Entertainment payroll startup Wrapbook raises $27M round led by A16Z

Wrapbook, a startup that simplifies the payroll process for TV, film and commercial productions, has raised $27 million in Series A funding from noteworthy names from both the tech and entertainment worlds.

The round was led by Andreessen Horowitz, with participation from Equal Ventures and Uncork Capital, as well as from WndrCo (the investment and holding company led by DreamWorks and Quibi founder/co-founder Jeffrey Katzenberg) and from CAA co-founder Michael Ovitz.

“It’s time we bring production financial services into the 21st century,” Katzenberg said in a statement. “We need a technology solution that will address the increasing complexities of production onboarding, pay and insuring cast and crew, only exacerbated by COVID-19, and I believe that Wrapbook delivers.”

Wrapbook co-founder and CEO Ali Javid explained that entertainment payroll has remained a largely old-fashioned, paper-based process, which be particularly difficult to track as cast and crew move from project to project, up to 30 times in single year. Wrapbook digitizes and simplifies the process — electronically collecting all the forms and signatures needed at the beginning of production, handling payroll itself, creating a dashboard to track payments and also making it easy to obtain the necessary insurance.

Wrapbook founders

Wrapbook founders Cameron Woodward, Ali Javid, Hesham El-Nahhas and Naysawn Naji

Although the startup was founded in 2018, Javid told me that demand has increased dramatically as production resumed during the pandemic, with COVID-19 “totally” changing the industry’s culture and prompting production companies to say, “Hey, if there’s an easier, faster way to do this from my house, then yeah let’s look at it.”

Javid also described the Wrapbook platform as a “a vertical fintech solution that’s growing really fast in an industry that we understand really well and not many others have thought about.” In fact, he said the company’s revenue grew 7x in 2020.

And while Wrapbook’s direct customers are the production companies, co-founder and CMO Cameron Woodward (who previously worked in filmmaking insurance and commercial production) said that the team has also focused on creating a good experience for the cast and crew who get paid through the platform — a growing number of them (12% thus far) have used their Wrapbook profiles to get paid on multiple productions.

Wrapbook growth chart

Image Credits: Wrapbook

The startup previously raised $3.6 million in seed funding. Looking ahead, Javid and Woodward said that Wrapbook’s solution could eventually be adopted in other project-based industries. But for now, they see plenty of opportunity to continue growing within entertainment alone — they estimated that the industry currently sees $200 billion in annual payments.

“We’re going to double down on what’s working and build things out based on what customers have asked for within entertainment,” Javid said. “To that end, we’re working towards hiring 100 people in the next 12 months.”

#andreessen-horowitz, #enterprise, #finance, #funding, #fundings-exits, #startups, #tc, #wndrco

That dreadful VPN might finally be dead thanks to Twingate, a new startup built by Dropbox alums

VPNs, or virtual private networks, are a mainstay of corporate network security (and also consumers trying to stream Netflix while pretending to be from other countries). VPNs create an encrypted channel between your device (a laptop or a smartphone) and a company’s servers. All of your internet traffic gets routed through the company’s IT infrastructure, and it’s almost as if you are physically located inside your company’s offices.

Despite its ubiquity though, there are significant flaws with VPN’s architecture. Corporate networks and VPN were designed assuming that most workers would be physically located in an office most of the time, and the exceptional device would use VPN. As the pandemic has made abundantly clear, fewer and fewer people work in a physical office with a desktop computer attached to ethernet. That means the vast majority of devices are now outside the corporate perimeter.

Worse, VPN can have massive performance problems. By routing all traffic through one destination, VPNs not only add latency to your internet experience, they also transmit all of your non-work traffic through your corporate servers as well. From a security perspective, VPNs also assume that once a device joins, it’s reasonably safe and secure. VPNs don’t actively check network requests to make sure that every device is only accessing the resources that it should.

Twingate is fighting directly to defeat VPN in the workplace with an entirely new architecture that assumes zero trust, works as a mesh, and can segregate work and non-work internet traffic to protect both companies and employees. In short, it may dramatically improve the way hundreds of millions of people work globally.

It’s a bold vision from an ambitious trio of founders. CEO Tony Huie spent five years at Dropbox, heading up international and new market expansion in his final role at the file-sharing juggernaut. He’s most recently been a partner at venture capital firm SignalFire . Chief Product Office Alex Marshall was a product manager at Dropbox before leading product at lab management program Quartzy. Finally, CTO Lior Rozner was most recently at Rakuten and before that Microsoft.

Twingate founders Alex Marshall, Tony Huie, and Lior Rozner. Photo via Twingate.

The startup was founded in 2019, and is announcing today the public launch of its product as well as its Series A funding of $17 million from WndrCo, 8VC, SignalFire and Green Bay Ventures. Dropbox’s two founders, Drew Houston and Arash Ferdowsi, also invested.

The idea for Twingate came from Huie’s experience at Dropbox, where he watched its adoption in the enterprise and saw first-hand how collaboration was changing with the rise of the cloud. “While I was there, I was still just fascinated by this notion of the changing nature of work and how organizations are going to get effectively re-architected for this new reality,” Huie said. He iterated on a variety of projects at SignalFire, eventually settling on improving corporate networks.

So what does Twingate ultimately do? For corporate IT professionals, it allows them to connect an employee’s device into the corporate network much more flexibly than VPN. For instance, individual services or applications on a device could be setup to securely connect with different servers or data centers. So your Slack application can connect directly to Slack, your JIRA site can connect directly to JIRA’s servers, all without the typical round-trip to a central hub that VPN requires.

That flexibility offers two main benefits. First, internet performance should be faster, since traffic is going directly where it needs to rather than bouncing through several relays between an end-user device and the server. Twingate also says that it offers “congestion” technology that can adapt its routing to changing internet conditions to actively increase performance.

More importantly, Twingate allows corporate IT staff to carefully calibrate security policies at the network layer to ensure that individual network requests make sense in context. For instance, if you are salesperson in the field and suddenly start trying to access your company’s code server, Twingate can identify that request as highly unusual and outright block it.

“It takes this notion of edge computing and distributed computing [and] we’ve basically taken those concepts and we’ve built that into the software we run on our users’ devices,” Huie explained.

All of that customization and flexibility should be a huge win for IT staff, who get more granular controls to increase performance and safety, while also making the experience better for employees, particularly in a remote world where people in, say, Montana might be very far from an East Coast VPN server.

Twingate is designed to be easy to onboard new customers according to Huie, although that is almost certainly dependent on the diversity of end users within the corporate network and the number of services that each user has access to. Twingate integrates with popular single sign-on providers.

“Our fundamental thesis is that you have to balance usability, both for end users and admins, with bulletproof technology and security,” Huie said. With $17 million in the bank and a newly debuted product, the future is bright (and not for VPNs).

#8vc, #enterprise, #funding, #fundings-exits, #security, #signalfire, #startups, #wndrco

4 quick bites and obituaries on Quibi (RIP 2020-2020)

In memory of the death of Quibi, here’s a quick sendoff from four of our writers who came together to discuss what we can learn from Quibi’s amazing, instantaneous, billions-of-dollars failure.

Lucas Matney looks at what the potential was for Quibi and how it missed the mark in media. Danny Crichton discusses why billions of dollars in VC funding isn’t enough in competitive markets like video. Anthony Ha discusses the crazy context of Quibi and our interview with the company earlier this year. And Brian Heater looks at why constraints are not benefits in new products.

Lucas Matney: A deadpool company before it was even launched

#jeffrey-katzenberg, #media, #meg-whitman, #quibi, #startups, #wndrco