Goldberg and Marble are two Los Angeles-based friends behind Crush Capital, a media and entertainment business created to produce Going Public. The show is hosted by Lauren Simmons, who made waves as the youngest woman trader on the New York Stock Exchange. And it has already raised $10m for four businesses featured in its first few episodes.
The idea for Going Public was born more than five years ago following Goldberg’s experience of taking a medical technology business he had founded through an IPO on Nasdaq. “I didn’t know much about capital markets at that point, and I told family, friends and colleagues they would all have an opportunity to invest,” he recalls. “It did not sit well with me when I discovered the IPO would be reserved for institutional investors.”
Goldberg then spent some time thinking about how ordinary investors might be given a chance to participate in fund-raisings by early stage companies on the cusp of rapid growth. His medtech business had spent a lot of time using film to tell the story of its innovation as part of its efforts to persuade customers to buy new products; it occurred to him that growing businesses could do the same – and that viewers could simultaneously be entertained and offered an interesting investment opportunity.
Marble, meanwhile, was running an equity crowdfunding business, helping growing businesses to raise money under the US’s Regulation A regime, which enables companies to raise up to $75m directly from retail investors. “Todd came to me with the idea for a TV show where companies would make that pitch in screen,” he explains. “I was skeptical – I’d heard the idea dozens of times – but as Todd pointed out, no-one had actually done it.”
Largely, that was because the concept is a difficult one to execute. “You need to understand film production and story-telling, but you also need to know about the securities market and financial regulation,” Marble says. People with both sets of skills are in short supply.
The television industry’s lack of expertise in financial markets was another problem. “We pitched the idea to some of the biggest studios and they were enthralled,” says Goldberg. “But the same thing happened every time – the idea would go up the chain and eventually someone who just didn’t get the markets would kill it; they’d tell us what we wanted to do wasn’t even legal.”
Eventually, Goldberg and Marble decided to raise capital and produce the show themselves. They struck a deal with Entrepreneur.com, the online platform dedicated to entrepreneurship and start-up businesses. Crush Capital would make the show and the platform would stream it, providing a potential audience of 20 million.
Four and a half years after Goldberg and Marble started talking, the first season of Going Public premiered in mid-January. It features four businesses looking for capital to fulfill their growth potential – and any viewer who is convinced by their story can click on a link and invest within minutes.
That is perfectly legal under US securities law. Going Public does not recommend investing in any of the companies it features – it simply tells the stories of early-stage businesses looking for capital in order to scale up. Viewers make their own decision about whether they want to invest, based on whether they find the companies’ pitches compelling, and can do so under the Regulation A rules.
Both Goldberg and Marble believe their show is fulfilling a mission for both businesses raising capital and investors. “We want to democratise the capital markets so that retail investors get the same opportunity as the institutions,” says Marble. “We also want to feature founders who don’t always get the attention they deserve – female founders and founders of colour, for example,” adds Goldberg.
Season one of Going Public features four very different businesses, including skincare specialist Proven, music app Trebel, handbag brand Hammitt and training company NGT Academy. But each of them appears to be resonating with viewers – between them, they’ve raised $10m during the first few episodes of the show.
In the meantime, Goldberg and Marble are searching for more businesses to take part in Season two, which they hope will air later this year. The aim is to find businesses with something of a track record, rather than complete start-ups, but those still very much in the high-growth trajectory stage of development. And there is, of course, no guarantee that viewers and investors will back them – Going Public sets out to show their downs as well as their ups.
“Ultimately we have a vested interest in seeing these businesses succeed, because we receive stock from those that appear,” Marble says. “But we’re not making infomercials – we’ll show the good and the bad, because that’s what founding and running a business is like.”
As for the future, the Marble and Goldberg are ambitious. They’re already talking to broadcast television businesses about airing the show, in order to reach a much larger audience. “The goal is to scale up quickly and aggressively,” Marble adds. “That’s how we’ll fulfill our mission to democratize investment.”