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What is the name and location of your company and who are the founders?
Section II is based in Brooklyn, New York. There are core team members in San Francisco and Los Angeles as well.
Allie Esslinger is the Founder, and she has a team of very talented developers, producers, and sales staff working with her to get the platform launched officially.
How did the idea for your start-up come about?
I grew up in Alabama in the 80’s and 90s, where I didn’t have a lot of access to the world around me– I was in college before I ever saw a lesbian character on TV. It took a long time to understand myself in the context of the world, but there’s no reason that should be the case for anyone anymore.
Of the key people involved what is everyone’s experience and background?
We primarily come from a film background, both on the filmmaking side and the marketing/distribution aspects. We have producers from film and theater; an entrepreneur who created an app for grips and gaffers to use on set. Our curatorial director comes from the fine art world and editorial criticism, but a lot of us developed from a PA into the producers and development careers that we have today.
How do you see your company creating value or disrupting an existing market?
People will tell you that it’s not hard to raise money to make a movie—that distribution is what’s broken. But the truth is, it’s still really difficult to prove supply and demand for niche content. If there’s not a billion dollar exit, it’s hard to get a certain type of investor excited. Or if it’s not a feature film with a celebrity—but Section II is more concerned with the audiences. We know there’s a supply-demand gap for contemporary LBTQ content, and as we build the platform, as we license content and acquire films out of festivals, we’re aggregating audiences from across genres and formats so that creators can point to us and show the demand as they’re fundraising for their next projects.
For all the talk about our “unicorn demographic” (double income, no unplanned pregnancies) there are still more actual unicorns on TV than queer women. This is the most highly educated group of women in the US with over $300,000,000,000 in disposable income annually—it’s only inevitable that someone captures the market, and content as customer acquisition is the best strategy for building an audience.
When was the business founded and how are you being funded?
We were founded in Fall 2013 and launched our beta site in May 2014 with the world’s largest collection of features, shorts, and series.
If so by whom are you currently funded by?
We’ve bootstrapped the company to this point—a content accelerator provided us with $18,000 in seed funding, and our crowd funding campaign allowed us to build the platform that will put out the Spotlight Series, our first subscription package.
What is the current size of your business, number of employees?
Allie is a full-time founder, and the rest of the team commits individually between 20–60% of their work effort to Section II.
If you are seeking further funding, how much and for what purpose will the new funds be applied?
Our angel round is $300,000, which will allow us to fully launch our subscription package, the Section II Spotlight Series and integrate ad revenue into the platform.
We also have a film fund for content creation which is an ongoing fundraising effort and has supported our first web series, out next Spring, along with some marketing content we’ve produced for partner platforms and magazines.
What is the product and or service you are providing?
Section II acquires, creates, and showcases LBTQ features, shorts, and series.
It is a streaming network connecting Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning stories and audiences, sort of like “HBO for Lesbians”.
Explain how you are seeking entry into your marketplace.
We have been able to partner with editorial sites in our market to reach consumers via press and advertising.
We attend festivals, where we meet content creators eager for the opportunity to monetize their work and fans who provide feedback on our site, our catalogue, and our product initiatives.
What seems to be the biggest strength of the team so far?
We’ve been able to talk directly with almost 400 content creators and tell them our vision and get them on board with what we’re doing. Section II gets called a passion project sometimes by investors who don’t see the bigger picture, but we don’t find that as offensive as we used to—this is a team full of vision and drive, and that comes through every time we pitch for a new creator to join our network.
What was your greatest “Ah-Ha” moment to date?
We’re a content start-up, which is a dangerous phrase in the fundraising world. But we are a team with a “The Show Must Go On” mentality. We’ve kept the course and have made it work long enough that we’ve been able to attract investors and service partners that get what we’re doing and realize that #BetterRepresentation is important for everyone, not just LBTQ women.
What was the funniest thing that has happened?
Our first piece of original content was JULIE GOLDMAN: LADY GENTLEMAN, an hour long comedy special. That was hilarious!
It’s not always easy to laugh when you’re subletting your apartment so that your team can stay onboard, but we’ve had some truly great moments: our first Sundance, calling the martini shot on our first web series, cutting our first check to a filmmaker.
If you can only do one thing in your industry what would that be?
Section II will grow to be a global brand built on a multi-platform marketplace. While we’re focusing on LBTQ content now, what we’ve learned about our audience here in the US makes expansion into the Southern hemisphere a logical step, as well as female-focused content and LGBT initiatives across the spectrum.