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TA-backed Backstage acquires StarNow and Mandy Network

Backstage, a freelance marketplace connecting talent and content creators, has acquired StarNow, a New Zealand-based talent platform for actors, models, influencers and musicians; and The Mandy Network, a UK-based talent platform for cast, crew, production services and creative professionals. 

The acquisitions are supported by a significant strategic investment from TA Associates, a leading global growth private equity firm. Members of the Backstage senior management team invested alongside TA and hold a significant equity interest in the company. Financial terms of the transactions were not disclosed.
“From our start as a trade publication for New York theatre actors, Backstage has grown into a preeminent resource for the discovery and procurement of talent globally. We have built a deep and diverse talent database, and developed cutting-edge tools for industry professionals and today’s new breed of content creators,” says Josh Ellstein, CEO of Backstage. “The acquisitions of StarNow, with its commanding market position in Australasia, and The Mandy Network, among the largest creative communities of its kind, are in keeping with our efforts to continuously expand the depth and breadth of resources and best-in-class tools available to Backstage members. We welcome TA as an investor and look forward to a close collaboration in writing the next chapter of the Backstage story.”
Founded originally as a magazine in 1960, Backstage offers a marketplace that helps content creators connect with the talent and crew they need for visual, audio and production services, including commercials, branded content, catalog and e-commerce photography and video, independent and studio films, TV series and theatre productions. The company’s proprietary suite of workflow tools and its use of data help content creators more efficiently manage talent identification, hiring, contracting and payment. Backstage’s user base includes over 250,000 paid subscribers, such as actors, dancers, models, singers and voice-over talent; and over 20 million content creators and talent seekers — including professional casting directors, brand & acquisition marketers, production companies, advertising agencies and corporate end-users — engage with the platform annually. Backstage was fundamental to the production of 100,000-plus projects in 2020. In light of the Covid-19 pandemic, the company introduced an advanced remote casting solution and an all-new on-camera series featuring insights and direct feedback from industry insiders. Backstage is headquartered in New York.
“We believe that Backstage is an unmatched resource for talent and creators in a world where content creation is increasingly democratised and the volume and velocity of digital content production continues to increase at a rapid pace,” says Mike Felman, President of Backstage. “As a growing company in an ever-expanding market, we feel strongly that this is the right time for Backstage to bring on a partner like TA, with the global resources to help us further scale the business as we continue to build the premier verticalised services and software platform for the creative sectors. With its management-friendly approach, TA is also a good fit culturally for Backstage, and fully aligned with our continued focus on providing a robust platform that empowers and enables opportunities for all members.”
“Through the continued development of Backstage’s offerings and platform advancements, the company has demonstrated a consistent commitment to its members,” says Amara Suebsaeng, a Principal at TA Associates who has joined the Backstage Board of Directors. “To further this commitment, we will work with the Backstage management team to identify additional accretive acquisitions and to support the company’s US and global expansion. We believe that these efforts are an important component of providing Backstage’s members additional opportunities in an ever-changing environment.”
“For more than 50 years, Backstage has served as a go-to resource for performers and talent-seekers,” says Jason Mironov, a Managing Director at TA Associates who has also joined the Backstage Board of Directors. “With its innovative suite of advanced and easy-to-use online casting tools, further enhanced by the offerings of StarNow and The Mandy Network, we believe that Backstage offers unique value-add services to its members as an industrial workflow tool. We are thrilled to support the Backstage management team in their efforts to accelerate both innovation of the Backstage platform and the company’s global expansion.”
“The acquisitions of StarNow and The Mandy Network, and the investment by TA and Backstage management mark significant milestones in the company’s continuing evolution,” says Adam Weiss, a Managing Director at Audax Private Debt, which provided debt financing for the transaction. “The additional capital will aid Backstage in further enhancing its offerings and growing its geographic footprint. We are very pleased to participate in this transaction and look forward to the continued success of Backstage.”

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