Equity investment platform Untold.io wants to transform entertainment finance with a platform that allows anyone, including the average non-accredited investor, to invest in movies for as little as $1,000 each.
Headquartered in Universal City and New York, Untold was founded by Ali Aksu, a film producer, director and entrepreneur seeking to solve the problem of free and untested financial models used in the entertainment industry, which Aksu says are being thwarted by unreliable financiers. that undermine investor confidence.
“Here in Hollywood, we don’t necessarily have people trying to do things by the rules. Basically, it is the financiers who go around and really deceive many people,” Aksu said. “Every time I speak at events, I ask the crowd, ‘Hey, have you invested in films and what is your experience?’ It’s almost always 50/50 where half of them got scammed and half made a profit.”
Untold is not Aksu’s first venture at the intersection of entrepreneurship and entertainment. He also founded Auteur Academy, an online film platform that teaches producers of all kinds to create products in the industry and have a successful exit.
But when it came to Untold, which launched in 2019, Aksu wanted to bring more certainty to the financing of films, shows, and streaming content.
The platform is registered with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority or FINRA and is a funding portal registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission. These registrations allow the company to accept investments from accredited and non-accredited entities. (Accredited investors are those who meet sufficiently high financial thresholds to be eligible to buy unregistered securities. Unaccredited investors are middle-income people who should not buy securities that are considered riskier.)
According to Aksu, it was not easy to get registered with the agencies. Previously, the platform could only be used to raise money through private investors.
The process of obtaining a license took Untold about a year and a half, and Aksu likened the hurdle to passing the bar exam. “You have to have certain necessary experience to show that you can sell securities and sell securities,” he added.
Untold is the only entertainment investment platform listed on FINRA’s regulated financial portals.
The consequences of the pandemic
Another challenge came in the form of starting a business just months before the Covid-19 pandemic, which rocked the film industry with production shutdowns, financial troubles and accelerated adoption of streaming content by consumers. Aksu noted that the transition to streaming has led to an increase in content acquisitions by companies such as Apple and The Walt Disney Co.
However, with the pandemic easing and entertainment content production resurging, Untold has overcome the other side of its problems in finding people to use its platform.
The company has yet to receive seed funding, but has received tentative backing from Forty33 Ventures, its lead investor, and Prescient Capital. According to Crunchbase, Aksu also funded part of the startup himself. Pre-funding was held in 2020 and amounted to $500,000.
Untold operates in a digital space teeming with crowdfunding websites used to fund entertainment, including Patreon, GoFundMe and Indiegogo.
Through such sites, filmmakers, often at an independent level, allow fans to support their projects through subscriptions or one-time donations that range from small change to thousands of dollars.
However, investments made through Untold, as well as films hosted on the platform, work differently.
On the Untold platform, you can invest as little as $1,000 for films with famous directors and actors. Untold posted on its portal “The Comeback Trail” – a film starring Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman and Tommy Lee Jones. Potential investors can view the film and decide if they want to invest; the money in this case would be refinancing the old debt.
The first film featured on Untold was Alaska, a film that used the platform as a budget source for all of its production.
“We offer many different levels of investment, such as when you invest in startups, where you can be an angel investor, a seed investor, or a Series A, B, or C investor,” Aksu said. “In this case, Alaska came to us like a seed with a script, and we raised him almost like an angel and a seed (sponsor).”
Investments made through Untold go to proven projects and people, which is a significant part of the Untold model.
“Our job is to really make sure that the producer passes due diligence, the film passes due diligence, the bad actor checks, we check everything about them,” Aksu said. “(The film team) will be SEC compliant by the time we open them up for an offer.”
No hits yet
Untold’s score for film industry executives is based on their past commercial track record, personal and industry reputation, awards, and more.
When it comes to investing in the platform, investors using Untold will likely need to carefully consider the potential box office performance of films hosted on the platform. So far, Untold hasn’t made much headway on its platform.
There are only three films on Untold so far, but it has big ambitions not only in terms of shallow growth, but also in terms of sustainability.
“We want our content to be connected to the 17 sustainable goals of the United Nations, and we want that content to be, as you know, impact-driven from the get-go,” Aksu, who is also a Young Professionals Ambassador for Southern California branch of the United Nations Association of the United States, said.
The 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals include eradicating poverty, combating climate change and promoting inclusive institutions.