EXCLUSIVE: The stock markets are closed today in observance of Good Friday, but a new “decentralized finance” venture is heating up the digital investment community heading into Easter Weekend.
An investment arm of Immersive Artistry, whose CEO is onetime Dimension Films and Walden Media exec Cary Granat, has teamed with digital assets and payments firm Gebo Group. Their setup, Starport, has already raised $40 million and predict they will end up north of $50 million by Sunday. The proceeds, which take the form of digital tokens, will fund the new entity’s effort to bridge traditional finance and the emerging realms of blockchain and cryptocurrency.
The usual venture capital firms and blue-chip investors found in startup announcements are not in evidence with Starport’s beta round. Serge Pustelnik, Co-Managing Partner, Starport and Gebo Group, characterized it as “anti-VC” in an interview with Deadline. A follow-on opportunity for investors is planned after a 12-hour “cooling-off” period.
Cryptocurrency and blockchain technology — seen by proponents as a way to bring access and transparency to the financial markets — have gotten a boost lately by the rise of Bitcoin. Shares in the currency have more than quadrupled since October, reaching almost $60,000 a share, with support from notable figures from the business world like Tesla CEO Elon Musk. Hollywood has started exploring crypto and related innovations like non-fungible tokens, or NFTs. In one sign of the times, UTA just created a division of the top agency dedicated to these emerging financial systems.
Granat, who first became known in the entertainment business for backing projects like Scream and The Chronicles of Narnia, has been increasingly focused on new forms and technologies. Immersive has an ecletic portfolio of projects, including the immersive Kind Heaven entertainment hub in Las Vegas and the Johnson Controls Hall of Fame Village in the NFL destination of Canton, OH.
The executive told Deadline that Starport is a “newly evolved form of fundraising and mobilizing the community” around ideas and projects. “This is a pivotal moment in connecting entertainment and media companies, producers, creators and others with crypto investors.”
Granat said he is preparing to launch a slate of 16 family-oriented film and episodic projects that will be tied to Starport. The platform will be able to facilitate investment in areas like Esports and experiential entertainment, but also life sciences, space exploration, robotics and other non-show business arenas. Collectibles, both in the physical world and in NFT form, are also in the mix.
Funding from Starport will go directly to Immersive Network, which will then fund Immersive Artistry projects, including Kind Heaven and a planned Christmas Village. In that North Pole Village experience, visitors will connect with the surroundings through technology as performers help bring designed natural locations to life.
Granat said several independent producers and companies with particular appeal to specific audiences have expressed interest in Starport. For a decade, independent projects have been able to draw on crowdfunding for production and marketing resources, he noted. “This takes that idea to a much larger scale,” he said.
“The potential for DeFi has barely been scratched,” said James Wines, co-founder of Starport and Gebo. “Blockchain network technology has the ability to power and disrupt entire industry sectors. Starport’s mission is mass adoption. The projects in our pipeline are all deployable, real-world uses cases that will help fulfill blockchain’s promise to forever change everything.”
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