Acceptd heading to the next level

Cynthia Bent Findlay
Acceptd lets artists and musicians do auditions remotely.

One local tech firm has turned a passion for the arts and a talent for problem solving into a highly successful networking platform for artists and arts institutions—and also turned a profit.

Acceptd is now focused on a major rebrand, turning its sights on expanding its network of artists and helping them succeed from the beginnings of their educational journeys through their working careers.

Co-founder Don Hunter says Acceptd’s model has been to move what once was an archaic and expensive in-person audition process into the 21st Century. Acceptd launched in 2011, creating a platform for student artists to post digital portfolios and auditions that colleges, camps and festivals could access, speeding the application process.

“Programs were starting to dabble in YouTube, but it was very expensive to audition for two-minute spots and inefficient for faculty to have to dwindle 2,000-person auditions to 100 students getting offers,” Hunter says.

He and co-founder Derek Brown put together a digital platform for portfolios and created a set of tools to help administrators seek exactly what they are looking for in students.

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Schools, camps and arts programs join Acceptd’s network. Artists post their dance, music, acting and visual arts portfolios all at no charge, but students pay a $30 fee to fill out audition applications to programs—much lower, says Hunter, than what students traditionally have to pay for travel and in-person auditions.

Acceptd started with two clients its first audition season and grew rapidly to 125 the next. It now has more than 600 program clients, from storied arts schools to Carnegie Hall and the Sydney Opera House. More than 450,000 artists house portfolios on Acceptd’s platform.

Investors saw opportunity in the model. Acceptd raised $2 million from TechColumbus, the National Association for Music Education, Ohio TechAngel Funds, NCT Ventures and others. Hunter says the business turned profitable by 2016, and in 2017, he and Brown bought out other investors and now wholly own the company.

Hunter declined to disclose Acceptd’s projected revenue for 2019, but he did say the company has nearly doubled staff from 14 to 29 this year. New Creative Lead Derek DuPont came on in April to get to work on the business’s next move.

The company beta-tested online coaching in 2014 and now wants to add in-person coaching as part of a suite of expanded services to help artists succeed.

To that end, in October Acceptd acquired My College Audition, a theater arts coaching company in Boston, as a first step. Acceptd had been partnering with the small firm previously and already had a good relationship with its founders.

Cynthia Bent Findlay is a freelance writer for Columbus CEO.

Business: Digital platform connecting students in theater, music and the arts with colleges, camps and universities.

Founders: Don Hunter, Derek Brown

Employees: 29