Entrepreneurs get ‘Shark Tank’-style treatment in Orlando

By March 28, 2015Startup News
Greg Devlin’s Thursday did not exactly start off on the right foot.
The military veteran’s van broke down on his way to downtown Orlando, where he would pitch his educational comic books to a television crew for an upcoming entrepreneurs show.
However, once he arrived at the coworking space Canvs, Devlin said the fact that his pitch has become almost automatic helped improve the day.
“We have been telling this story for so many years that we can do it in our sleep,” said Devlin, cofounder of Worldwide Neon Tiki Tribe, which he hopes to expand into digital products soon. “You have to feel like you’re talking to friends, even with a camera in front of you.”
More than a dozen area entrepreneurs received a crash course in pitching to a camera on Thursday as the upcoming reality show “The Startup Hour” visited Orlando.
The show will allow viewers with necessary credentials to invest in companies right from their home. Orlando will end up being one of eight stops for the show, which plans to start airing episodes in May.
“The Startup Hour” will couple a “Shark Tank”-like pitch program with new mobile technology that helps viewers register and navigate compliance documents to back a startup immediately.
Suneera Madhani, founder of the Orlando payments software company FattMerchant, said the show’s decision to visit Orlando helps the tech community.
“We’d like to see more opportunities like this to showcase what we have in Central Florida,” she said. “It’s really exciting to see them here. It validates what we have here and it’s only going to continue to grow.”
Full Sail University instructor John Cabibbo, who pitched his gamification app Theme Quest for “The Startup Hour,” said he has seen the community become more cohesive during the past 15 years or so.
“This scene has just matured,” he said. “They seem to realize if one business succeeds, it brings opportunities for others to succeed.”
Thursday’s appearance wasn’t Cabibbo’s first in front of a camera, having pitched at a competition at Full Sail in the fall.
He says his secret to pitching a television show is to pretend it’s not a television show. However, he admitted that is sometimes easier said than done.
“I’m used to teaching in front of a class and the best thing you can do is ignore it,” he said of the camera and flashing lights. “But when it’s your baby, you are putting out there, you have hopes and dreams for it, you realize you are no longer talking to students. Yeah, it does make you a little nervous.”
“The Startup Hour” kicked off at South by Southwest earlier this month and will also visit Kansas City, Mo., Boston, New York City and multiple locations in California.
Jonathan Block, a California-based entrepreneur who created the show, said the show is tentatively set for a May 13 debut and that it has partnered with Hearst Corporation for its broadcasts.
He praised Orlando’s startup communities and said meeting entrepreneurs from across the country has given him a greater appreciation for startups.
“It gets more fascinating every day,” he said. “The level of passion in startup communities is high and this is one of the most passionate communities we have come across.”

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