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VC-backed StudioNow adding capital, clients and creativity
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David Mason

Having just raised a bit more capital for StudioNow, David Mason says with apparent ease that maybe next time he'll focus more on strategic investors.

Mason has recruited $4.5 million in venture and angel capital for his company, including the roughly $400,000 he raised earlier this year, and that money is giving him time to think.

StudioNow, chartered in 2007, began operations about two years ago as an online editing resource for filmmakers. It has evolved quickly into a total video- and audio-creation and distribution platform, with robust outsourced and inhouse technology infrastructure, and a large network of sound technicians, videographers, animators, voiceover specialists and a myriad of other professionals who contribute to projects, nationwide.

In the past two years, StudioNow has created custom online video production platforms for Simon & Schuster, Chronicle Books, Citysearch, CBS Radio, Clearchannel, Playboy, The NewsMarket, Yahoo/Rivals and others.

In an interview this week with VNC, Mason declined to provide the company's revenue figures, but averred StudioNow had 300 percent growth in revenue during the past year, and is projecting up to 400 percent growth in the year-ending 2010.

Mason said the current economic slump does not seem to be directly affecting StudioNow, though they do hear from prospective customers that they may have trouble finding sponsors for the online video features.

The countervailing force, he said, is that companies are "going to need to be portraying themselves in a much more dynamic, multimedia kind of way." Thus, he said, prospects find it hard to reject establishing a video beachhead, when videos can be done for as little as $3,000, with high production values, compared with the previously typical $15K pricetag or more and the need to assemble a great deal of talent and infrastructure.

Mason said he's a little hesitant to describe the company's model as "disruptive," but said it is at least "a very creative approach."

At StudioNow, what's not automated is getting done by 14 full-time employees, including recently hired Bob Sherry, executive vice president for business development, who brings deep media and online experience to the newly created post.

Mason said StudioNow is being rapidly driven into new sectors by rising demand; and, with the wind at its back, StudioNow aims to become "the kinda 'go-to' provider for a lot of different verticals," ranging from single-market small businesses and healthcare, to entertainment and sports.

Providing examples of new business requested by VNC, Mason said his company is in talks with venture capitalists who want to make video reports for their funds' limited partners; with such obvious targets as the FiledBy Inc. authors platform run by a former Ingram Digital executive; and, has begun work for such new adopters as the Owen Graduate School of Management at Vanderbilt University.

Mason's broadening vision for StudioNow is likely to be reflected next week, when the company unveils its revamped website.

Interviewed during his trip this week to Jackson Hole, Mason said StudioNow is becoming the veritable "arms dealer" for companies and others that find themselves forced to move from their more "static" web presence to meet the full-motion expectations of those who consume today's Internet content.

With exponential gains in online video demand projected worldwide, StudioNow has been able in recent years to enlist
such investors as Nashville VCs Claritas Capital and Clayton Associates; plus, such angels as Fred Goad and Jim Kever with Brentwood-based Voyent Partners; Rock Morphis and David McClellan, at Heritage Group LLC; Charles Goldstuck, the former president and COO of Bertelsman Music Group (U.S.) and a private investor at Falconhead Capital; and, investor Wally Loewenbaum. In addition to Mason, himself, StudioNow Chief Technology Officer Adam Solesby is a shareholder.

Mason told VNC the firm may well seek additional outside capital within the next twelve months, but he's leaning toward seeking corporate strategic investment, rather than venture capital. His aim: to attract capital that brings with it more industry and technology expertise. "We're just trying to figure out at this time who's best to help us grow our business," he added.

New Orleans-born, Nashville-bred Mason, at 37, said he got the "entrepreneurial bug" in 1995 by co-founding with brother Michael Mason the early e-commerce retailer SpeedServe Inc., which owned three e-storefronts:  Bookserve.com, Videoserve.com and Gameserve.com.

The enterprise gained support from Ingram Entertainment and Chairman David Ingram.   That Ingram unit then merged in 1998 with Buy.com, which, in 2000, went public.  Bookserve, which merged with another venture to create Buy.com, which attracted support from the likes of David Ingram of Ingram Entertainment, and which went public in 2000.

Mason earned his bachelor's in history at Sewanee, the University of the South, in 1995; and, is a graduate of Nashville's Montgomery Bell Academy.

His brother Michael now lives in Kansas City, where he is an executive with a group of community banks owned by his wife's family. ♦ 

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Tags: Adam Solesby, Bookserve.com, Buy.com, Charles Goldstuck, Claritas Capital, Clayton Associates, David Ingram, David Mason, David McClellan, Falconhead Capital, Fred Goad, Gameserve.com, Heritage Group, Ingram Entertainment, Jim Kever, Michael Mason, Montgomery Bell Academy, Rock Morphis, Sewanee, SpeedServe, StudioNow, University of the South, Videoserve.com, Voyent Partners, Wally Loewenbaum

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