Television Meets Crowdfunding: A+E Networks and RocketHub Launch 'Project Startup' for Entrepreneurs

posted Apr 18, 2013, 7:34 PM by David Khorram

The entrepreneurial spirit is rapidly spreading to broadcast, as witnessed by popular programs such as NBC’s Celebrity Apprentice, ABC’s Shark Tank and Undercover Boss. Now A&E Network is working to raise the bar on entrepreneurial programming still further with the launch of Project Startup (, a multi-platform initiative to support the businesses of aspiring entrepreneurs.

The new initiative is the result of a partnership with popular crowdfunding platform RocketHub. A&E is selecting entrepreneurs to feature and support with seed money from the community of entrepreneurs with current projects in development on the RocketHub platform.

Current companies in the program include ActiveDesk, World Housing Solutions (emergency shelters), and Axon Optics (migraine glasses).

Advertising “real life drama,” A&E’s mission is to provide the 99 million homes in its viewership network with “television you can’t turn away from.” The network’s Duck Dynasty, Storage Wars, Shipping Wars and Barter Kings are entrepreneur-focused programs that feature people who are making money in unconventional ways, the company says.

“We believe we’re the first broadcast network to start an initiative using crowdfunding to help people grow their business ideas,” Dr. Libby H. O’Connell, SVP of Corporate Outreach for A&E Networks said.

David De Socio, SVP of Ad Sales points to the additional element the program brings to sponsors as well: “We’re giving advertisers the chance be a part of those shows. It’s a new dimension – a way to speak directly to some of our consumers along with us. We’ll be giving everybody who thinks they may have a business idea our support, inspiration, and the learning experiences they need to get their businesses off the ground.”

The initiative will include A&E programming talent as well: stars such as Dan and Laura Dotson of Storage Wars, for example, are getting into the act by offering their own business tips to participants.


In addition to funding, A&E will provide exposure for the featured businesses on the air and online.

Startup Company Spira Shoes is one of the first companies being featured in a video vignette for A&E’s ProjectStartup

“Becoming a part of the A&E Family, and working directly with A&E’s top talent to bring crowdfunding to mainstream America is simply amazing,” RocketHub co-founder Alon Hillel-Tuch said. “We’re excited to be part of this historical occasion, when crowdfunding reached television in a real and meaningful way.”

RocketHub, as readers of my column are likely aware, is a forward-thinking crowdfunding platform that is working drive education on the power of online fundraising. The company is also helping to lead the charge in testimony and advice to U.S. Congress as the U.S. draws nearer to the actual implementation of Crowdfund Investing.

A&E has not disclosed the level of seed funding provided, but calls the investment “substantial,” both in direct financial support for the featured companies and in the development of workshops, community town halls, and original educational content on crowdfunding.

Will there be an additional full-length program, a la Shark Tank in A&E’s future?

“Never say never,” O’Connell replies. Of a certainty, the network is planning regional Town Hall meetings this fall to bring A&E show talent together with program partcipants and local communities go offer education and support around the issues of starting a business and particularly around the issues of funding. The network will also create co-branded and sponsorable on-air vignettes for advertisers who would like to link their brands with the ProjectStartup initiative.

“We think everyone is aware of crowdfunding at this point, but surprisingly, when I go to an event, perhaps one person in five is still unaware of the alternatives crowdfunding provides,” she adds. “We want to provide them with some education.”

O’Connell and DeSocio acknowledge that additional full length programming on entrepreneurship is a real possibility.

Regardless of additional full-length programs, the marriage of television and entrepreneurship appears to be the start of a trend: “I bet you that in two months we’re going to see a whole lot of other networks get into this space,” O’Connell remarks.

I’m betting she’s right.

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