Palo Alto Weekly

Arts & Entertainment - December 3, 2010

Composing connections

Talenthouse helps make links between musicians, designers and other artists

by Kelly Jones

Walking through the Talenthouse doors on High Street in downtown Palo Alto, visitors get an enthusiastic greeting from Bear, the company dog and office mascot.

After only a couple of months in the lofty brick building, the Talenthouse staff has personalized the space in other ways as well, with pieces of art lining the walls and a drum set stationed in the corner. Two logo banners hang from the ceiling, marking the space as Talenthouse territory.

Talenthouse, which recently celebrated its one-year anniversary in business, is an online hub for creative communication (at talenthouse.com), where artists can showcase their work and collaborate on projects. The company seeks to promote talent by helping unknown artists make significant connections with the right people. For example, a filmmaker might be looking for a new musician to compose a movie score, or an apparel company might need a ski-goggle designer.

To date, Talenthouse has helped launch projects with a variety of industry icons such as Nokia, Adidas, Rihanna, Montblanc, Glamour Magazine, Island Def Jam and the Vienna Symphony Orchestra.

"We provide a sort of life-changing experience for artists," Frederik Hermann, vice president of marketing, said in an interview at the Palo Alto office. "We're helping them take a huge step in their careers."

By posting "creative invites" on the Talenthouse website, companies or artists invite Talenthouse users to submit samples of their work for a particular project, and then choose winners from the submissions. The site connects all manner of creative types, such as singers and producers, actors and filmmakers, or graphic designers and corporate companies. The site is available in six languages.

"We have winners from Africa, Mongolia and other places around the world," Hermann said. "Without Talenthouse they wouldn't have the chance to work with these Hollywood producers."

Companies who want to promote their projects on the site can view hundreds of potential applicants, and if the numbers become too great Talenthouse offers a public vote to help narrow down the best choices. For a company to advertise its project, it must be able to provide for all the winners' travel expenses and find them a place to stay where the project requires, Hermann said.

One recent creative invite was posted by the Stan Lee Foundation, which supports literacy, the arts and education and was started by Lee, the comic-book writer and former head of Marvel Comics. The foundation was seeking an official logo.

Designer AJ Marti won the competition, and was flown to New York City from the Dominican Republic to receive his award on stage at New York Comic Con pop-culture convention. Lee and others at the foundation were impressed and decided to use Talenthouse again, according to a "success story" posted on the Talenthouse website. The foundation is currently in search of a graphic designer to create a new superhero.

Another success story focuses on Blair Taylor, a young New Orleans music producer who was named the winner of an invite by producer Ryan Leslie, who has worked with Mary J. Blige and other big names. Taylor assisted Leslie in the studio, and said on the Talenthouse website that Leslie still contacts him to work as a producer for various artists.

"Other artists and record companies across the states have noticed my accomplishments with the contest and have reached out to me as well," Taylor said. He has also been working on his own music, and will soon release his second album, "Taylor Made II." He credits Talenthouse for giving him the opportunity to work with Leslie and opening up his work to a larger fan base.

Originally located in Mountain View, Talenthouse started in 2009 with five employees and a small engineering team. Over the past year the company outgrew the Mountain View space and decided to move to the larger Palo Alto location. That office now has 20 employees and is the largest of four Talenthouse offices; the others are in Los Angeles, New York and London.

Company founder Amos Pizzey created the idea for an artist social-networking business while working as a musician and producer in England. After being discovered by Boy George at the age of 13, Pizzey signed on to his band, Culture Club. Over the next two decades Pizzey built his career producing and remixing artists, including Madonna, the Red Hot Chili Peppers and George Michael.

"Coming up first as an artist then as a producer in the music industry, I saw so many talented young people that had no way of being seen and heard. For us the Internet is the ultimate tool for them to create, collaborate and liberate their art for all time," Pizzey said in a press release. "This is why we built Talenthouse."

Pizzey teamed up with entrepreneur Roman Scharf and the two created talenthouse.com, the beginnings of their international networking site. Scharf had previously co-founded a communications company called JAJAH. As a self-described "early-stage guy," Scharf worked with Pizzey to build the Talenthouse technology and the team from scratch, he said in an interview at the Palo Alto office. Their site has brought about 150 projects to life in the past year.

With the increased office space, the members of the Talenthouse team hope to expand their future opportunities for artists by installing a recording studio for musicians who cannot afford to pay for studio time. The wide building also offers plenty of wall space for potential art shows, which Hermann believes the team will host in the future, along with performances by local bands.

"Life is exciting at Talenthouse," Scharf said.

Info: Talenthouse's Palo Alto office is at 542 High St. in Palo Alto. For more information, go to http://talenthouse.com or call 650-930-9813.

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