A+E is teaming with crowdfunding site RocketHub to scout for fledgling businesses deserving of support via a multi-platform brand initiative dubbed Project Startup. The goal is to identify entrepreneurs who have businesses with potential and then help get those endeavors off the ground, and the network will do that by providing seed money as well as national exposure through A+E’s on-air and online assets.
“We think every new business has a great story to tell, and A+E is all about great storytelling,” says Dr. Libby O’Connell, senior vice president of corporate outreach for A+E Networks. “So there’s a real ideal fit here, I believe, between our network and the concept behind this whole campaign.”
A+E has become known for programming that focuses on entrepreneurs. Currently, the network is home to shows like Storage Wars about hustlers who make a living bidding on and selling the contents from abandoned storage lockers; Barter Kings, which follows two guys well-versed in the art of trading up; and Duck Dynasty, a docu-soap centered on the Robertsons, a family that became insanely wealthy by selling products to duck hunters.
As the shows’ popularity seems to suggest, viewers are fascinated by how these enterprising people do business and live their lives as well. To wit: Aired on April 24, the season three finale of Duck Dynasty brought in 9.6 million viewers and became the most-watched series telecast in A+E history among all key demos. It was also the most social show for the night, beating out American Idol and Survivor, according to reports from Bluefin Labs and Trendrr.tv.
While there is no guarantee that A+E will create a television series based on any of the entrepreneurs chosen to be part of Project Startup, it could happen, according to O’Connell, who notes, "Anything is possible. Who knows?"
But those decisions will be made down the road. Right now, A+E is in the early stages of its search for entrepreneurs behind innovative, easy-to-understand ideas. “I have to hand it to A+E’s team, because I think that they are getting involved in crowd-funding at a really strategic and historic time,” says RocketHub CEO Brian Meece. “In the year 2003, we were just talking about social media. In 2013, we’re talking about social funding, and the next five to 10 years are going to be dominated by this movement.”
Prior to A+E’s interest, Meece says RocketHub did get calls from other media companies interested in collaborating on potential projects, but nothing panned out. “Media companies and crowdsourcing platforms might not on the surface have a lot in common in terms of what their goals are. But crowd-funding makes for great content,” Reece says. “Each one of our project leaders has a fantastic story. They’re looking to make something happen, and they’re up against the odds, and they’re doing it their own way.”
Once the roster of Project Startup entrepreneurs has been selected, A+E will produce co-branded on-air vignettes and other vehicles for advertisers who want to link their brands with the effort. “From an ad sale standpoint, there’s not much new under the sun, but we feel like this is a brand-new platform that has gelled in an interesting way,” says David DeSocio, senior vice president, ad sales marketing and partnerships for A+E Networks.
There is also a wider educational component to Project Startup that will play out through workshops and community town halls as well as on-air and online content devoted to entrepreneurship and, more specifically, how crowdfunding works. “At Fast Company, everybody knows what crowdfunding is, but a lot of Americans don’t know yet,” Dr. O’Connell says.