Equity investment platform Untold.io wants to reshape entertainment industry financing with a platform that allows anyone, including average unaccredited investors, to invest in movies for as little as $1,000 each.
Based in Universal City and New York, Untold was founded by Ali Aksu, a film producer, director and entrepreneur who seeks to tackle the loose and unverified funding models used by the entertainment industry, which, according to Aksu, are hampered by untrustworthy financiers. that are shaking investor confidence.
“Here in Hollywood, we don’t necessarily have people trying to do things by the rules. It’s mostly financiers who walk around and really rip off a lot of people,” Aksu said. speak at events, I ask the crowd, ‘Hey, have you invested in movies and what was your experience?’ It’s almost always 50-50, where half of them got ripped off and the other half made a profit.
Untold isn’t Aksu’s first venture into the intersection of entrepreneurship and entertainment. He also founded Author Academy, an online film platform that teaches producers of all kinds how to create products in the industry and release them successfully.
But when it came to Untold, which soft-launched in 2019, Aksu wanted to bring more certainty to funding for movies, shows, and streaming content.
The platform is registered with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, or FINRA, and is a registered funding portal with the Securities and Exchange Commission. These registrations allow the company to accept investments from accredited and non-accredited persons. (Accredited investors are those who meet fairly high financial thresholds and are allowed to buy unregistered securities. Unaccredited investors are middle-income people who should not buy such securities, which are deemed riskier.)
Registering with agencies has been a challenge, according to Aksu. Previously, the platform could only be used to raise funds through private investors.
The licensing process took Untold about a year and a half, a hurdle Aksu likened to passing a bar exam. “You need to have some experience required to show that you are able to sell securities and sell securities,” he added.
Untold is the only entertainment-centric investment platform listed on FINRA’s list of regulated funding portals.
Another challenge was launching the business just months before the Covid-19 pandemic, which rocked the film industry with production shutdowns, financial difficulties and accelerated consumer adoption of streaming content. Aksu noted that the shift to streaming has led to an increase in content acquisition by companies such as Apple and The Walt Disney Co.
However, with the pandemic waning and entertainment content production reviving, Untold came out on the other side of its challenges looking for people to use its platform.
The company has not yet reached seed funding, but has received pre-seed support from Forty33 Ventures, its lead investor, and Prescient Capital. Aksu also funded part of the startup himself, according to Crunchbase. Pre-seed funding was completed in 2020 and reached $500,000.
Untold operates in a digital space rich with crowdfunding websites used for entertainment funding, including Patreon, GoFundMe, and Indiegogo.
Through sites like these, filmmakers, often at the independent level, allow fans to support their projects with subscriptions or one-time donations ranging from small change to thousands of dollars.
However, investments made through Untold, as well as films hosted on the platform, work differently.
Investments can be made on the Untold platform for as little as $1,000 for films with established directors and actors. Untold has hosted “The Comeback Trail” on its portal, a film starring Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman and Tommy Lee Jones. Potential investors can watch the film and decide if they want to invest; the money in this case would be a refinance of older debt.
The first movie featured on Untold was “Alaska,” a movie that used the platform as a budget source for its entire production.
“We offer many different levels of investment, just like when you invest in startups, where you can be an angel investor, seed investor, or Series A, B, or C investor,” Aksu said. “In this case, ‘Alaska’ came to us as a seed with a script and we grew almost like an angel and a (founder) seed.”
Investments made through Untold go to projects and people that have been vetted, an important part of Untold’s model.
“Our job is really to make sure that the producer has done their due diligence, that the movie has done their due diligence, that the bad actors are checked, we check everything about them” , Aksu said. “(The film crew) become SEC compliant the moment we open them for offering.”
No results… yet
Untold’s rating of film executives is based on their business history, personal and industry reputation, awards, and more.
On the investment side of the platform, investors using Untold should probably consider the potential box office numbers of movies hosted on the platform. So far, Untold hasn’t had any significant success on its platform.
Untold has only hosted three films so far, but it has big ambitions, not only in terms of surface-level growth, but also in terms of sustainability.
“We want our content to be linked to the 17 UN Sustainable Goals and we want that content to be, you know, impact-focused from the start,” said Aksu, who is also a Young Professionals Ambassador for the South. California Division of the United Nations Association of the United States, said.
The 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals include ending poverty, combating climate change and promoting inclusive institutions.