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Founder says it needed more money and staff, and the decision to shut down "was out of our hands"
(Updated with comment from Balaji Gopinath)
When it launched less than three years ago, Media Camp was going to be a new kind of accelerator: i was going to be put its focus on media-related start-ups. The idea was to push innovation in media companies innovate, a space that really needed a new direction, and had seen little of it.
But that turned out to be harder than expected, and now Media Camp is shutting its doors.
In e-mail sent out from Media Camp founder Balaji Gopinath on Monday, the accelerator explained that it “has decided to shut down its San Francisco Media Camp office and its Emerging Technology staff on the West Coast,” according to a report out from Variety. TechCrunch published the letter in full.
It's initial goal, he said in the e-mail, was "to build a better way to become part of the evolving startup media and advertising ecosystem and find unique ways for big media companies to invest, mentor, and embrace the change we saw coming to our world."
Media Camp, Gopinath wrote, was an idea that he had before he even joined Turner. Yet, despite support from both Turner and Time Warner, though, he remained unhappy with the direction it was going in.
"As much as we garnered support and had some great wins, we also encountered significant challenges from both internal and external forces. While our impact to the media industry and Turner/Time Warner have been significant, in the final analysis, we have not found the clarity and direction that we needed to continue," he said.
Launched in 2012 by Turner Broadcasting, Media Camp described itself as "a comprehensive accelerator program that educates entrepreneurs and enables them to build innovative media businesses."
In all 27 companies went through the program; its first batch in June of 2012 included Chute, a platform for media-rich applications and websites, which has gone on to raise over $12 million, and Socialize, a platform that allows developers to instantly add social features to their apps, which was purchased by ShareThis in March of 2013.
Participants in the three month long program received up to $20,000 in funding, with the potential for commercial agreements.
There has been a lot of talk in recent years about the incredible rise of accelerators and incubators. With so many out there right now, it's almost inevitable that the talent will be spread thin enough that a number of them will ultimately fail.
This is certainly something to look out for as 2015 fast approaches.
Update: Gopinath contacted me to say that he objected to my use of the word "unhappy" to describe his feelings about Media Camp. In fact, he told me, his feelings are quite the reverse.
"I was never unhappy and in fact it was quite the opposite — I was excited that a big media company would allow me to do this and provide the support they did — we were all excited everyday about the work we did vis a vis Media Camp and what we were able to accomplish," he said.
He further clarified for me why the accelerator will be shutting down, saying, "The program was successful and continues to be, The road ahead was muddled and we were truly in a 'go big or go home' moment where we needed additional support and resources (money and staff) to achieve greater impact. That was the ultimate debate that led us to where we are today."
I asked Gopinath to explain to me what exactly the issue was with getting the money and staff he needed. Was Turner not willing to provide Media Camp with what it required and, if not, why not?
"I can't comment on Turner's priorities or budgets but the program needed to grow to more locations and the staff to support it in order to make the impact to the media ecosystem we envisioned. We always looked at this as an industry accelerator and had very cordial relationships with our media peers to support the startups," he said, telling me that commenting further on the matter "violates my agreements with Turner."
"The decision was out of our hands is all I'll say."
(Image source: mediacamp.com)
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Media Camp, a Turner initiative, is a comprehensive accelerator program that educates entrepreneurs and enables them to build innovative media businesses. Key features of Media Camp include presentations and workshops focused on media technology, formal mentorship from media industry experts, community events and knowledge sharing, as well as direct investments including partnerships and vendor relationships.
Our flagship offering, Media Camp Academy, is a twelve-week accelerator program for early-stage technology companies and entrepreneurs, focused on the media space, with or without an existing product. The Academy covers both startup fundamentals and the media specific business in depth. Participants will receive up to $20K in funding and/or potential commercial purchase orders.