CAA Launches Early-Stage Venture Fund With NEA

Courtesy of CAA

Connect Ventures has made its first investment in Spire Animation Studio, a new venture from 'Ratatouille' producer Brad Lewis.

CAA wants to get in on the ground floor of the next wave of media businesses. 

The talent agency has teamed with venture capital firm New Enterprise Associates to launch investment arm Connect Ventures, which will fund early-stage companies across commerce, content and media. Connect Ventures plans to invest up to $400 million, though it could ultimately invest more, and launched with $100 million in committed capital. 

Connect Ventures first investment is in Spire Animation Studio, a new company from Ratatouille producer Brad Lewis and entrepreneur P.J. Gunsagar that plans to release its first full-length animated feature in 2023. 

"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," CAA president Richard Lovett said in a statement. "Connect Ventures will be deeply integrated into CAA's ecosystem to help unlock new opportunities in service of our clients."

Hollywood's talent agencies have turned to investments over the years as a way to expand their portfolios beyond representation. CAA has previously co-founded companies like Funny or Die and influencer marketing firm WhoSay. Together with majority owner TPG Capital, it also set up Evolution Media Capital, which made investments into meditation app Calm, mobile game developer Scopely and cable startup Layer3 TV, which sold to T-Mobile in 2017.

For Connect Ventures, CAA has teamed with a venture firm that has a history of investing in the technology, digital media and healthcare spaces. The firm, which is currently investing out of a $3.6 billion fund, counts BuzzFeed, Goop, Houzz, Masterclass and Robinhood as portfolio companies. 

"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 NEA general partner Tony Florence, who heads the firm's technology investing group. "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."

NEA general partner Rick Yang, who heads the firm's consumer investing group, will spearhead its involvement in Connect Ventures. Michael Blank will lead the effort for CAA as the agency's new head of consumer investments.