Heyou Media, a new startup launched by luminaries from Seattle’s tech and entertainment worlds, is raising cash to fuel the “alternative media revolution.”
That’s according to Seattle-based actor Tom Skerritt, of “Top Gun” fame, who serves as Heyou’s chairman. The company launched in Seattle last year but has been flying under the radar. Today, Heyou announced its first round of fundraising and the launch of its first video series on Amazon.
Heyou bills itself as a new media company that aggregates entertainment content, like film, web series, music, virtual reality, and special interest videos. Skerritt believes that by focusing on raising money and producing films at a lower cost than competitors in Hollywood, the company can support more independent work and leverage Seattle’s creative community.
“The issue is that Hollywood cannot make the price point necessary for new media and we feel here, in one of the most literate cities in the country … with all of the storytellers here, that we have a very good opportunity,” Skerritt said in an interview with GeekWire.
An SEC filing last week said Heyou had raised $225,000 of a $5 million funding round. The company said today that it “secured its first round of fundraising” but declined to confirm the amount or other details of the investment.
Skerritt has appeared in dozens of films and series, including “Alien” and “Steel Magnolias.” A self-described “storyteller,” he studied English at Wayne State University and UCLA. He has lived in the Northwest since the 1980s, splitting his time between his Seattle home and the San Juan Islands.
Heyou Media boasts an impressive lineup of other advisors including Pearl Jam Manager Kelly Curtis, well-known Seattle entrepreneur Mary Jesse, and Ed Fries, former head of Microsoft Games.
Skerritt wrote and directed Heyou Media’s first series, Stroller Gangs, which follows a group of “Seattle quad-shot latte moms.” All nine episodes are currently streaming on Amazon as part of its Prime Video offering.
Skerritt says Heyou has a “comfortable relationship” with Amazon. The two Seattle companies are discussing additional projects.
Heyou Media has also optioned “Widow Walk,” a historical drama that the company describes as “a ‘Game of Thrones’-style saga based in the Pacific Northwest.” Production of “Widow Walk” will begin this fall, using cash from Heyou’s first investment round. The company is also working on three additional films.
Julie Tokashiki, a journalism graduate who has worked with the heads of CBS Entertainment and 20th Century Fox Television is serving as CEO of Heyou Media.
Jesse is well known in the Seattle tech scene as an investor, advisor, and entrepreneur. She is the Chief Strategy Officer for VRstudios in Seattle, bringing mixed reality experience to her role as executive chair of Heyou’s board.
— Mary Jesse (@TheMaryJesse) July 8, 2017
Fries also brings VR chops to Heyou, as a board member of virtual reality live streaming platform VREAL.
“We do have a project that we’re developing for VR that could also be a video game,” Skerritt said. “We’re putting together the business model itself that makes business sense.”
Heyou plans to a have a library of content across different media by the end of the year and is exploring ways to innovate and shake up the traditional media industry, which has been historically dominated by big studios.
“This is the Wild West we’re talking about,” Skerritt said.