Pretty much everyone has, at some point in life, been sequestered in a room and made to watch a series of inevitably outdated training videos that show employees how to handle sticky situations on the job.
For more than 20 years a small company Bellevue, Wash. called Media Partners has worked to up the quality of these films and address current issues in the workplace. Last year, local startup veteran John Hansen acquired the company, and he just raised a little more than $1.1 million from Alliance of Angels to produce a few new films. The company also just won the startup of the month award from the alliance, netting Media Partners an additional $50,000.
The videos focus on people skills — ethics, inter-personal relationships and more — as opposed to technical abilities. The videos tend to have a shelf life of about six years, Hansen said, though a customer service video produced in 2002 still sells well and has pulled in more than $30 million over its lifetime.
The new films the company is working on deal with issues like bullying in the workplace, inclusion and unconscious bias. Hansen said he wished he had access to videos on these types of topics, as the tech industry faces issues of discrimination in the workplace.
Hansen told GeekWire that while many firms spend as little as $500 to $1,000 on these videos, Media Partners’ films cost upwards of $200,000 each. That’s because the company aims to put out “Hollywood-grade” videos, and hiring top-notch film crews and actors isn’t cheap.
“There is literally no one that is making premiere training films,” Hansen said. “These are big bets; $200,000, that’s a serious bet. So that $1 million, that’s five films, and it’s gone. It’s hard to invest that up front, I feel like a Hollywood producer.”
Here is a clip of one of the company’s videos focused on employee theft:
Hansen brought in his own team to ramp up production. Media Partners has about 20 employees right now, and it contracts with actors and film crews. Under the old owners, a writer and a director, the company produced about one film a year. Hansen plans to put out three films this year and another five next year.
The films tend to be around 12 to 16 minutes long, and Hansen said new ones will be split into five-minute chunks covering different topics.
Hansen has parachuted into several companies, turned them around and sold them. He saw an opportunity in this case because Media Partners put out a great product but had room for improvement on the back end. The company has 50,000 customers, including 20,000 who have purchased something in the last three years.
“I saw all this great content, but the website was horrible and they did no marketing,” Hansen said. “So I see all this I think ‘wow I can fix that.’”
For a software guy to move into film seems like a leap, but Hansen has a pretty varied resume. He has founded a couple companies, and he has spent much of his career as a turnaround specialist. But he also had a two-year run as the president of the Colorado Institute of Technology and later became the state’s secretary of technology.