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Startupland documentary premieres to sold-out crowds

Jonathon Perrelli and Justin Gutwein at the Startupland documentary premiere

#DCTech rolled out the red carpet last night for the premiere of Startupland, the documentary series that follows the highs and lows of being a first-time entrepreneur in the nation's capital. The first two episodes in the six-episode series were screened at Landmark's E Street Cinemas in the District—first for VIPs, investors and friends and family, and later for backers of the film's Kickstarter campaign and the general public. The series is coproduced by Jonathon Perrelli, founder of SecureForce and Fortify Ventures, and Justin Gutwein, founder of ShineOn Storytelling.
Startupland looks at the lives of five first-time CEOs who were a part of Fortify Ventures' second accelerator class—Aneet Makin, founder of LegCyte; Elise Whang, founder of SnobSwap; Marty Bauer, founder of RidePost; Dave Aidekman, founder of The Trip Tribe; and JD Chang, founder of TrendPo.

Gutwein, who also directed and edited the film, intersperses commentary from experienced tech entrepreneurs and mentors like former AOL chairman Steve Case, Blackboard (and SocialRadar) founder Michael Chasen, Mapquest cofounder Chris Heivly, Reddit cofounder Alexis Ohanian, LivingSocial cofounder Tim O'Shaughnessy and others throughout the storylines. He also uses the medium to clearly illustrate and explain funding rounds and how startup financing works—concepts that are murky at best to the general public.
After screening the first two episodes, attendees participated in a Q&A with Perrelli, Gutwein, all but one of the founders (Chang was unable to attend), and Andy Fry and Emily Watkins, who composed the original music for the series. One question from the audience touched on the growing popularity of startups—HBO's comedy series about startup culture, Silicon Valley, launches April 6—and asked if Startupland romanticizes the startup process.
"We've tried to be as authentic as possible," Gutwein explained, "and educate, not just entertain." The episodes screened last night showed long days and long nights, years without income and time away from family. Each founder makes sacrifices for his or her business: In one clip, Whang works all day on her company, comes home to read a bedtime story to her two small children, and then opens her computer again when they are in bed. When Chang moved to D.C. to take part in the accelerator, he crashed on his friend's mother's couch, which Gutwein shows in all its glory. Bauer's three team members relocated to D.C. when RidePost was accepted to the accelerator, while Bauer himself, who is married, commuted back and forth from South Carolina.
When asked, all of the founders said they would take part in an accelerator again. "It was a great opportunity to learn and collaborate," Aidekman said.
"We were champing at the bit to apply what we learned," Whang added.
Steve Case, former AOL chairman and founder of VC fund Revolution Ventures, said that "Startupland celebrates what's so unique about the D.C. tech community. Tech is starting to impact every aspect of our lives. This is a big opportunity for this region, and [the series] is a great way to celebrate what is happening in the D.C. region."
The entire series will be available for download on June 6. Perrelli said that educational licenses will be available, as well as some open-source curricular material for those wanting to use Startupland as an educational tool. Gutwein is also toying with shooting an epilogue episode.

Read more articles by Allyson Jacob.

Allyson Jacob is a writer originally hailing from Cincinnati, Ohio, and is the Innovation and Job News editor for Elevation DC. Her work has been featured in The Cincinnati Enquirer and Cincinnati CityBeat. Have a tip about a small business or start-up making waves inside the Beltway? Tell her here.
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