Led by Creative England in partnership with the BFI and UKBAA, Evolve is a programme designed to build a connected ecosystem of investors in the UK’s innovative media and entertainment sectors. As part of Evolve, we are highlighting leading industry investors to help provide a bit of insight into investing in the creative industries.
“Media consumption generally during lockdown has gone up, it’s substituted event and external activity.”
We sat down with Travis Baxter, a Business Mentor for the Evolve programme, who has years of experience working in media, radio broadcasting and the wider creative industries to discuss the opportunities in the space.
Travis got his start in radio broadcasting when he was living in Plymouth while attending college. After knocking on the door of Plymouth’s local commercial radio station (one of 17 at the time!), Plymouth Sound, Travis was offered the opportunity to fill in presenting a lunchtime show on the station for six weeks during the summer of 1977. Explaining how his career blossomed after that experience, Travis recalls:
“When I left college, I did some work overseas in commercial radio and then came back and worked for a new station in Devon called Devon Air. After that I worked for the BBC for the local service in Devon and then went to work at Radio 2.”
With fair a degree of serendipity Travis had embarked on a career in radio broadcasting, his entry into angel investing and the investment world more widely began later in his career. He explains:
“I worked for the BBC for five years and then I launched a radio station, which was a joint venture between RTE and RTL. I ran that business and worked with RTL group across Europe for about 10 years through until 1998. I was Managing Director of a number of businesses for RTL and this enabled me to move from the programme making I was doing at the BBC, to being an executive of a commercial media business. After RTL I spent five years doing some angel investing of my own and in addition working for a private equity firm called Advent International. I was as an operating partner with Advent, which included being Chair of a market leading national media business in the Netherlands and NXD of a major business in Poland.”
When it comes to making investments, Travis’ first consideration is always the team and if his experience and expertise can bring something to the table.
“I am generally looking at the world through my personal experience of electronic media, which I guess is pretty much everything these days. I look at an investment and say to myself, of all the things that this business is working on, are there things in my background that enable me to understand it, I don’t want to have to do the dangerous thing of investing in something I don’t understand.
Travis also looks at what a business is trying to do to understand if there’s a natural pattern of human behaviour around it. He says:
“Social media, for example, it allows me to talk to you and lets me show you things that are interesting to me and vice versa. That’s hardly a particularly innovative piece of human behaviour. We’ve been doing this, since we were created. It’s just that the technology is enabling that behaviour to take place in a slightly or sometimes dramatically different way.”
Historically, the creative industries have been overlooked by investors for a number of reasons. The space can be wrongly viewed as intangible but in actuality it’s just as tangible as any other sector. Sharing his thoughts Travis comments:
“What I do think has held back investors to a degree in this sector, especially for smaller companies, is the pitch, commission, produce then pitch again nature of a lot of independent production. While the market has been built around this the world is now very different and enables content makers to be much more independent from one or two leading commissioners – usually the major free to air TV companies.
This independence opens up much more opportunity to produce great creative work for many different end users and for the production owner to exploit their IP in many new ways.
It changes the investment profile in my view from pitch, commission, produce and pitch again to building a great creative idea into a multi layered product offering with multiple revenue sources, and the IP ownership opens the door to recurring revenues and long-term business growth.
In many respects there are elements of the investment attractiveness of scalable software companies that now come to apply to investment into the creative industries.”
As for what investors should look for when they’re considering investing in the space, Travis says:
“I think if you’re a professional investor, and you want to do this seriously, sure it is the ideas that are key, but at the end of the day, it’s this interplay between ideas and the technology that works with those ideas to make them come alive. The technology usually is tied into monetisation options.”
The pandemic, which affected much of 2020 and continues to disrupt our lives in 2021, has significantly changed our habits and the way we work.
“Media consumption generally during lockdown has gone up, it’s substituted event and external activity. You don’t go to the pub or restaurant, you do something which is media related in your home. Whether that becomes a permanent change in terms of the increased amount of people’s time spent with electronic media in particular will become evident in the coming years but the pandemic has, as we all know, been a major change for all creative industries.
I’m sure the pandemic will accelerate the journey into IP delivered creative offerings. That’s an opportunity for everybody but it’s also a threat if you have a legacy business dependent on a more traditional business model. For early stage creative businesses, I think this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity as consumer change due to external forces (pandemic) combine with the transformational technology and monetisation changes of the last 10 – 15 years – to open the door for a plethora of successful new businesses, both large and small, to emerge.”
Find out more about the Evolve Programme and our investor ambassadors.
Register for the next Creative Enterprise Evolve event: Investing in Innovative Screen Businesses – Media Tech Deep Dive taking place at 10.30am on 16th March at https://ukbaa.org.uk/events/investing-in-innovative-screen-businesses-mediatech-deep-dive/.