Category: Entertainment

INKR draws in $3.1M to make more comics accessible to worldwide audiences



A photo of digital comics platform INKR's team

Digital comics platform INKR’s team

INKR is a digital comics platform that crosses cultural and language divides, enabling creators to reach global audiences with its proprietary localization technology. Previously bootstrapped, the company announced today that it has raised $3.1 million in pre-Series A funding led by Monk’s Hill Ventures, with participation from manga distributor TokyoPop founder and chief executive Stu Levy and VI Management managing director David Do.

Headquartered in Singapore with an office in Ho Chi Minh City, INKR was founded in 2019 by Ken Luong, Khoa Nguyen and Hieu Tran. The company says that since it launched in October 2020, its monthly average users have grown 200%. It currently partners with more than 70 content creators and publishers, including FanFan, Image Comics, Kodansha USA, Kuaikan, Mr. Blue, SB Creative, TokyoPop and Toons Family, and has more than 800 titles so far, including manga, webtoons and graphic novels.

Luong, INKR’s CEO, told TechCrunch that the platform will focus first on translated comics from top global publishers, but plans to open to small and indie creators in 2022.

At the heart of INKR’s platform is its localization technology, which the company says reduces the time spent on preparing comics for different markets from days to just hours.

“Comics localization is more than just translation. It is a time-consuming process with many steps involving many people—file handling, transcription, translation, typesetting, sound effects, quality control, etc,” Luong said.

A screenshot with some of the titles on digital comics platform INKR

Some of the titles on INKR

In addition to language, publishers also have to (Read more...)

INKR draws in $3.1M to make more comics accessible to worldwide audiences



A photo of digital comics platform INKR's team

Digital comics platform INKR’s team

INKR is a digital comics platform that crosses cultural and language divides, enabling creators to reach global audiences with its proprietary localization technology. Previously bootstrapped, the company announced today that it has raised $3.1 million in pre-Series A funding led by Monk’s Hill Ventures, with participation from manga distributor TokyoPop founder and chief executive Stu Levy and VI Management managing director David Do.

Headquartered in Singapore with an office in Ho Chi Minh City, INKR was founded in 2019 by Ken Luong, Khoa Nguyen and Hieu Tran. The company says that since it launched in October 2020, its monthly average users have grown 200%. It currently partners with more than 70 content creators and publishers, including FanFan, Image Comics, Kodansha USA, Kuaikan, Mr. Blue, SB Creative, TokyoPop and Toons Family, and has more than 800 titles so far, including manga, webtoons and graphic novels.

Luong, INKR’s CEO, told TechCrunch that the platform will focus first on translated comics from top global publishers, but plans to open to small and indie creators in 2022.

At the heart of INKR’s platform is its localization technology, which the company says reduces the time spent on preparing comics for different markets from days to just hours.

“Comics localization is more than just translation. It is a time-consuming process with many steps involving many people—file handling, transcription, translation, typesetting, sound effects, quality control, etc,” Luong said.

A screenshot with some of the titles on digital comics platform INKR

Some of the titles on INKR

In addition to language, publishers also have to (Read more...)

Serial fiction app Radish acquired by Kakao Entertainment for $440M



Serialized fiction app Radish will be acquired by Kakao Entertainment in a transaction valued at $440 million. Kakao Entertainment is owned by Kakao, the South Korean internet giant whose services include its eponymous messaging platform. Radish founder Seungyoon Lee will hold onto his role as its chief executive officer, while also becoming Kakao Entertainment’s global strategy officer to lead its growth in international markets.

Radish claims millions of users in North America, and the acquisition will be help Kakao Entertainment expand its own webtoons and web novel business there, and in other English-speaking markets. Radish will retain management autonomy and continue operating as its own brand.

Founded in 2015, Radish originally focused on user-generated content, but now the core of its business is Radish Originals, or serial fiction series designed specifically for the app. The company said the launch of Radish Originals in 2018 helped propel its growth, with revenue increasing more than 10 times in 2020 from the previous year.

Radish monetizes content through its micropayments system, which allows users to read several free episodes before making payments of about 20 to 30 cents to unlock new episodes (users also have the option of waiting an hour to unlock episodes for free). About 90% of its revenue now comes from Radish Originals.

The acquisition means that Radish Originals’ intellectual property will now be adapted by Kakao into webtoons, videos and other content, increasing their reach. Since 2016, Kakao (Read more...)

How 4 New Jersey pools turned into a startup that just raised $10M



As the oldest of 12 children, Bunim Laskin spent much of his teen years looking for ways to help keep his siblings entertained. Noticing that a neighbor’s pool was often empty, Laskin reached out to ask if his family could use her pool. To make it worth her while, he suggested that they could help cover her expenses for maintaining the pool.

Soon after, five other families had made the same arrangement with her and the pool owner had six families covering 25% of her expenses. This meant that the neighbor was actually making money off her pool. The arrangement sparked a business idea in Laskin’s mind. At the age of 20, he founded Swimply, a marketplace for homeowners to rent out their underutilized pools to local swimmers, with Asher Weinberger.

The Cedarhurst, New York-based company launched a beta in 2018, starting with four pools in the New Jersey area. 

“We used Google Earth to find houses, and then knocked on 80 doors with a pool,” CEO Laskin recalls. “We got to 100 pools organically. Word of mouth really helped us grow.” The site was pretty bare bones, he admits, with potential customers only able to view photos of the pools and connect with the pool owner by phone.

That year, Swimply did around 400 reservations and raised $1.2 million from friends and family.

In 2019, Swimply launched what he describes as a “proper” website and app with an automated platform. It grew “4 to 5 times” that year, (Read more...)

Pandemic Recovery: Have BEACH Stocks Bounced Back?


This post is by Aran Ali from Visual Capitalist


BEACH stocks market cap recovery

Pandemic Recovery: Have BEACH Stocks Bounced Back?

The travel and entertainment industries have had a volatile ride over the last year.

During the initial stages of the pandemic, when panic and uncertainty ran rife, BEACH stocks–booking, entertainment, airlines, cruises, and hotels—were left scrambling. Collectively, $332 billion in market cap washed away.

Now, it appears the tide might be turning for these companies, buoyed by vaccine breakthroughs and glimmers of hope for a return to normalcy.

This infographic looks at the growth in market cap value across BEACH stocks one year from when the WHO officially declared COVID-19 a pandemic.

Washing Back to Shore?

BEACH stocks have gained a collective $376 billion in market cap in the year since the pandemic was declared, with about half the companies trading at their respective all-time highs.

In fact, about 70% of BEACH stocks have actually outperformed the S&P 500, which returned 43.7% during the same period.

CompanyTickerCategoryMarket Cap: 03/11/20 ($B)Market Cap: 03/11/21 ($B)Change
American AirlinesAALAirlines7.214.296%
Southwest AirlinesLUVAirlines23.534.446%
Alaska Air GroupALKAirlines5.78.142%
United AirlinesUALAirlines13.017.233%
Air CanadaACAirlines5.97.933%
Delta Air LinesDALAirlines29.130.96%
Expedia GroupEXPEBooking12.024.6105%
Allegiant TravelALGTBooking2.04.198%
Booking HoldingsBKNGBooking64.096.051%
Caesars EntertainmentCZRCasino & Hotel2.220.8824%
Norwegian Cruise LinesNCLHCruise & Casino4.310.9151%
Royal (Read more...)

Wonder Dynamics raises $2.5M seed to equip indie filmmakers with AI-powered VFX



Practically every film production these days needs some kind of visual effects work, but independent creators often lack the cash or expertise to get that top-shelf CG. Wonder Dynamics, founded by VFX engineer Nikola Todorovic and actor Tye Sheridan, aims to use AI to make some of these processes more accessible for filmmakers with budgets on the tight side, and they’ve just raised $2.5 million to make it happen.

The company has its origins in 2017, after Sheridan and Todorovic met on the set of Rodrigo Garcia’s film Last Days in the Desert. They seem to have both felt that the opportunity was there to democratize the tools that they had access to in big studio films.

Wonder Dynamics is very secretive about what exactly its tools do. Deadline’s Mike Fleming Jr saw a limited demo and said he “could see where it will be of value in the area of world creation at modest budgets. The process can be done quickly and at a fraction of a traditional cost structure,” though that leaves us little closer than we started.

Sheridan and Todorovic (who jointly answered questions I sent over) described the system, called Wallace Pro, as taking over some of the grunt work of certain classes of VFX rather than a finishing touch or specific effect.

“We are building an AI platform that will significantly speed up both the production and post-production process for content involving CG characters and digital worlds. The goal of the platform is (Read more...)

SoftBank Vision Fund 2 invests $160M in media localization provider Iyuno-SDI Group



Iyuno-SDI Group, a provider of translated subtitles and other media localization services, announced today it has raised $160 million in funding from SoftBank Vision 2. The company said this makes the fund one of its largest shareholders.

Iyuno-SDI Group was formed after Iyuno Media Group completed its acquisition of SDI Media last month. In a recent interview with TechCrunch, Iyuno-SDI Group chief executive officer David Lee, who launched Iyuno in 2002 while he was an undergraduate in Seoul, described how the company’s proprietary cloud-based enterprise resource planning software allows it to perform localization services—including subtitles, dubbing and accessibility features—at scale.

Iyuno also built its own neural machine translation engines, trained on data from specific entertainment genres, to help its human translators work more quickly. The company’s clients have included Netflix, Apple iTunes, DreamWorks, HBO and Entertainment One.

Now that its merger is complete, Iyuno-SDI Group operates a combined 67 offices in 34 countries, and is able to perform localization services in more than 100 languages.

SoftBank Group first invested in Iyuno Media Group through SoftBank Ventures Asia, its venture capital arm, in 2018. SoftBank Vision 2 will join Lee and investors Altor, Shamrock Capital Advisors and SoftBank Ventures Asia Corporation on Iyuno-SDI Group’s board of directors.

Snowflake gave up its dual-class shares. Should you?



Snowflake announced earlier this month that it would give up its dual-class shareholder structure, a corporate governance setup that often gives founders and executives superior voting rights, typically involving 10 times as many votes for their own shares as others receive. The mechanism can enable founders to maintain control despite later dilution and may sometimes even grant ironclad control to an individual in perpetuity.

For many companies, these supervoting shares represent a highly powerful tool, allowing founders to have their cake and eat it, too — to go public and receive the advantages of being a public company while limiting the power of external shareholders to influence how they run the company once it floats.

Some founders and their investors argue that these preferred shares protect them from the short-term whims of the market, but the perspective isn’t universally accepted. Dual-class shares are a controversial governance structure, and some wonder if they are setting up an unfair playing field by allowing a cabal to wield outsized power.

Why would Snowflake give up such a powerful tool a mere six months after it went public? We decided to look at the notion of dual-class shares and why Snowflake may have been willing to let them go.

Snowflake’s decision

If one of the primary purposes of dual-class shares is to consolidate CEO power, then perhaps Snowflake felt they weren’t necessary, given the history of CEO-shuffling at the company. While Snowflake’s founders are still part of the organization, they hired Sutter Hill (Read more...)

Nigeria’s IROKO plans to go public on the London Stock Exchange AIM in 2022



IROKO, a Nigerian-based media company, could file to go public in the next 12 months on the London Stock Exchange (LSE) Alternative Investment Market.

Founded by Jason Njoku and Bastian Gotter in 2011, IROKO boasts the largest online catalog of Nollywood film content globally.

According to this report, the media company will raise between $20 million and $30 million, valuing the company at $80 million to $100 million

In October 2019, Njoku hinted that the company was going public either on the London Stock Exchange or a local exchange on the continent. However, the CEO kept mute about the whole process the following year due to how tumultuous it was for the company.

In 2020, the company had plans to increase its average revenue per user (ARPU) in Africa for its video-on-demand service, iROKOtv, from $7-8 to $20-25. Through the first four months of the year, it seemed IROKO was set to achieve that. But amid pandemic-induced lockdown fears, consumer discretionary spending reduced in Nigeria and other African markets. What followed was a 70% drop in subscription numbers, and in May, 28% of the company’s staff went on unpaid leave. But unlike the numbers iROKOtv local markets put up, its international subscribers grew 200% during the lockdown, hitting a $25-30 ARPU range.

However, more bad news came in August when the CEO announced that the company was laying off 150 people. Njoku cited the naira devaluation, regulatory (Read more...)