Entrepreneurs flock towards opportunities for to make their dreams a reality. What does it take to make the cut? Juliana Bain (’20) is currently investigating this critical aspect of an entrepreneur’s journey through her documentary Startup Challengers. She sat down with E@D to discuss her project.
What is Startup Challengers?
Startup Challengers is a documentary that follows the story of the participants in the 1776 Challenge Cup, a competition of over 3,000 “impact” entrepreneurs from over forty cities worldwide.
I think a good way to describe the 1776 Challenge Cup is by comparing it to the show Shark Tank. It’s a similar concept of entrepreneurs pitching for prize and investment money on a global scale. However, unlike Shark Tank, in addition to rising to the challenge of creating a profitable business, the 1776 Challenge Cup competitors are also asked to address one or more areas of critical need of humanity. Specifically, these focuses are energy, health, finance, environment and transportation. The winners in 2016 split $250,000, and I have heard that this year the prizes may be up to one million dollars.
Describe an impact entrepreneur.
An impact entrepreneur is someone who creates a startup that has to do with a social good. Their mission is beyond profit and personal gain; they’re doing something that improves the quality of life for any group of people. At 1776 (the startup accelerator that hosts the Challenge Cup) impact entrepreneurs are provided with access to mentors and a network of connections.
What inspired you to pursue this project?
My first exposure to the 1776 accelerator space was after my junior year of high school. I interned for 1776, coding on the startup management platform. I originally started the documentary project because I have been impressed with the incredible projects emerging from 1776 Challengers Cup, and I didn’t really see anyone telling this story. It is amazing opportunity and not enough people beyond DC and the rarified startup world really know about it.
What has this documentary process been like?
The process of making the documentary about startups has been a startup experience itself, complete with twists, bumps, and pivots. One major unexpected twist was the political context changing so completely shortly after we captured most of our footage. So, mainly in post and with my narration, I will tastefully link the documentary to concerns brought forward by the elections. Specifically, the role of women, conflict of interests, corruption, and international isolationism.
Startup Challengers is in a good position to approach all of these topics since we feature many female entrepreneurs, some of whom have come from societies that have bore the costs of corruption at the all levels of government. Even though my own ideas are still forming on these issues, this is not an opinion documentary. I will be happy if in our 56 minutes I can squeeze in some of the political zeitgeist. It takes place in DC after all!
Tell us about your greatest challenge in creating Startup Challengers thus far.
I learned how time consuming it is to make documentary! Joking aside, I now realize the incredible power of video to inspire and educate people in ways that I hadn’t fully appreciated before.
The other thing that really stood out to me with this project, even more so after the election, is the role of women. I can assure you that, especially in non-valley impact startups, inclusiveness is alive and well. When you watch the movie (if I may plant a teaser), you may be surprised about the team that is the biggest winner. From this, I learned that startups that are connected to a purpose, can often have more tenacity than ones that are simply about popularity or profit.
What are your next steps and goals?
We are only halfway through this documentary because we are still editing and doing follow-up interviews with the big winners. I would love to have enough of a budget to license real music that really captures the vibe of today’s global impact startup movement and to do justice to the story. Entrepreneurship@Dyson’s friends can support simply by pre-ordering the film, buying a shirt, or becoming co-producer/sponsor of a topic area like education, health, environment or energy. To support our work, check out our Indiegogo page here.