Fredericksuburg premier of "startupland." Series Associate Producer Maxim Wheatley is in the center. FredXchange Co-Founder Christine Goodwin is to his left. FredXchange Co-Founder Matt Armstrong is on the far right

“startupland” Community Growing in Fredericksburg

by | Dec 13, 2014 | Business

By Susan Larson

“There’s this common misconception that we want to break down — the misconception that you have to be in close proximity to infrastructure, like Silicon Valley, to succeed. That may have been true about 20 years ago, but now it has changed quite radically.”

Maxim Wheatley, associate producer of “startupland,” was in Fredericksburg Tuesday for the documentary series’ global launch.

The Fredericksburg screening at Paragon Village 12, one of only three screenings in the U.S., was part of a 50 country, 32 city global launch within a 26-hour period.  Inc. Magazine called “startupland” the “#1 Must Watch Documentary for Entrepreneurs.”

“We had an explicit mission to keep it to as few people as possible in the states because we wanted to stick with our mission, which is showing that startupland really is everywhere,” Wheatley said.

It’s that change to everywhere that brought “startupland” to Fredericksburg. A year ago Fredericksburg residents Matt Armstrong and Christine Goodwin began a nonprofit called FredXchange, to serve as a forum for helping people work where they live. Their mission is to establish a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem in the region by the year 2020.

The first year anniversary of FredXchange corresponded with the global launch of “startupland.” Goodwin’s friendship with film co-producer Jonathon Perrelli — forged years earlier on Twitter – was the connection that earned Fredericksburg launch status.
View the Red Carpet photo gallery of the Fredericksburg primier of “starupland.”
“Startupland” follows five D.C. early-stage tech company entrepreneurs through their accelerator experience at The Fort, a former accelerator created by Fortify Ventures. Accelerators are basically short entrepreneur training programs designed to jump-start new businesses. “Our hope is viewers will have a much better sense of what the entrepreneurial road is really like,” Wheatley said.

“There’s a lot of entrepreneur porn, as we like to call it, stuff that makes entrepreneurship look way too glamorous and sexy. It’s good to be encouraging people to jump into it. But there are also big issues. You see people destroy their lives, going into it with completely misaligned expectations. Maybe it’s not right for them and they discover that too late.”

Wheatley said the team wanted to create something that would show people exactly what it’s like. “We always say if we scare as many people away from founding a company as we inspire to jump into it, then that’s a success for us.”

The series distills five months of the accelerator process into seven episodes.

“The idea came about, like lots of ideas, in a bar on the back of a napkin,” Wheatley said.

Perrelli, managing director of Fortify Ventures and the series’s executive producer, started The Fort because he saw a need in the D.C. region for growing entrepreneurs and accelerating companies.

“Twenty companies, millions and millions of dollars in funding, and so many success stories later, we decided we’d had a really good run, but our hearts were moving somewhere else,” said Wheatley, who worked with Perrelli. They transitioned from an accelerator company (The Fort) to an early stage technology investment fund (Fortify Ventures).

“We recognized we had a ton of great knowledge and wisdom coming out of this thing, and along the way we’d met tons of people who were really in need of this but didn’t have access to it,” Wheatley said.

Perelli, Wheatley and director Justin Gutwein decided to encapsulate the institutional knowledge and experience into something they could share.

“It started out as we’ll make a cool video and put it up online so anyone can access it,” Wheatley said.  “As we proceeded, we kept realizing we were onto something a bit bigger.   Our vision for it kept growing and becoming more and more clear, and we began to realize we could do more with it.”

The team interviewed start-up legends, including the founders of AOL, Blackboard, and Eventbrite. Their comments are interspersed with the entrepreneur’s stories.

“We’re proud of the fact that “startupland” is a startup,” Wheatley said. “We grew it and changed it as we got validation. We had a successful kickstarter, which gave us some indication there was a real market for this and people wanted it.”

From on online video to a documentary film series and onward to a curriculum, “startupland” continues to grow.

“We’re working on a curriculum for universities and high schools to provide super pragmatic, to the point education on entrepreneurship,” Wheatley said. Georgetown, his alma mater, is on board.

The team is also working with the idea of a second season, maybe next year.

“We’re in some very tentative discussions with some big networks who are interested in supporting a second season and potentially making it their own,” Wheatley said.   “We’d like to bring together entrepreneurs from all around the world, give them a really good shot and film the process. Our goal is to prove the point that startupland can be anywhere. Inspiring and educating. We’re pretty real about that.”

“Startupland” can be viewed in full for $24.99 at startupland.tv.

Related Story:
“Startupland” Debuts in Fredericksburg
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