Wed | Sep 18, 2019

Muse 360 founder moves on - Burnett switches to Fren and Company business

Published:Sunday | August 18, 2019 | 12:21 AMKarena Bennett - Business Reporter
Andre Burnett, former CEO of Muse 360 Integrated.
Andre Burnett, former CEO of Muse 360 Integrated.

Weeks after resigning his post as chief executive of Muse 360 Integrated Limited, André Burnett is looking to fund his second business venture, Fren and Company Limited, for up to US$3 million.

The new venture, according to Burnett, is conceived to eventually capture his unrealised vision for Muse 360, that of collaborating with others in the resource-challenged creative industry on the development of content that would be sold under licensed patents.

Fren and Company will take a different approach to Muse 360’s venture capital initiative – which was largely defined as a collaboration and exchange of talent – and seek instead to retain equity in client operations for a fraction of the cost of doing business with them.

“Basically, I want to be a broker of equity. I want to target tangible industries with people we know to see how we can improve value for them,” said Burnett in an interview with the Financial Gleaner. “What do we want from it? We will cut you a smaller rate if we get equity in the company on the day of the IPO. We are trying to build up ownership in various industries,” he said.

Burnett’s resignation as CEO of Muse 360 took effect on August 1. Days later, he began formalising the structure of Fren and Company, whose first project is a 104-acre farm at an undisclosed location in St Catherine. The property, which is owned by the parents of Burnett’s wife, Rochelle, will be used for the production of pigs, chickens, cannabis, ginger, and honey.

“We are going to take over the production management, sales, and marketing, and we will be looking to raise funds for different things. We already have the pigs. Our job now is to figure out how to get the pork on to the supermarket shelves. We are also looking at the development of our own brand of pork,” he said.

Burnett has also brokered a deal with the owner of a 94-acre property in St James to redevelop the property into a wellness-tourism resort. Over the long term, he hopes to develop patented content for a tourism platform, a virtual BPO platform, and later, a stock trading platform.

“What we are negotiating with these people is how much we own, and in what way. Some of the projects will be funded by the owners, and for others, we are seeking funds, particularly through loans,” the CEO of Fren and Company said.

“We don’t have the leeway to take on risky projects, instead. We are trying to find something that’s already humming and to see how we can make it roar,” he said, while noting that the business should become operational by year end.

REVERSE TAKE OVER

Burnett’s decision to leverage the skills, network, and knowledge gained from the creative company he founded in 2016 comes just a year after SSL Venture Capital Jamaica, the company formed from a reverse takeover of failed music publishing outfit C2W Music Limited, acquired a 51 per cent stake in Muse 360. SSL Ventures is still undergoing reform and has its own challenges [see related story on Page C3].

Muse 360 became one of three portfolio companies of the publicly traded SSL Ventures last year, alongside Bluedot Data Intelligence Limited and Bar Central Limited. Muse is in the business of developing media content and project management, Bluedot focuses on data insights, while Bar Central’s business model is centered around the distribution and branding of beverages.

Commenting on the investment at the time, Burnett said it would allow his company to truly monetise its creative culture while building on the roster of large corporate clients gained in the first seven months of operation. Muse 360 had J. Wray and Nephew as one of its largest clients up to July 1.

Burnett told the Financial Gleaner that his decision to part ways with Muse 360 was largely based on the fact that his vision for the company did not align with others in the company.

“I would put forward adequate recommendations, numerous meetings about the same issues, but many of those recommendations were never taken up,” Burnett said. Aside from that, the founder, who now controls only 26 per cent of Muse 360, noted that there were differences regarding revenue strategy.

“I believed that an agency model doesn’t work for a company that wants to grow in the way that we wanted, but the agency model was the surest way they saw how to make money – meaning, getting contracts,” he said .

A memorandum of understanding signed between digital media sales house Trend Media and Muse 360 for the acquisition of a 10 per cent stake in Muse 360’s content creation, aggregation, and distribution subsidiary was expected to be Burnett’s engine in moving the company from contract jobs to marketing its content.

However, the deal was pushed back following the passing of Digicel Group CEO Alex Matuschka von Greiffenclau.

“It meant that everything from Digicel’s side had to be redone. The goal date was March, but that got pushed to September, but I’m not sure if the companies will go through with the arrangement given my decision to cut ties with Muse 360,” he said.

CEO of SSL Ventures Mark Croskery, meanwhile, is not saying where the deal stands. He declined to comment on SSL Ventures’ internal portfolio companies but said that even with Burnett’s resignation, Muse 360’s policy “is just to create as much value for its shareholders”.

karena.bennett@gleanerjm.com