Vancouver tech firm goes Hollywood

Stake in L.A.-based film fund could signal more crossovers with entertainment sector

Victory Square Technologies Inc. CEO Shafin Diamond Tejani on the set of "Dragged Across Concrete." Shafin is producing the Mel Gibson-starrer after his take company took an equity stake worth more than $4 million in an L.A.-based film fund | Rob Kruyt

Punch in the words “Shafin Diamond” on and executive producer credits will pop up for movies starring Mel Gibson, Vince Vaughn and Jon Bernthal.

For Shafin Diamond Tejani – the full name of the Vancouver-based tech entrepreneur turned movie producer – the IMDb page meant a phone call from his mom, curious about his new job.

“It was comical because again we’re coming in from more of the finance capacity,” said Tejani, who launched his first tech company two decades ago when he was a teenager.

The CEO of Victory Square Technologies Inc. (CSE:VST) is now expanding his company beyond incubating startups and investing in ventures focused on gaming, virtual reality and cryptocurrency.

In July, Victory Square paid $4.25 million to take a 40% stake in Unified Film Fund II LLC. The fund is producing a slate of three films, two of which are already in the can.

While the first two were filmed in Chicago and Los Angeles, Tejani said the third will “probably” be shot in Vancouver by year’s end.

“The economics of this deal made a lot of sense,” said Tejani, who was recognized as Person of the Year last month at the BC Tech Association’s Technology Impact Awards.

“The worldwide estimates on our returns are sitting at around $14.4 million Canadian currently, with additional foreign territories to sell. So from an economical standpoint it’s going to be a two-to-three-times [return] for us.”

While Victory Square is new to the world of filmmaking, Tejani’s relationship with L.A.-based Unified Pictures goes back “a few years” to when he did some debt financing work for one of Unified CEO Keith Kjarval’s earlier Vancouver-made movies.

The two CEOs were introduced by the team at Vancouver’s Look to the Sky Films Inc., which previously collaborated with Unified Pictures on another film fund.

“Given that this slate – based on the sales estimates of the two films that have been completed – is tracking to be a two-to-three-times return, we’ll definitely kick off and start working on an additional slate with Unified and Look to the Sky,” Tejani said.

While Victory Square is known for investing in and incubating tech startups, the company has significant experience in the entertainment space, developing gaming and virtual reality.

Tejani said a move into film complements the company’s other projects, like creating an augmented reality experience for the World Cup of Hockey.

“The silos are slowly coming down. … It’s all going to be a digitally based entertainment sector as opposed to gaming and motion pictures,” said Creative BC vice-president Bob Wong, whose agency promotes the province’s entertainment industry.

“What Victory Square is seeing is that there’s an opportunity here to invest in local entrepreneurs that are creating IP [intellectual property] that is easily exportable globally.”

Vancouver also benefits from having considerable expertise in the film, gaming and virtual reality industries, according to Wong, who said he expects this to lead to more crossovers between the gaming and motion picture industries.

There are 20 companies based in the province that specialize in virtual or augmented reality, according to the BC Tech Association.

Meanwhile, the B.C. government estimated in 2016 the film and TV production industry was worth $2 billion to the provincial economy.

Despite the activity, Wong said, there have not been many deals struck in Vancouver resembling the one Victory Square made with Unified.

“Even though we haven’t seen a whole lot of this type of investment going on, at least in British Columbia … I don’t think this is a one-off,” he said.