major platforms for films. How did they do it and how can you?
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Rick Allen has run successful companies in nearly every form of media, and helped to develop or extend some of the country’s most prestigious brands. Rick is the CEO of SnagFilms, which he helped to found with Ted Leonsis. The company is the leading digital distributor of independent films, with thousands of titles offered via sponsor-supported free streaming on its own website and across a network of over 110,000 website and webpages, and via applications on iPad, Roku and Boxee. SnagFilms also offers a tightly-refereed selection of films on branded pay channels with Comcast and FiOS, and with iTunes, HuluPlus, Amazon and other partners. Named one of the fastest growing tech companies in the Washington DC area, the company’s investors also include Steve and Jean Case, New Enterprise Associates and Comcast Ventures.
Allen joined Leonsis to produce Kicking It, which screened at Sundance, Tribeca and other film festivals and was aired globally by ESPN; for the film and their work on homelessness, Leonsis, Allen and colleagues received the 2009 Stewart B. McKinney Award from the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty. The two most recently produced A Fighting Chance, which premiered on ESPN in November of 2010.
Previously, as President and CEO of Sporting News, the country’s oldest sports media company, Allen led a revitalization that saw it named twice to Adweek’s annual “Hot List” as a top-10 media property. Earlier, he served as President and CEO of the for-profit arm of the National Geographic Society, responsible for television and film; interactive products, websites and e-commerce; maps; travel; retail; catalog; and consumer products. Under his leadership, the National Geographic Channel was launched and became one of the fastest growing cable channels in recent history. Before coming to National Geographic, Rick was a senior executive at Discovery Communications, parent of the Discovery Channel, where he extended the company’s brand into filmed entertainment, education, technology and retail.
He also served in the White House as a Deputy Assistant to President Clinton, helping to establish AmeriCorps (the domestic Peace Corps). Before his White House service, Allen was CEO of a privately-held group of 35 companies based in Los Angeles. He has written and lectured widely, and been active in civic affairs particularly dealing with education. Rick and his wife have three sons.