My Spirited Conversation with Paul Scanlan and Jeff Annsion, founders of Legion M, was an experience I'll long treasure. I remember everything that led up to that meeting, which occurred during the 2016 inaugural Silicon Valley Comicon or SVCC.
I'm proud to admit that I am a huge comic geek, especially the Marvel Universe. I couldn’t wait to experience the convention. As if attending such a convention wasn’t cool enough, I was also afforded the chance to tick off one of my bucket list items - getting Marvel creator Stan Lee to sign my Marvel Universe encyclopedia.
SVCC certainly did not disappoint, especially the many information sessions scattered throughout the convention center. One session caught my attention-- Legion M, Disrupting The Studio System: Crowdsourcing w/Equity Makes its Debut. Curious, I popped my head in and found a panel that consisted of not just Paul and Jeff, but also their partners from Meltdown Comics, Stoopid Buddy Stoodios and 42 Entertainment.
As I listened to Paul and Jeff explain the concept of Legion M, pushing the notion of a fan-owned crowdsourced approach to entertainment, partnering with multiple creative studios, and the potential for unique projects to come to market, I was blown away. The light bulb went on instantly. My Chief Communication Officer, Roxanne, who was with me at SVCC, was so psyched she stood up at one point and applauded. The Legion M business model was at the heart of, not only disruption but opened a window into a changing world that is just emerging; thanks to the passage of the JOBS Act.
After the panel ended, I made a beeline to their booth to learn more. As Paul and Jeff outlined additional details about what had spurred the idea, I quickly understood that these were two powerhouses of innovation. Paul’s background in sales and marketing and Jeff’s background as an engineer coalescing into the partnership with digital content delivery business MobiTV; it was clear that anything these guys touched was going to be successful.
I was impressed at the kindness, warmth and genuine passion they had, and the willingness to explain their story to anyone and everyone that wanted to hear it. For them, the decision to go-live at SVCC was a smart move and exemplified the power, connections, and capabilities they had access to and the genre of narratives they could bring to market.
Fast forward to a few months later, their WeFunder campaign, the most successful Title III offering in history with over one thousand investors and over $500K in investments, grows day-by-day, and is supported by tons of press. Their explosive momentum from the comic convention circuit to a full blown operating business model made me even more anxious to give the world insight into who they are and how they tick.
My spirit choice had to be special and, as luck would have it, there is a wildly successful equity crowdfunded spirit called Cleveland Whiskey (also on WeFunder). The CEO, Tom Lix, has created massive innovation in the production of bourbon, with a proprietary process that uses special aging and unusual woods to craft a quality product incredibly fast. I chose the Underground series bourbon finished with black cherry wood. The resulting taste was amazing considering the timeframe. No surprise this funding campaign was a huge success and continues to expand its markets.
Thanks again to Paul and Jeff for being so generous with their time just before leaving in the Legion M company car (a 1959 Cadillac named Marilyn) for the San Diego Comicon. Their goal is to be the most influential entertainment company in the industry. A goal that will likely be met and exceeded. For me, their candid words of wisdom, and the laughs, are a part of a conversation I won’t soon forget.
Paul and Jeff's journey is a great use case for anyone interesting in learning about startup fundamentals. Below are a few nuggets from the conversation:
- MobiTV was not a rocket ship by any means, with its start in 1999 to its launch in 2004. Jeff spoke of the lean days such as eating PBJ sandwiches at the office while they worked through the night.
- Jeff and Paul had to hustle on a regular basis. For them, the essence of entrepreneurship is to get to the next proof point with the least amount of money, reach it, then double down to the next proof point.
- In terms of go live, they explained how there is a magical moment when the rubber meets the road and you have your first customer – the actual proof that you have a product people want.
- MobiTV grew very quickly and required management of scale while maintaining company culture. As Paul put it, you would be surprised how much 20 people can lift if they are lifting together versus 100 who aren’t aligned.
- When creating a disruptive model you have to be ready to build everything. Legion M, like MobiTV had several hurdles to jump when defining a category – i.e. people think it can’t be done or you are crazy, but you keep bringing in more pieces until you have a full picture.