While content may be king, content creators sometimes struggle to pay the bills.
Cue CreatorUp, which aims to equip aspiring creative professionals with the digital media skills they need to find work. To support that effort, the startup has raised $1 million in a seed round from a group of investors that include Metavallon VC, an early-stage investment fund based in Greece, and LearnStart, the seed fund affiliated with edtech investment firm Learn Capital.
This is the first round of funding for the Los Angeles-based company, which has been bootstrapped since its founding in 2013.
CreatorUp is a digital media studio and training company with an educational program to train aspiring creative professionals in business and digital production. Programs in the former category, which covers topics such as branding and content marketing, can be as short as a weekend. Courses involving more technical skills, such as filming with drones or shooting for augmented and virtual reality, can take up to two months.
Early on, CreatorUp worked primarily with corporate clients such as YouTube to host on-site training for their staff or community content creators. Part of the new capital it’s raised will help flesh out its educational training programs to cover more production skills, says co-founder and CEO Mike Tringe. The company also offers an online library of self-paced courses that individuals can access for $25 per month or $200 a year.
After finishing their training, students earn a digital certification for their skills and become a part of CreatorUp’s community of professionals. That’s where the second leg of the company’s business model comes in—helping match people with gigs, which could entail crafting a client’s digital media strategy to creating the content itself. CreatorUp has worked with a diverse range of clients, from the Environmental Defense Fund to Google and the Special Olympics.
A sizable portion of CreatorUp’s clients come from the education industry, including Cengage and Chegg, as well as community colleges and universities. For Penn Foster, which offers online high school and college programs, CreatorUp professionals have developed videos for health courses. For the Bill of Rights Institute, an educational nonprofit, the company developed a series on African American history.
“African Americans in the Gilded Age,” a series that CreatorUp helped create.
“Educational content is one of the biggest needs that we’ve served,” says Tringe, who notes that some of the most common projects are often animated lessons or marketing videos to show off a school’s on-campus experience.
The seed funding will also be used to develop an online menu where prospective clients can plan and identify their content creation needs, and which will better match them with the CreatorUp members whose skills are most aligned to the project.
“Often times, and especially with schools building online courses, they may be very familiar with curriculum design, but very unfamiliar with video production,” Tringe notes. “We want to create a platform that can help them with calculating costs, scheduling, budgeting and development.”
So far, CreatorUp professionals can earn between $175 to $500 per day, depending on the complexity of the work. The company also earns revenue from each client project.
In the future, Tringe says he will explore a tuition model where students can get trained for no cost upfront, but pay back a percentage of their gig fee once they land a job. It’s akin to the income-share agreement model that more and more educational institutions are now offering to students.
To date, the company claims that more than 5,000 people have gone through its training programs, who altogether have helped create more than 10,000 videos for clients.