Imagine a world in which creators can freely mix and remix content, a world in which rights are respected and rightsholders are correctly identified and properly compensated, and a world in which platforms are able to innovate while bringing everyone together without fear of litigation. This is the world I imagined 7 years ago, when I started Pex.
The company was born into a different world then. YouTube had yet to generate $1B in revenue. No major social media platform supported video. User-generated content (UGC) was synonymous with amateurish production. The music industry was still recovering from a major depression in their business. But there was an inkling that UGC could be more… and might one day dominate the way we consume news and entertainment.
The digital rights market was starved for innovation. Most vendors in the content recognition space found a niche business by exploiting the inefficiencies of existing technologies. Not a bad business, but one poised to be made obsolete by innovation and technical progress. My interests lay with evolving the technology itself. I believed not only that we could do better, but also that the market would eventually embrace what we have to offer and would find it useful.
I was onto something but I was quite naive about the speed at which I could accomplish this. It took almost three years to convince our first customer to give us a chance, during which we almost closed the business. But from that first customer we began to grow, and build, and managed to raise our first round of funding. This round allowed us to take on more customers and become part of a rapidly growing market. But we were still far from our vision.
From there, we had to patiently wait for almost 3 years for governments across the world to move to put legislation in place to address the growing imbalance between platforms that grew into behemoths vs. writers, photographers, creators, musicians and artists who weren’t getting their fair share. Most notably, the EU’s Copyright Directive and its Article 17 set forth decisive, market-shifting legislation with global impact to address the value disparity in a meaningful way. This was the moment we had been waiting 7 years for.
With this wind in our sails, we unveiled our Attribution Engine, the fulfillment of my original vision. Attribution Engine is licensing infrastructure for the Internet, enabling fair compensation and increased access to content. Attribution Engine is the hub where rightsholders, platforms, creators, and all content stakeholders meet to express their rights and create a more equitable and transparent Internet.
Attribution should be vital to the Internet – helping protect copyright without stifling creation. I believe we can make attribution the norm online, and we can do it with the speed, ease, and scale that today’s volume of content demands. It replaces crude upload filters with radically simple licensing that respects individual rights while creating greater and safer access to content for all.
Earlier last year we acquired Dubset to bring on board a skilled rights management team with relationships across the music industry.
And today I’m happy to announce that we secured $57M in new financing to help us move even closer to realizing our original vision. The round was joined by most of our existing investors with additional participation from Tencent, Tencent Music Entertainment, the CueBall Group, NextGen Ventures Partners, Amaranthine and others.
I realize that funding is a means to an end, not an end itself. We spent the last 7 years quietly and diligently building and improving our technical capabilities while delivering outsized value to our customers. We have been fortunate to forge strong relationships and a reputation for innovation and accomplishment in an industry where we set out to build and deliver on an ambitious, perhaps audacious, vision of the future for digital creation.