TechStars grad Sync OnSet raises $2.5 million to ensure Ron Burgundy's mustache is impeccable
Sync OnSet is a substitute for what film crews call the "production binder." This is an actual physical binder used by a film's costume department, which takes meticulous notes about exactly how each characters' costume looks, down to the number of buttons buttoned on a shirt. Most productions use a physical binder with handwritten notes and printed out photos.
It is a painstakingly detailed process, because one tiny little oversight can ruin a film's continuity. If, say, Ron Burgundy's infamous mustache is slightly overgrown in one scene, viewers will notice. It's someone's job to get that right. (The mustache is real, by the way. The hair is a wig, though.)
Slowly but surely, niche B2B apps have been infiltrating every industry, helping workers eliminate paperwork and modernize the way they've been doing things for decades.
Handshake eliminates paper invoices for B2B sales, Bizodo automates documents, JOOR eliminates paperwork for the fashion industry, and Hellofax, Freshbook, and Expensify make basic paperwork digital. The basic premise is, find an industry that's still doing things the old-school way and find a way to make the transition.
Wymsee, the company which made Sync OnSet, has done that for production crews on TV and film sets with its app. The company graduated from TechStars Boston in Fall 2012 and has quickly accumulated hundreds of clients, two thirds of which pay $500 per department per month, to use its app.
Today, the company announced it has closed $2.5 million in funding from Laconia Ventures, Rose Park Advisors, CommonAngels, and Hub Angels. The funding is part of the company's seed round, a $750,000 convertible note raised from angel investors after graduating from TechStars.
From the actual binder to the approval process and collaboration between teammates, this area "has been pretty much untouched by technology," says Alexander LoVerde, CEO and co-founder of Wymsee. The most sophisticated software used to date has been a filemaker program which creates printable pages, which go then into the physical binder.
Sync OnSet eliminates that. Thanks to early feedback and introductions from the people at Manhattan Wardrobe Supply (a costume supplier), Sync OnSet has been adopted by film crews hungry for a more efficient way to track their costumes. The company's first client was the costume department supervisor of "Boardwalk Empire," Joseph LaCorte. Now, more than 300 productions have used the app, including the "Anchorman" sequel, "The Michael J Fox Show," and "The Wolf of Wall Street," where LoVerde had a walk-on role. At any time, there are around 100 active sets, says LoVerde.
Over the summer, Sync OnSet began charging its clients around $500 per month for one department, which works out to around $50 per person. After getting the costume designers on-board, the company is now preparing to expand into more departments on a film crew, including makeup, set and others. There are around 10 departments that have similar needs, LoVerde says. The software licenses are for each individual project, but the company is working with studios to set up an annual licensing fee across numerous productions. There is precedent for these kinds of deals -- studios have annual licenses for software related to director's "daily" cuts and casting.
"The studios want to adopt this kind of software, but they have a challenge in telling creative crew members that they have to use a program," LoVerde says of his sales strategy. "These are creative unionized freelancers, so its difficult to mandate to them how to do their work. So we started with them, the people are using it. We just have to sell to the prop master, the costume designer."
The bottom-up approached worked, particularly because once a supervisor uses the app, they're likely to implement it at on their next production.
The studios also had hesitations around security. Movie sets are sensitive about any sort of leaks, Sync OnSet had to prove its software could not be hacked. Beyond that, the people on-set are mostly freelancers who bring their own devices, so the ability to easily grant and revoke permissions and access was important. Once Sync OnSet passed HBO's security audit for "Boardwalk Empire," security became a selling point with other studios.
Sync OnSet has 10 employees, including a sales team in Culver City and a development team in Cambridge.