We recently had the opportunity to speak with Manolis Sfinarolakis of Reality Crowd TV, a great online educational reality series for and by entrepreneurs, helping them achieve their goals when it comes to raising funds for future successful projects.
StartupCatchup: Thanks for joining us Manolis! Please introduce us to Reality Crowd TV.
Manolis: Reality Crowd TV Media Corporation is an Educational Web Based Reality Series assisting entrepreneurs raise the capital they need for their ventures via crowdfunding. We are “The Shark Tank Without the Bite” where instead of a panel of sharks criticizing entrepreneurs, we provide a panel of mentors, angel investors, and business professionals to help entrepreneurs through the 3 – 6 month period of preparation it takes in order to successfully crowdfund.
Our Mission: To inform, educate, inspire, and motivate entrepreneurs worldwide to start small businesses through crowdfunding and to provide a blueprint on how to crowdfund.
We have two founders: myself (Manolis Sfinarolakis), Founder & Producer and Jessica Sun, CEO.
We met each other after college working at Deloitte & Touche and have stayed in touch ever since as we went on our own entrepreneurial paths. We came back together when I came up with the idea.
See the education tab (here) of our website for the 9 states of crowdfunding in our slide share.
StartupCatchup: Fantastic concept to say the least. How did you come up with the idea?
Manolis: I was sitting in my cubicle working at the Hartford Insurance Company as an internal auditor when I received a Press Release notification from the Securities and Exchange commission on October 23, 2013. I usually never read these things but this one caught my attention. It was the proposed rules on title 3 crowdfunding. I was hooked, I read all 585 pages of the proposed rules that day (didn’t get much work done). I then thought to myself, there are two sides to crowdfunding, the “Crowd” and the “Funding” portals. To compete on a large scale with funding portals, you need a huge marketing budget. We didn’t have that, so I said, “how can we bring the crowd to crowdfunding?” We did market research and in a main street coffeehouse in New Britain CT, we did an informal video poll and randomly asked 8 people, “Have you ever heard of crowdfunding? Have you ever heard of kickstarter?” and the results showed that 7 out of 8 people did not know about either! We knew that we had to bring more awareness and education to this industry and asked ourselves, “where does mainstreet America get all their information?” Answer = Television. “What type of television?”, Answer = Reality TV. And hence, Reality Crowd TV was born.
StartupCatchup: What a great story and certainly addressing a need for more education and knowledge of such an important pillar in the entrepreneurial community. So, what made you actually take action and go for it?
Manolis: This transformation was 5 years in the making. I had tried a couple of other startups previously which did not go so well. Entrepreneurship is mainly an inside game. You have to do the work on yourself first to be able to deal with the stress of constantly getting outside of your comfort zone to bring your business to the next level. Aside from the work Jessica and I did on ourselves, we saw that the market was huge and the opportunity was immense. Being early adopters to a booming industry that is projected to raise $95 billion a year in 20 years according to the World Bank, shows that this is not a fad and will not be slowing down anytime soon.
StartupCatchup: Huge opportunity for sure and what a great time to be involved! So how many people are currently working on the project and who are they?
Manolis: Well, in terms of owners of the company, it is Manolis and Jessica Sun. We do have some amazing team members, however, who are helping us as well:
Nicole Root, Marketing Manager
Peter Giordano, Chief Blogging Officer
Chris Pappis, Chief Content Officer
Cara Hinton, Web Developer
StartupCatchup: A strong team for a strong concept! How are you funding the project?
Manolis: It has been completely self-funded by Manolis and Jessica to date. We are now earning operating revenues to finance the business. We believe that you must first show you are committed and put your money where your mouth is before you can raise capital from investors and venture capitalists. We have certainly committed to our startup.
StartupCatchup: Wow, well you must have some pretty big plans. What are they and what do you hope to accomplish?
Manolis: Our next phase is an exciting one. We have held over 30 episodes of our web based series to date and among the most popular episodes is something we call “Crowdfunding Office Hours”. This is where we bring entrepreneurs on to educate them on how to crowdfund as well as talk about the equity crowdfunding developments which most businesses are not aware of at present. We believe this is the next phase of our evolution into a virtual crowdfunding incubator.
We will be running crowdfunding campaigns shortly to fund our next evolution as a company and further show that what we are educating startups on we actually are implementing on ourselves.
StartupCatchup: What has been the most rewarding/positive experience so far on the journey?
Manolis: Like you at StartupCatchup, we love hearing the stories of entrepreneurs and giving people a community where they can learn and grow their startups. Small business is what drives the economy globally, and we are honored to be able to showcase, interview, and assist early stage startups in their development.
StartupCatchup: Educating is certainly something extremely rewarding and you are doing a fantastic job at it. So looking back, what, if anything, would you have done differently?
Manolis: Although I believe self funding is a great way to prove you are committed, it would have been easier on us if we were able to present our company in a way that would have raised some initial seed capital. Self funding has worked for us, but it came at a huge cost and huge risk to us personally.
Most people would likely be unable to do what we have done and would be unwilling to take the risk that we have taken and I am aware of that, so I guess I need to learn how to raise capital better outside of self funding .
StartupCatchup: What would you advise others who have an idea but simply don’t know where to begin?
Manolis: Throw away your business plan. Instead, come up with a business model. You must find the quickest way to a sale. Get from point A which is a lead to point B which is a sale as fast as you can. This will be the greatest learning opportunity you an ever have and will allow you to adjust your startup accordingly. Perfection does not exist…just act!
StartupCatchup: Wise words, thank you very much for joining us Manolis. Before you go, can you give us a quote that motivates and inspires you to keep going?
Manolis: This quote constantly drives me. Many people are told that they have potential and that gives them a false sense of entitlement. Ultimately, it is what you do with the potential you and your startup has that makes it successful. The quote is, “Potential is no Credential.”