Funded: Inside AOL's New Web Show
Utter the word "crowdfunding" to most people, and Garden State 2 comes to mind. But when Brian Janosch hears it, he doesn't think of Zach Braff and his recent effort to raise millions on Kickstarter. He sees a single mother in Idaho hoping to finance her clever idea.
The desire to tell stories of entrepreneurship, especially the ones outside of Silicon Valley, is what inspired Janosch, an editor-at-large at The Onion, and his partner in crime, Baratunde Thurston, another Onion vet who wrote the bestseller How to Be Black, to develop the AOL Web series Funded. The five-to-seven-minute long shows, which track real entrepreneurs as they jump-start their dreams by raising money online, begin being filmed this summer.
"The main point of it, to me, is hearing the people and their story. It will be a success if each episode gets you in the head of the entrepreneur," he says. Thurston and Janosch also hope to convey how crowdfunding has become a powerful tool for entrepreneurs in a time when banks have tight lending standards.
Crowdfunding sites such as Kickstarter (which helped Braff raise $2.5 million for his film), and Indiegogo, an international platform for artists, have set a new standard, he says. "People can take the reigns a little bit and say, 'I'm not going to be denied. If they have to go out to the public and just ask, they're going to do that." In researching the series, Janosch says he's come across 41 or 42 crowdfunding platforms, so "the fact that you can put a number that big on it means there has to be hundreds, if not thousands, of people crowdfunding on each platform."
Janosch, Thurston, and product director Craig Cannon, are the minds behind Cultivated Wit, the digital media company they founded after leaving The Onion. Alhough they've mostly worked on social media campaigns, when AOL approached them about a crowdfunding show, they jumped on the opportunity.
"Comedy--and on a larger level, good storytelling--Is really changing" says Janosch. "Here are people who have a passion or have an idea, and they need to tell a story, and to tell it really well. That's what's going to get them started and make their business idea a reality."
The series of short episodes will also offer a glimpse of how the Web works on a broader scale.
"One episode might be tech, one might be a restaurant, one might be an artist, one might be a film," he says. "We're touching on all these different worlds."
JILL KRASNY | Staff Writer
Jill Krasny is a staff writer for Inc. magazine, where she covers the intersection of entertainment and startups. Prior to Inc., she was a writer for MTV and Esquire and an editor at TheStreet. She is a graduate of the University of Southern California with a degree in communication. She lives in New York City.