Would-Be Entrepreneurs Take Ideas To Open Mic

With the economy shedding hundreds of thousands of jobs, perhaps it is time to be your own boss.

At least that is the theory behind bloblive, a weekly open-mic night in southern California for would-be entrepreneurs.

The blob in bloblive is the business idea when it's just beginning and hard to describe; terrifyingly formless until you get some feedback.

Erick Brownstein, who emcees bloblive, is a business consultant who works with the credit card company Advanta, which funds bloblive and a Web-only version called ideablob. The live stage version has been going on for just a few months in Santa Monica, Calif., and Philadelphia.

Brownstein explains that those with ideas have 90 seconds on the stage. They get feedback and advice from a panel of judges, as well as everybody in the room.

Ninety seconds is not very much time to tell several dozen strangers who you are and why your idea might change the world or make you rich.

"I've worked for Microsoft, Northrup Grumman, done a lot of projects on my own," Brian Bentow tells the audience. "I've been lead developer at a startup for four years."

Bentow says he eats, sleeps and breathes computer code and wants to make a business out of that. Often the first questions from judges or the audience get straight to the dollars and cents.

"I don't quite understand what the commercial model is: How are you actually making money from it?" one judge asks.

Some of the other presenters: a solar-powered DJ and a guy with a line of eco-friendly products that devotes a percentage of profits to the developing world.

The winner of the $100 prize is Solomon Rothman.

Rothman's idea is something called open-source filmmaking. It lets people collaborate on a movie, even change the final product, and then show it on the Web.

"It's not set up like Wikipedia where everyone can contribute equal amounts," Rothman says. "You still have to have films and people contribute what they can.

"But there [are] opportunities to take that work and remake their own versions just like open-source software."

It's hard to understand precisely how Rothman's idea works or makes money, but he comes to bloblive every week and says it has definitely improved his presentation skills.

Another entrepreneur Chris Easter says the connections he made at bloblive gave a boost to a business he and two partners had already started, a Web site for bridegrooms called The Man Registry.

"We've gotten PR out of it," Easter says. "We've gotten interest in financing out of it. You can't put a price tag on what goes on here."

Even the people who just came to watch had ideas, plans or products.

Vicky Kisella invented lacy mini-socks that peeked out around the edge of her shoes.

"Aren't they darling?" she asks. "They are fashionable and they're functional."

But Kisella didn't have the nerve to get on stage.

"Whether I present or not, it was just about getting inspired and being with like-minded people," she says.

Another onlooker inspired by bloblive was TV producer Garry Grossman.

"We think there may be a TV show in this," he says. "It's a great thing to see people with ideas up on stage, trying to explain why they may have the million-dollar idea or the idea that could help a million people."

So whatever happens to the individual presenters, bloblive itself could be the next big thing.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.