Next-Gen Startup Stage TEN Jumps on Virtual TV Train

11:16 AM PST 04/16/2014 by Etan Vlessing
Courtesy of Subject

The Toronto-based startup becomes the first Canadian digital player to list on AngelList, the U.S. social network for tech investors.

TORONTO – On a computer screen, a stand-up comic is performing live from his home via a webcam, while three judges on separate remote feeds wait to turn thumbs up or down on the performance.

For tech investors in search of the Next Big Thing, whether the guest judges root for the comic on Yanked!, the live online talent game, or give him the hook, is of little concern.

But what should hit closer to home is the virtual TV studio platform on which Yanked! is produced, Stage TEN: the latest disruptive technology hot housed in Canada to secure buzz and VC backing on both sides of the border.

The next-generation online broadcast platform from Toronto-based Lazar Entertainment is the first Canadian digital venture to list on AngelList, a U.S.-based social network for raising equity or debt investments for startups.

Stage TEN's target market is producers and agencies creating branded content for the Internet and Smart TV sets.

"We know there's a large community of traditional TV producers who are looking to figure out how to make interactive and monetizable content on the internet," Dave Lazar, founder and CEO of Lazar Entertainment, told The Hollywood Reporter.

His one-stop virtual studio allows hosts, performers and audiences to participate in live interactive programming from anywhere in the world.

Stage TEN has just signed a term sheet with Toronto-based Brightspark Ventures, and is in talks with LiveLab (led by veteran Chicago ad man Barry Krause) and other agencies to do interactive branded content shows.

That attention comes amid a flurry of VC investment in Canadian startups that target consumers of digital video.

The Waterloo, Ontario-based video marketing firm Vidyard, a graduate of the Y Combinator startup funding program in Silicon Valley, raised $6 million in series A funding from four North American investors, including Paolo Alto’s SoftTech VC and Toronto-based OMERS Ventures.

And social writing platform WattPad earlier this month raised $46 million in series C funding from a syndicate that includes OMERS Ventures, August Capital and Raine Ventures.

The Stage TEN platform is a spinoff from the Yanked! online talent game that received just over $1.36 million in early-stage financing from the Canada Media Fund's experimental stream, a key private/public subsidy pool for Canadian content creators.

The CMF in turn has partnered with a range of Canadian content accelerators, including the Canadian Film Centre's ideaBoost, Inno-Centre and Ryerson Futures, Digital Media Zone and Grow Lab, to further innovate digital startups here before they look to land VC financing.

"We're fortunate that there was a program willing to support such an experimental format such as Yanked!" Lazar said of the seed financing for his online talent game before it turned into the Stage TEN platform.

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