My company We Are Colony, the new global film streaming platform connecting content owners to passionate fans through special edition releases, has announced $2m in seed investment, fast on the heels of the company’s controlled platform rollout, which culminated in an expansion to over 100 countries.

The latest seed investment round combined additional financial commitments from We Are Colony’s original angel investors, with new investments from: Archer Gray, the New York media production, finance, and venture investment company; Firestartr, the entrepreneur-led fund backing globally ambitious entrepreneurs with game-changing internet and software businesses; and Essex Innovation.

This additional capital empowers us to translate the progress we’ve made in the past year into the foundational elements of a global video destination for engaged audiences who prize early and exclusive access to titles and talent that they love.

“In We Are Colony we saw a platform that could be a vibrant home for both original films and the kind of exclusive behind-the-scenes content that fans and film lovers value,” said Amy Nauiokas, the CEO and founder of Archer Gray. “We are thrilled to be supporting Sarah and her team as they continue to build a completely new kind of video-on-demand platform.”

We Are Colony will now focus on growing our library of feature films and exclusive special features, in the areas of talent-driven and strong genre titles, with a number of strategic partnerships and output deals to be announced in the coming months. The company will also expand the team to further deliver on the narrow-targeting marketing and audience engagement expertise evidenced by the early successes of the beta.

“Digital video-on-demand has completely transformed consumer video consumption habits. We Are Colony has recognised that in this new digital world a key differentiator and success factor is to create strong sticky community bases around specific demographics of film viewers. As such, We Are Colony has effectively reinvented the special-edition film DVD for the digital age and in the process also created a new marketing and monetisation channel for distributors and studios to target this highly engaged demographic,” said Anil Hansjee, and ex Digital Chief Investment Officer for major European broadcaster MTG.

Visit to learn more.


“A startup that’s trying to be the Netflix of behind-the-scenes film footage just raised $2 million” – coverage in Business Insider

“London-Based Movie Streaming Startup We Are Colony Raises $2 Million in Funding” – coverage in The Hollywood Reporter

logoDelighted to announce that We Are Colony has been awarded the Digital R&D Fund for the Arts, in partnership with Film London and Edge Hill University.

The £7m fund – a partnership between Nesta, the Arts Council England and the Arts and Humanities Research Council – supports collaboration between arts, digital technology and research organisation in order to build new business models and enhance audience reach. The award will fund a pilot stage of the We Are Colony platform, launching this month, focussed on delivering insights into online film audiences’ behaviour and purchasing around VOD and additional content. The pilot is a partnership between Film London – the strategic agency for film and media in London – and Edge Hill University. Other organisations supported by the Digital R&D Fund include The Royal Opera House, Sheffield Doc/Fest, The Imperial War Museum and the Cheltenham Festivals.  Visit the fund’s online journal Native for updates and insights from the projects.

France Cannes Film FestivalToday, at the American Pavilion, a panel including representatives of Creative Future, Elevated Film Sales, Saban Films and Alamo Drafthouse discussed the state of digital piracy on the independent film sector, and how new models of hybrid digital distribution can respond.

First up was Ruth Vitale, Executive Director of Creative Future: an organisation which seeks to respond to the economic threat of piracy, with a particularly focus on educating younger film viewers who have grown up expecting content on the web to be free.  According to Creative Future, the illegal downloading and streaming of most films ranges from 25-100% of their legitimate sales worldwide. For library titles, online piracy can reach as much as two to three times legal sales. Nearly 30% of internet users in North America – and 40% in Europe – use pirate sites.

The Pirate Bay alone receives nearly 60 million unique visitors a month – 14 million more than Netflix, and more than the websites of ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox combined. And it is a lucrative business: was reported to have made $150m in credit card sales, and $25m in ad dollars, over just six years. Avatar is the most pirated film, with 16.5 million illegal downloads (note: that film also grossed a record-breaking $2.7 billion at the worldwide box office). Vitale comments that the effect of piracy is particularly acute for indie films in terms of lost revenue. She gave the example of The Hurt Locker which she reported sold six million legal tickets, against 10 million illegal downloads.

Tim League, CEO and co-founder of Alamo Drafthouse, talked about the need to better engage younger people with foreign language, arthouse and independent films, and to use digital spaces for this engagement to deliver content on their terms. He gave the example of BitTorrent’s recent offer to download a content bundle of the film plus DVD extras, which led to 3.5 million international downloads of The Act of Killingamong many other successes. League commented that this functionality is soon to be behind a paywall and this is a model he’s keen to test. [Interestingly, this is a similar model to our’s at We Are Colony].

Bill Bromiley, President of recently launched Saban Films, talked passionately about independent distributors’ responsibility to find audiences for their films. He is championing the ultra-VOD model as a revenue source with huge potential to grow, particularly as technology in the home continues to diversify. He commented: “we’ve got to be distribution agnostic…we’ve just got to find out where we can make money from films, to make the next crop of films”.

AP Distribution

Cassian Elwes, CEO of Elevated Film Sales, championed day-and-date releasing, but made clear the challenges of getting actors to lend their support to innovative models, with VOD formerly seen as a dumping ground for films which could not get distribution elsewhere. In his view, new VOD models are a way to monetise films by making them directly available to fans, and getting in front of piracy rather than waiting six months to go digital. He hopes that Google will get into premium film distribution, to truly understand the value of content and to lead a crack-down on piracy sites.

Elizabeth Valentina, Vice President of Content Protection Litigation at Fox Entertainment Group, was challenged as to whether the bigger studios, and larger cinema chains, were truly embracing new VOD models such as day-and-date. She argued that the studios are innovating – from ultra-violet, to varied transaction VOD models, to subscription platforms. But Vitale commented that the major cinema chains will not give distribution to films doing ultra-VOD or day-and-date, leaving producers restricted to some 300 screens across the US (unless they “four wall”, where the producer pays the cinema a minimum per week to screen their film, often costing $2-10k per week). She suggested the potential solutions were either higher at-home VOD price-tags, or revenue sharing between VOD and theatrical.

Elwes voiced frustration that studios are not revealing VOD numbers; but with smaller platforms now doing so, he suggested future deal terms might be structured around success, with bonuses on early digital engagement and download/streaming numbers. Elwes also suggested that the studios will start investing in competing platforms to Netflix, to monetise new films and archive pictures, and that as those platforms grow they will need new content, giving an opportunity to indie films.

We Are Colony launches in private beta this month, sign up now for early access. Independent filmmakers can submit their in-production or in-distribution films for consideration here. More are @wearecolony and @colonymakers.

filmlondon-2Delighted to announce We Are Colony is partnering with Film London for ‘Build Your Audience‘: an innovative audience gathering and distribution training programme for UK feature filmmakers. 

Addressing the rapidly changing face of feature film distribution across the globe, Build Your Audience provides participants with the skills, knowledge and networks to face the challenge of selling their film. This innovative training scheme looks at selling in the marketplace, sourcing and maximising audiences, and negotiating the impact of new digital technologies on the traditional routes of distribution and marketing.

The four month programme (April to August 2014) is aimed at first and second time feature film-makers from across the UK with either a feature that has secured at least 50% production funding or is near completion (picture lock). Consisting of three intensive two day workshops and a final pitch day to industry professionals, the scheme will aid the teams in creating a tailored distribution and marketing plan for their specific projects. The participants will also be supported through a dedicated mentor support programme in between the workshops. We Are Colony will provide a unique online platform profiling all the films selected for Build Your Audience, ensuring they have a digital presence to connect with audiences from the very beginning of their films journey.

Launched in 2013 as “Audience on Demand”, the programme supported 12 film teams from across the UK.  Many have gone on to considerable festival success, including: Appropriate Behaviourpremiered at Sundance 2014; Leave to Remainpremiered at LFF in 2013; and We are the Freaks, selected for Edinburgh International Film Festival 2013.

Film London is the capital’s public agency for feature film, television, commercials and other interactive content, including games. Adrian Wootton, Chief Executive of Film London and the British Film Commission said: “We believe Build Your Audience is filling a very real skills gap which exists within our industry, especially for the UK’s emerging talent. It addresses the changing nature of feature film distribution, taking on board all the exciting and innovative ways film-makers across the globe are using to reach audiences. We hope Build Your Audience not only educates participants with what the options are, but also assists them in developing a bespoke distribution and marketing plan for their projects which they can then implement.”

Sarah Tierney, Founder of We Are Colony said: “We Are Colony is a platform for filmmakers to launch films earlier and build a following. The platform allows filmmakers to engage directly with audiences and grow market demand for their film through early release of additional or behind-the-scenes content. The platform will attract, retain and grow audiences, delivering direct revenue and creating uplift in traditional windows of release. Film London has a history of championing emerging filmmakers to critical and commercial success, in the UK and internationally, which directly reflects the ambitions of We Are Colony. We are delighted to partner with Film London on this latest innovative initiative, supported by Creative Skillset”.

To apply for Build Your Audience, visit Film London.

To sign up for priority beta access to We Are Colony, visit and follow us @wearecolony.


seedcamp_large_1714164cAfter been selected to SeedCamp London 2014, We Are Colony becomes one of 8 startups offered investment by Europe’s leading micro-seed programme. 

SeedCamp is “the most connected international seed investor in the world and is Europe’s leading micro-seed investment and mentoring program“. Since launching in 2007, SeedCamp has reviewed 5,000 applications and funded 80 (just over 1%) of these companies from 33 countries, and these startups have gone on to raise $90 million in funding. SeedCamp is funded by over thirty VCs and angels, including Index Ventures, Atomico and Yandex to name a few.

SeedCamp London 2014 received applications from startups across 50 countries. Just 20 companies were chosen – 9 from the UK and the others from as far afield as Mexico and Estonia – for a week of pitching and mentoring from some 400+ founders, product experts and investors. Of the 20, We Are Colony and 7 other companies were selected for investment (see below).

SeedCamp says: “This past week we had one of our most amazing SeedCamp weeks to date.  For the 8 startups selected for investment, this is just the beginning of the journey.  We look forward to helping our new family members find and scale product market fit, when they join our Seedcamp Academy program shortly”.

Sarah Tierney, Founder of We Are Colony says: “SeedCamp offers outstanding support to assist globally ambitious technology entrepreneurs in reaching market-fit and scale. We were excited by the opportunity to network with a range of founders, product  experts and investors over the course of SeedCamp London, and look forward to extending these relationships and partnerships over the coming months.  In particular, we hope to use SeedCamp as a platform to raise additional funding in the business and deepen our links in the US technology startup and funding ecosystem”.

We Are Colony is a video-on-demand platform focused on early and exclusive access to great films. For filmmakers, it is the new place to launch films earlier and build a following. The platform launches in late Spring 2014. Sign up for beta access now at, and follow on Twitter @wearecolony.

The other 7 startups backed by SeedCamp are:

Elliptic (UK) – making Bitcoin and other digital currencies secure, simple, and powerful to use.

Formisimo (UK) – analyses online forms to allow their clients to optimise their sites and gain customers.

GoWorkaBit  (Estonia) – connects companies that need temporary workforce with flexible workers. (Germany) – an analytics platform to enrich real-time communications with contextual data.

Lodgify (Spain) – the Shopify for accommodation bookings.

Tanaza (Italy) – an all-in-one SaaS solution that makes enterprise-grade wi-fi affordable for everyone.

Wodd  (France) – intelligent, connected hardware for skateboarders.

CSRAnnouncing the launch of MIRA: an innovative and sustainable digital solution for the repatriation of indigenous creative and cultural content, and the largest digital repository of its kind in the world.

FORM is an independent, non-profit cultural organisation established in 1968 that develops creativity and artistic practice in Western Australia. I was based at FORM last year, as a Fellow of the International Creative Entrepreneurs Programme, and lucky enough to work on a new phase of their award winning Canning Stock Route project. Beginning in 2006, the Project sought to explore the history of Western Australia’s red desert interior from an Aboriginal perspective. The resulting exhibition of paintings, film, oral histories, photography and interactive multimedia went on to break attendance records across the country and was acquired by the National Museum of Australia as a ‘national treasure’.

The new phase of the Canning Stock Route Project aimed to reverse a decades-long trend of extracting cultural knowledge from communities, by using digital technologies to repatriate the Project’s materials through a vast digital archive. I wrote about my experiences of working on the Project here, attending community consultations to establish a legal, cultural and technological framework for the ambitious archive. This result is MIRA – launched this week, and the largest digital repository of its kind in the world.


Released as an evolving archive, MIRA currently contains around 5,000 items. By its completion in December, Mira will contain over 10,000 videos, more than 300 oral histories, 20,000 images as well as a huge range of cultural research, historical data, and curated digital heritage items, relating to 17 remote communities and 15 language groups across Western Australia. The archive will not only preserve invaluable cultural material but enable Aboriginal people involved with the Canning Stock Route Project to locate and access material relating to their own families. Additionally, a significant amount of the content in MIRA will be accessible to the general public. MIRA has been developed in partnership with the Center for Digital Archaeology (CoDA) at University of California Berkeley. An iPhone and iPad app of The Canning Stock Route Project has also been launched.

TSBToday, the UK’s Technology Strategy Board launched a new strategy for Creative Industries innovation and committed in excess of £30m investment to this sector over 2013-16.

Having been funded by the Technology Strategy Board (TSB) in two of my businesses – feasibility funding for Clarity Productions and a current SMART Award for ZoneFutures – I have experienced first-hand the TSB’s role in supporting SMEs in high-risk innovation. At today’s briefing, Iain Gray, the TSB’s CEO, reported that the creative industries form one of the UK’s leading industrial sectors: employing 1.4m people and contribute 5.3% of the country’s output (GVA), with a compound annual growth rate of 4.2% for the UK’s media and entertainment industry forecast to 2016.

The TSB’s Creative Industries Strategy 2013-2016 highlights a number of  trends affecting the industry, such as “continued digitisation and convergence, fragmentation of audiences, changing user behaviours and increasing disintermediation”. In response to these opportunities and challenges, the TSB have pledged to invest in excess of £30m (2013-16) to create a “world-beating” support structure for creative businesses.  This funding will target three key themes: Convergence, Transactions (valuing and licensing digital content), and Data.

Over £20m is to be committed over the coming months in programmes such as: cross platform innovation of digital media  tools and systems (£15m); creation of “frictionless” digital transactional environments (£2.5m); development of Hyperlocal Media Demonstrators (£3.5m); and the Greater Manchester Creative & Digital Launchpad (£1m).  In addition, the TSB seeks to support cross-sector collaboration and has established the Creative Industries Knowledge Transfer Network to do so, with the Connected Digital Economy Catapult established to accelerate growth in the sector.

1.-Airbnb-Image-Coyrtesy-AmazonawsSXSW Inspiration – Airbnb: CEO Brian Chesky talking candidly about the challenges of growing and scaling a truly disruptive business model…

UnknownSXSW Inspiration – FourSquare: CEO Dennis Crowley on the challenges of growing the business and the opportunity to design the future of maps…

swissmissSXSW Inspiration – Swiss Miss: Designer Tina Roth Eisenberg on following your passions, and the 11 rules to live and work by…

ovee_logoSXSW Content – Social TV: how great technology and UX can engage audiences with online video as a social experience, using the case study of social video platform OVEE.

JerusalemSXSW Content – Exploring place in cross-platform storytelling: how technologies like geo-tagging, location-aware devices and augmented reality are combining with traditional storytelling…

BuzzFeed-logoSXSW Content – Viral content and social content advertising: BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti on how to create and distribute viral content in a world where ‘share’ is the key to success…

ouya-logoSXSW Games – OUYA: Julie Uhrman, CEO of OUYA, discussing kickstarting an open gaming ecosystem  and bringing a software system to the television…

IAP4082SXSW Mobile – Africa’s $100bn mobile market: an overview of the scale and pace of change of all things mobile as the primary, scalable, transactional route to impact and change.

aetnaSXSW Health -Aetna: an overview of the Aetna healthcare ecosystem to illustrate the opportunities for mHealth startups and investment.

SXSW1Logo2As SXSW Interactive draws to a close, one of the stand-out highlights of the festival was an inspirational keynote from Tina Roth EisenbergThe creator of design blog SwissMiss, Tattly, Creative Mornings and Studio Mates inspired the SXSW crowd to follow their passions and pay attention to their “side projects”…

Full talk available here. Tina’s 11 Rules To Live (& Work) By:


SXSWiLogo4In today’s SXSW session, BuzzFeed’s Founder and CEO Jonah Peretti discussed how to create and distribute content in a world where ‘share’ is the key to success…

BuzzFeed  features “the hottest, most social content on the web” and now boasts 40 million unique views per month. Peretti highlights that we are in the midst of a big shift in media consumption from portals, to search, to social. Facebook, Twitter and the social web are now mature and content spreads faster and further than ever before. This means that owning the printing press or broadcast pipe matters less and less in a world where creating “content people love to share is the key to success”. So Peretti cautioned that you have an idea but also a way to spread it, and this should be a 50:50 effort. But good quality content does not necessary mean that it will go viral, so how do you create content that will spread?

BuzzFeed-logoBuzzFeed has multiple mechanics that drive engagement, including “reaction buttons”: one-click actions are easy and low-effort; they reduce some 80% of uninteresting comment posts that are simple expressions of emotion; and once users have reacted to content they are much more likely to share. Peretti then gave insight into BuzzFeed’s “viral rank” (R): the science behind predicting how viral a piece of content might become by measuring by the “social reproduction rate” (i.e. the likelihood people will share, and the size of potential distribution via their social graph). The potential for sharing is impacted by the lifecycle of content on different platforms: Twitter has a ‘R value’ of an hour, Pinterest a week. And the type of content that spreads also depends hugely on the platform: users behave very differently depending on where they are on the web. On Google, the focus is on connecting users with the information that they know they want (i.e. powered by search). On Facebook, the focus is on connecting people with their friends and giving them the means to communicate and express themselves (i.e. powered by social reinforcement and content is the key vehicle to connect). In summary, “Google is the place for content where no one is looking, Facebook is the place for content when everybody is looking”.

Peretti commented that BuzzFeed was founded on social, emotional, shareable content. But as social has matured, the platform has needed to evolve to capture the appetite for long-form content and serious reporting. With core editorial hires and a shift in strategy, BuzzFeed rounded-out its focus across both emotional and informational content to capture the expanding, diversified market for social content. “Scoops and quality reporting now work for social: what gets shared is the newest, quality, summary piece rather than the specialised, aggregated, longer, slower piece of quality journalism”. Traditional media has published in silos (i.e. serious, hard-hitting content only), fearing that mixed content (emotional, light) somehow disqualifies serious content. But Peretti believes that traditional outlets now have no choice as social sharing mixes content types, powered by user’s diverse needs and interests. BuzzFeed has captured the market by making this mixed media available at source.

Peretti reports that this big shift in media consumption is now coming to advertising: social content marketing is now totally pushing out traditional advertising such as banner ads which “do not tell a compelling story”. BuzzFeed’s “story units” have 1-2% CTRs, some 10-times industry average, powered by the platform’s core viral rank. BuzzFeed’s advertisers are now becoming authentically embedded in story unit content, becoming part of the narrative. Interestingly, BuzzFeed charges brands for “seed views” but not for “viral views”, so the powerful social uplift is a bonus as Peretti does not believe in “penalising success”.

Some other lessons from the session: “Social is a way of thinking, not a trick”. Don’t focus on one narrow trick to make content work (e.g. a feature of Facebook) as this is not sustainable and the numbers will collapse. Think integration. Have a heart: emotional intelligence is more relevant in the social space. Content is about identity: people are highly motivated to share content that reflects their lives and experiences. Don’t try to engage everybody: it’s often better to engage a smaller group who care more deeply as people share content that touches their identity. Capture the moment: don’t publish into the void. Be responsive. Not everything has to be funny but humour is a very important way of connecting people to each other on the social web. Nostalgia and human rights are powerful social drivers as it connects people to each other via shared identity or beliefs.