Software product development agency TechSlice CEO Juliana Buonanno has made her reality TV debut on “The Blox,” a startup accelerator recorded for the web.
Buonanno was one of 20 contestants chosen of the 5,000 applicants for season one of the show that’s the brainchild of reality TV veteran Weston “Wes” Bergmann.
Although skeptical at first, by the end, the TechSlice CEO told Technical.ly she had bonded with a new community of entrepreneurs and gotten a newfound appreciation for being back in the startup phase, pitching and selling the dream.
The goal of the show is to find “the greatest startup” out of the contestants. The 20 founders lived together and competed in Kansas City for a week last summer.
“I went there thinking I had things in the bag,” Buonanno said. “But marketing hadn’t been something [TechSlice] had focused on. [“The Blox”] showed a lot of importance on the prospect engagement, storytelling. Really highlighting marketing what you do is just as important as the services you deliver. Long story short, I was not in the top but I did learn a lot.”
She said she intends to bring the lessons and experience of her time on “The Blox” to her own TechSlice Demo Days for Baltimore entrepreneurs, produced in partnership with VC and accelerator company W Ventures.
The show is a part of the promotional material for Bergmann’s app for entrepreneurs, BetaBlox. The app offers multiple services, one of the most interesting being the virtual accelerator that is the app’s namesake, BetaBlox. The virtual accelerator offers consultation services on how to get your startup off the ground; connection to the app’s network of mentors, alumni and investors; and educational tools that include “The Blox” reality show. All Bergmann asks for in return: a cool 5% equity in your venture.
Other premium services don’t require giving up equity in your venture. Costs vary for contracting services such as accounting, video production or software development. Or a user can pay $200 flat for access to educational materials. There’s also free services like the reality show, meditation and music.
The accelerator is something the company BetaBlox has been doing since 2012 in Kansas City. The app is more of a digital pivot, and the reality show a marketing tool — one that Bergmann is very comfortable with, given his time as a contestant on “The Real World: Austin” and “The Challenge” where he was winner of “The Duel” and “Rivals II” seasons. Over the course of his reality show career he’s won a little over $300,000, some of which he used to become a founding investor in BetaBlox.
Going through the reality show experience herself, even just for a week, gave Buonanno a respect for the pressures reality show contestants have to go through. It’s hard enough to pitch and be judged; doing it with five cameras in your face doesn’t make it easier.
Getting over the stage fright of the whole reality show experience was like being back in a day-one founder’s shoes again, Buonanno said, and she imagines that’s how founders feel during the Demo Days facilitated by TechSlice. When working with those companies, she plans to impart not just the marketing knowledge she learned on “The Blox,” but the wisdom of how to deal with the pressures of being an entrepreneur.
The show “is a firestorm or good pressure test for what it means to be an entrepreneur,” Buonanno said. “I think running a business really is that pressure cooker environment. You’re doing things that push you outside of your comfort zone. I would say this experience was great for those that were refining their idea or already had a product out, and then they can refine their messaging.”
All of the episodes of season one can be seen on the BetaBlox app, though they may appear on YouTube or Vimeo in the future. Check out the trailer below:
Donte Kirby is a 2020-2022 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Robert W. Deutsch Foundation.