Meet Your New Reality TV Stars: Start Engine Announces Its First Class Of Startups

Today, Start Engine, the L.A.-based accelerator that’s the focus of a new reality TV show, is announcing its first round of startups. The show, which comes from Cameron Casey, exec producer of the TechStars reality program on Bloomberg TV, will again film entrepreneurs in a documentary-style format as they make their way through a tech accelerator program.

Start Engine, the incubator founded by Howard Marks, co-founder of Activision, and investor Paul Kessler, founder of the Los Angeles Film School, partnered with the show’s producers in the hopes that the new series will bring increased visibility to the participating companies. The rapid accelerator offers four 90-day cycles per year, each culminating in the nerve-wracking Demo Day events, where the founders pitch a roomful of top angel investors and VCs.

As on the TechStars show, Demo Day is where each season will wrap. However, the new show aims to become a multi-season series, with plans to revisit the founders again after some time in a “where are they now?” type of segment.

Startups accepted into the program, which include anything from mobile apps to social discovery sites, will receive up to $20,000 in funding, space in Start Engine’s Westwood offices, educational seminars, mentoring sessions and access to investors.

Before, the TechStars companies may not have known they were defining a new genre of reality TV programming, but those inducted into Start Engine’s first class knew exactly what they were getting into. Though participation in the filming is optional, many have signed on precisely because of the exposure such a program will provide.

The new class includes the following companies:

  • BrandStand – Born at a BlackBerry hackathon in Boston, Co-founder Jason Hitchcock was motivated to join Start Engine after working in a Y-Combinator company and moved to L.A. the day before the program began. The app is a comparison voting service that measures consumer sentiment and allows users to promote their brand preferences. Players earn awards and prizes for their engagement by participating in location-based focus groups with their friends.
  • GonnaBe – This company is comprised of three advertising professionals who worked at national agencies including Made by Many (UK), DDB, McKinney, and Team One in El Segundo (where they met) on brands such as Lexus, Nationwide Insurance, Anheuser-Busch, Travelocity, Skype, AOL, Sherwin-Williams, Coldwell Banker, and Ritz-Carlton. GonnaBe is a social app connecting like-minded people based on interests, location and time. Users simply enter what they’re looking to do, when and where, and GonnaBe will show others looking for similar things, as well as deals that match their interests.
  • Hypemarks – Social discovery site that helps users find the best sites to check out, recommended by friends or people with similar interests. Users simply connect their social services at sign-up and Hypemarks will automatically curate activity and create recommendations through a stunning visual display for each user.
  • Outlisten – From three musicians founders, including one, Jeff Ponchick, who’s an ex-reality show editor, Outlisten is a mobile app and website for live concerts that creates a media memory of user recordings taken from their smartphones or digital cameras. Outlisten syncs multiple videos via waveform, creating an entirely new online concert experience.
  • PageWoo – This one comes from Co-founder Jason Crilly, an F-16 Crewchief for the Air Force who taught himself to code so he could build a social network for pickup basketball games in his neighborhood. His Co-founder, Holden, is also his wife, which should make for some interesting TV. PageWoo allows any user to create a marketing page for their product or service online without having to hire a developer or designer. Through PageWoo’s simple, streamlined interface, users can brand their pages with logos, upload files, add pictures, link all their social media and contact info, and then track visits, clicks and social sharing activity.
  • PROnoise – Community for independent musicians that helps them acquire fans, promote themselves, and sell their music. By establishing a highly interactive musical community that encourages viral sharing, PROnoise provides tools for emerging artists to make money and get attention.
  • Sandalbay Life – Founder Neil Malhotra was formerly Co-founder and CTO of Acclaim Games with Howard Marks, previously designed interplanetary trajectories at NASA JPL, and studied as a National Science Foundation Graduate Fellow at Caltech. SandalBay Life is a personal health and fitness platform that empowers consumers to know and manage their health through intelligent smartphone, tablet and web applications. The open interface integrates bio-sensor data from multiple sources, including wearable smart phone-connected devices, through Sandalbay’s API.
  • StretchE – Discount directory that publishes Groupon-like deals in the form of coupons for local merchants. provides businesses a sustainable way to attract local customers by offering coupons close to home and a loyalty program to foster customer retention.
  • thrdPlace – Web and mobile platform that enables members to create and support community projects. thrdPlace matches member needs with their community’s resources, helping them crowdsource funds, materials and labor and empowering them to impact their community.

One additional startup, which is currently in stealth mode, is creating a mobile platform that lets users instantly connect with everyone in their immediate vicinity.

The TV series will reportedly appear on a network first, then online afterwards, starting sometime in early 2012.

Update: Credit where credit is due. We’re hearing that Casey’s involvement was minimal, and that if anyone should get credit for TechStars’ production it should be Bloomberg’s Elizabeth Gould, the show’s producer. Casey reports he was in charge of hiring the crew and payroll, however. With regards to “executive producer” and “producer,” the bigger title isn’t always the bigger job.