A public relations and marketing expert harnessed the passion around Orange County startups into a weekly livestreamed show that debuted in June.
Kevin Allen’s MyStartup.Live is filmed in an Irvine studio and streams on Facebook, YouTube and Periscope.
The weekly show focuses on early-stage startups, typically those from less than a year to 18 months old.
“That’s when the biggest challenges come,” Allen said, “such as funding, building a team and prototyping.”
MyStartup.Live resulted from a serendipitous conversation earlier this year between Allen and his Laguna Beach neighbor Craig Burns, a former gaffer, or chief electrician over TV and movie set lighting, who founded Laguna Beach-based Burnie’s Grip and Lighting.
Burns already leased a small studio in Irvine. He’d started his own livestreaming show called “Burnie’s Apple Box,” for which he interviews people who work behind the scenes in entertainment, such as gaffers and grips.
Allen had recently left his job at Foothill Ranch-based Kawasaki Motors Corp. U.S.A. as manager of public relations and race marketing. He said he felt the entrepreneurial itch and wanted to do his own thing, especially with a new baby on the way.
He co-founded a marketing and public relations agency out of his home office called real.Marketing. He also got involved as a marketing lead with Whale Startups, which is comprised of eight University of California-Irvine students working to build mobile apps and launch them in an accelerated fashion. The first is a DJ-request app connecting DJs and their audiences.
Burns invited Allen to talk about marketing as a guest on his show. They both felt afterward that Allen had more to say, so Burns suggested he start his own show about marketing. Allen liked the idea but thought it would be “more exciting” to talk to entrepreneurs about their businesses, and went that route instead.
Of the guests Allen’s interviewed, he said four had never been on camera. So, in addition to interviewing them, he provides tips about how to present themselves in the medium.
“I can help them at the same time I’m giving them exposure,” he said.
Depth and Breadth
Allen finds most of his guests at OC startup events, such as those put on by 1 Million Cups Irvine, a weekly gathering of entrepreneurs at The Cove, the physical space of UCI’s innovation institute, Applied Innovation; Tech Coast Venture Network; Orange Coast Tech Happy Hour; and Startup Grind, a series of startup events.
Guests have included Pete Wong, who created food journaling app Yummi; Zach Little, a UCI student who helped form joint venture Vanguard Products Group, which markets products made overseas using Fulfillment by Amazon; and Nick Nguyen, who built Waatcher, a round-the-clock price tracker of select Amazon.com items.
On a recent Friday afternoon, Allen interviewed Thomas Peters, founder of Newport Beach-based UnderSea Energy, which creates biodiesel fuel from microalgae.
Peters talked about the trials and tribulations he endured bringing his concept to fruition and about the epiphany he experienced one night contemplating the ocean’s enormity and wondering if it could be used to harvest biodiesel.
He did some research and found that the only entity that had even tried was NASA in one of the first attempts to research biofuels developed from microalgae as a viable alternative to petroleum-based fuel.
The agency discovered that algae works as an alternative, but faced the challenge of making the cost of biofuel competitive with petroleum fuel, he said. The program has been discontinued, but at the time the price of oil was much cheaper than it is now, he pointed out.
Undeterred, Peters soldiered on. With a background in the trucking industry—he worked as a driver while getting his MBA at the University of Southern California—he was well aware of the enormous expense of fuel. He said he wanted to both cut the cost and contribute to clean air, but he had no science background.
That didn’t stop him either, he explained to Allen. Instead, he developed the giant OrcaSphere, which is placed underwater, using a controlled environment to grow algae.
The company has developed biodiesel fuel for the aviation, marine and transportation industries. It’s also working with the U.S. Navy and the Department of Defense to develop, test and certify algae-derived fuel that meets their standards.
Peters is starting out by producing the biofuel off the OC coast, and said he hopes to eventually expand production globally to places like China and India.
Being on MyStartup.Live was a win-win, he said.
“Not only do I want to see Kevin’s show expand, but I also want to spread awareness of what I’m doing,” Peters said. “I believe too often, most startups aren’t actually creating anything and are far more focused on apps and web-related services. Clean energy is a rapidly growing marketplace, and OC can lead the nation in this area.”