Washington’s tech scene now has its own documentary series.
“Startupland” profiles the founders of five local start-ups who participated in the Fort, a now-defunct accelerator created by Fortify Ventures, as they seek to turn business ideas into viable companies.
The concept for “Startupland” came together over a series of conversations between Jonathon Perrelli, the managing director of Fortify Ventures and the series’s executive producer, and Justin Gutwein, the project’s director.
The goal, creators said, was to provide a realistic view of what it takes to start and build a company for those with little exposure to the process beyond what they’ve seen on TV and in movies. An $85,000 Kickstarter campaign gave the idea a financial boost.
“What you get is part education, part entertainment,” Gutwein said of the series. “There’s people all over the world that don’t know how to get going.”
“It’s not what we see in ‘The Social Network,’” the Hollywood look at Facebook’s early days, he said.
Entrepreneurship has become a pop culture fascination in recent years. But shows such ABC’s “Shark Tank” and HBO’s forthcoming comedy “Silicon Valley” depict a TV-ready version of start-ups complete with quippy remarks and amped-up drama that concludes neatly within its time slot.
Real-life entrepreneurship is often more messy and, at times, frustratingly banal.
The cast, director and producers gathered Thursday night for a screening of the first two episodes in the six-part series. Over the course of 45 minutes, the audience at Landmark’s E Street Cinema was introduced to the series’ five main characters: entrepreneurs Elise Whang of SnobSwap, Dave Aidekman of Trip Tribe, Aneet Makin of LegCyte, JD Chang of TrendPo and Marty Bauer of RidePost.
Footage of the entrepreneurs eating ramen noodles, attending investor meetings, working in coffee shops and balancing family obligations rolls on the screen as they tell the viewer in overlaid interviews about the sacrifice that comes with self-employment.
“Startupland” is dominated primarily by sound bites and interview clips with more seasoned entrepreneurs and business executives sharing words of encouragement and caution for those interested in starting a new venture.
“You’ve got to have a big vision,” Revolution founder and former AOL executive Steve Case said at the show’s opening. “You’re getting up everyday and rallying people around an idea.”
The rotating cast of advice-givers includes a number of local names, including LivingSocial chief executive Tim O’Shaughnessy, Blackboard and SocialRadar founder Michael Chasen and Springboard Enterprises President Amy Millman.
“You can be the smartest person in the world and you’re still going to ... make mistakes. How you deal with them makes all the difference,” said Alexis Ohanian, co-founder of Reddit.
Additional screenings are planned for New York, Boston, San Francisco, Indianapolis and other cities. “Startupland” can be viewed in full for $24.99 starting June 6 at startupland.tv.