Former model turned television personality, Tyra Banks is a new fresh-faced VC on the startup block. Her latest investment in the animated-picture app Flixel was recently brokered through her early-stage venture firm Fierce Capital, LLC.
Fierce Capital, LLC marked its first undisclosed investment round in The Hunt earlier this year — a San Francisco-based community-driven online shopping portal. In April 2013 The Hunt announced a round of $700,000 in additional funding, on top of the $2 million it had previously raised from various investors.
“Fresh off a completion of the three-year Owner/President Management [certificate] program at Harvard Business School, [Banks] has established Fierce Capital, LLC to help promising startups raise capital and develop profitable business strategies,” according to Black Enterprise writer C. Daniel Baker.
Banks aims to identify, develop and invest in early-stage startup companies, including firms that are female-led or female-focused. Her unique approach “through brand alignment or financial support” aims to give entrepreneurs access to resources that would be difficult to procure through other VC channels.
Fierce Capital, LLC’s Big Brand Plans for Flixel
Flixel, led by co-founders Philippe LeBlanc (CEO) and Mark Homza (CMO), is headquartered in Toronto, Ontario, Canada with offices in Los Angeles. And Banks has big plans for the iOS app that lets users create living photos–also known as a “cinemagraph.”
She intends to introduce Flixel to the America’s Next Top Model television audience during Episode 2 on Friday, August 9 (9/8c) — currently in cycle 20 which premiered August 2, 2013 on the CW Network. The show will debut the first of many Flixels, created for the show by fashion photographers in collaboration with Flixel’s creative agency.
Flixels ‘Bankable’ Startup Journey
While cinemagraphs are not an entirely new concept Flixel aims to carve out its niche amongst competitors, like Cinemagram and Kinotopic, by leveraging a unique design aesthetic alongside “bankable” industry connections.
In late June of 2013 the Flixel team concluded what they called a “complete overhaul of Flixel,” to include two offerings: a free Flixel Cinemagraph app alongside Flixel Cinemagraph Pro a fully featured app, targeted to artists who want to create high-quality cinemagraphs.
The company released the original version of their app in March of 2012, after pitching dozens of media outlets leading up to the launch. FastCo Design picked up the story which led to the quick expansion of their user base. But according to Flixel in a company blog post, “How quickly a blessing becomes a curse.”
“A login bug prevented a lot of users from signing up. Others experienced slow loading times and crashes on creation. People have very little tolerance for roadblocks – as quickly as the masses of people came, they left. Sadface = us,” the Flixel team explained.
“In an ideal world these things would have been caught in testing and our servers would have been ready to scale. Unfortunately the ideal world doesn’t exist – testing doesn’t catch everything, and the arrival of hundreds of thousands of people is tough to simulate. Like most new apps, we weren’t ready for prime time, and we got burned.”
With their startup lessons behind them, Flixel has carved out a unique brand partnership which will undoubtedly enable the founders to continue their work to provide “Cinemagraphs [that] combine the best of both worlds – the passive-viewing aspects of photography and the captivating aspects of video,” Philippe LeBlanc, Flixel’s CEO explains.
“We are very excited to partner with Fierce Capital and The Tyra Banks Company to introduce this exciting art form to millions of fans of Top Model, not to mention the millions of amateur and professional photographers and others worldwide who will create extraordinary works of art using Flixel technology,” said LeBlanc.
Flixel is currently available via the App Store with a free version that enables iPod, iPhone or iPad users to discover, enjoy, share and produce basic Flixel cinemagraphs and access curated galleries.
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