TRAVERSE CITY — A video production business is setting up shop in Traverse City, driven by a significant investment from local venture capital firm Boomerang Catapult.
Vortex Studio LLC's first hire, Jen Casey, is the perfect example of the type of person the venture capital group is named for. She's someone who grew up in Traverse City, moved away, then came back — like a boomerang — five years ago.
"When I graduated high school, I took off. I went to Michigan State, then I went straight to New York and Chicago, for 13 years," she said.
Entertainment executive and producer James Deutch founded VortexTV in 2016 in Los Angeles. The Boomerang Catapult investment created a new company called Vortex Studio LLC, according to Casey.
Deutch, CEO of the new company, was born in Detroit. He will continue to work in California.
Deutch began his television career in 2004 when he was executive producer on the show Tabloid Wars for Bravo TV. A string of producing credits followed, capped by Fashion Star, which he created in 2011 and still produces today. He founded VortexTV to create, produce and invest in programming across a variety of viewer platforms.
"Then Boomerang came along," Casey said, "and as of May first, I started, and I'm the first hire."
Vortex plans by the end of the year to hire six more people, who will work in sales, project management, video production and editing. Deutch said in a release that the company's marketing, sales, production and post-production activities will move to Traverse City.
"He creates the content and the TV shows," Casey said of Deutch, "and then we integrate major brands into the shows, and those will fund the shows going live. We're digital-first focus, so we run on YouTube, Facebook — and then we can distribute anywhere, on any cable or major network."
Boomerang Catapult Principal Lowell Gruman said in the release that Vortex Studios brings cultural and intellectual vibrancy to Traverse City in addition to technical jobs surrounding digital content production.
Casey will oversee sales and marketing and lead the company's branded-content initiatives.
Vortex works with advertisers in programming creation and is currently developing about 30 series. Three additional projects are underway as part of a recent development agreement with Lionsgate.
Past productions by Deutch include "TechStars" on the Bloomberg network, "Conversations with Michael Eisner" for CNBC, "Fashion Week" for E! network, and "Fashion Star," originally launched in the U.S. on NBC and later produced locally in China, Germany, Vietnam and Dubai.
Boomerang Catapult is a venture capital firm based in Traverse City that was founded by Casey Cowell, co-founder of U.S. Robotics. Vortex is the 12th startup or early stage investment by Boomerang Catapult in the last two years.