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BTS label Big Hit Entertainment inks broad partnership with streaming tech company Kiswe

The town of New Providence, N.J. may seem like an unlikely home for a company that’s just inked a new deal with Big Hit Entertainment (the label behind the global K-pop supergroup BTS) and raised tens of millions of dollars from some of the largest venture capital firms in the United States, but Kiswe Mobile is proof that valuable startups can come from anywhere.

Founded in 2013 and led by chief executive, Mike Schabel, Kiswe Mobile is now extending its relationship with Big Hit from a one-time show in early December to an agreement that will extend well beyond the next BTS gig in what the two companies described as a “global partnership”.

Schabel declined to disclose any terms of the partnership agreement but said that it was more than a simple business contract between the two entities.

For the past seven years Kiswe has worked with some of the biggest sports and entertainment leagues in the U.S., including the National Basketball Association, Major League Soccer and the Professional Golf Association on streaming live events. In recent years the company has added eSports  to its roster — and live events including that December BTS show.

Founded by former President of Bell Labs, Jeong Kim, along with Wim Sweldens and Jimmy Lynn back in 2013, Kiswe Mobile offers a streaming service that has four different components that live entertainment needs to get back on track in the post-COVID era of social distancing.

The company’s technology offers a central production system for concert producers to process video and audio,  multi-camera and interactive viewing options for fans watching the show to communicate with the live performers and each other, and presenting it exclusively by either geo-location or through ticketing.

“This MOU opens the possibility for diversified innovation in the global market by combining Big Hit’s content planning know-how and Kiswe’s technology, said Big Hit chief executive Lenzo Yoon, in a statement.

Behind all of this technology are a number of high profile investors including New Enterprise Associates, the multi-billion venture capital firm based outside of Balitmore. Other investors include Revolution, the Washington, DC-based investment firm founded by Steve Case; Ted Leonsis, a co-founder of Revolution and the founder of Monumental Sports Group, and company founder Jeong Kim.

The company has raised well over $20 million in financing since its launch in 2013, but Schabel declined to disclose the total amount the company raised.

The Big Hit deal is meant to serve a precursor to the launch of a new BTS Concert and convention called “BANG BANG CON The Live” later this month.

That show is, itself, a prelude to more interactive events from Big Hit’s roster of talent powered by Kiswe Mobile.

Technologies like Kiswe’s are arriving at a time when live events need them the most. The recent Travis Scott Fortnite experience, and Marshmello’s earlier turn behind the virtual wheels of steel in Epic Games’ breakout hit are among a number of new technologies that are looking to bring at least some of the magic of shared experiences and entertainment to fans that are hungry for it.

Several startups are taking this moment to push interactive live experiences for audiences. They include the virtual concert design and distribution platform, WaveXR; the interactive streaming service, Caffeine, and development firms like Zoan, which created a virtual concert experience for Helsinki’s May Day celebrations that brought a crowd of 1 million.

Kiswe’s deal with Big Hit arguably taps into the biggest, and most rabid fo the music industry’s fanbases by reaching the members of the BTS Army.

As Schabel acknowledged in a statement, “Kiswe’s relationship with Big Hit Entertainment expands our huge global sports and media footprint into the music sector and allows Kiswe and Big Hit to explore new ventures in the industry.”

NEA-backed Personal Genome Diagnostics receives FDA clearance for its cancer diagnostic

Personal Genome Diagnostics, the venture-backed developer of a novel diagnostic kit for genomic profiling of different cancers in lab settings, has received clearance from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for its PGDx elio tissue complete test.

The test’s approval is another step forward for precision therapies that rely on an understanding of the unique genomic profile of an individual patient’s tumor, according to the company.

The test detects single nucleotide variants and the small insertions and deletions known as indels. Single nucleotide variants, indels, and identifying characteristics like the tumor mutation burden can be used by physicians to determine how rapidly a disease like cancer to progress and can provide essential targets for precision therapies to individual tumors.

The information doctors collect from these tests can also be used to help oncologists identify patients for clinical trials.

The new diagnostics test cover 35 different tumor types.

“There has not, until this point, been one standardized test for all kinds of cancer that any lab across the country can perform,” said Dr. Pranil Chandra, Chief Medical Officer of Genomic and Clinical Pathology Services, PathGroup, an early collaborator for PGDx elio tissue complete, in a statement. “With this clearance, labs across the country will for the first time have an option for a regulated, standardized test that examines a broad view of cancer pathways and genomic signatures across advanced cancers.”

To date, Personal Genome Diagnostics has raised over $99 million, according to Crunchbase. The company’s investors include New Enterprise Associates, Bristol Myers Squibb, Inova Strategic Investments, Co-win Healthcare Fund, Helsinn Investment Fund, Windham Venture Partners, Maryland Venture Fund

“We are proud to have led the first institutional round for PGDx,” said Dr. Justin Klein, in a statement when the company raised a $75 million round back in 2018. “Rapid advances in immuno-oncology, targeted agents, and combination cancer therapies are heightening the importance of tumor genome testing that enables treatments to be targeted to those patients most likely to benefit.”

 

Big tech companies are looking at Hollywood as the next stage in their play for the cloud

This week, both Microsoft and Google made moves to woo Hollywood to their cloud computing platforms in the latest act of the unfolding drama over who will win the multi-billion dollar business of the entertainment industry as it moves to the cloud.

Google raised the curtain with a splashy announcement that they’d be setting up their fifth cloud region in the U.S. in Los Angeles. Keeping the focus squarely on tools for artists and designers the company talked up its tools like Zync Render, which Google acquired back in 2014, and Anvato, a video streaming and monetization platform it acquired in 2016.

While Google just launched its LA hub, Microsoft has operated a cloud region in Southern California for a while, and started wooing Hollywood last year at the National Association of Broadcasters conference, according to Tad Brockway, a general manager for Azure’s storage and media business.

Now Microsoft has responded with a play of its own, partnering with the provider of a suite of hosted graphic design and animation software tools called Nimble Collective.

Founded by a former Pixar and DreamWorks animator, Rex Grignon, Nimble launched in 2014 and has raised just under $10 million from investors including the UCLA VC Fund and New Enterprise Associates, according to Crunchbase.

“Microsoft is committed to helping content creators achieve more using the cloud with a partner-focused approach to this industries transformation,” said Tad Brockway, General Manager, Azure Storage, Media and Edge at Microsoft, in a statement. “We’re excited to work with innovators like Nimble Collective to help them transform how animated content is produced, managed and delivered.”

There’s a lot at stake for Microsoft, Google and Amazon as entertainment companies look to migrate to managed computing services. Tech firms like IBM have been pitching the advantages of cloud computing for Hollywood since 2010, but it’s only recently that companies have begun courting the entertainment industry in earnest.

While leaders like Netflix migrated to cloud services in 2012 and 21st Century Fox worked with HP to get its infrastructure on cloud computing, other companies have lagged. Now companies like Microsoft, Google, and Amazon are competing for their business as more companies wake up to the pressures and demands for more flexible technology architectures.

As broadcasters face more demanding consumers, fragmented audiences, and greater time pressures to produce and distribute more content more quickly, cloud architectures for technology infrastructure can provide a solution, tech vendors argue.

Stepping into the breach, cloud computing and technology service providers like Google, Amazon, and Microsoft are trying to buy up startups servicing the entertainment market specifically, or lock in vendors like Nimble through exclusive partnerships that they can leverage to win new customers. For instance, Microsoft bought Avere Systems in January, and Google picked up Anvato in 2016 to woo entertainment companies.

The result should be lower cost tools for a broader swath of the market, and promote more cross-pollination across different geographies, according to Grignon, Nimble’s chief executive.

“That worldwide reach is very important,” Grignon said. “In media and entertainment there are lots of isolated studios around the world. We afford this pathway between the studio in LA and the studio in Bangalore. We open these doorways.”

There are other, more obvious advantages as well. Streaming — exemplified by the relationship between Amazon and Netflix is well understood — but the possibility to bring costs down by moving to cloud architectures holds several other distribution advantages as well as simplifying processes across pre- and post-production, insiders said.

 

Tina Sharkey has something to sell you (300 things, actually)

 Brandless is an usual company. A direct-to-consumer purveyor of food, beauty, and personal care products, it says that every item it makes is non-genetically modified, kosher, fair-trade, gluten-free, often organic and, in the case of cleaning supplies, EPA “Safer Choice” certified. They are also priced at $3 across the board. The idea, says cofounder and CEO Tina Sharkey, is… Read More