- The “Unicorn Hunters” television show helps with funding for startup companies owned by women, Black people, Latinx people, and others from underserved communities.
- So far, the show has featured three health-related companies, including one developing a drug delivery technology to reduce the side effects of cancer treatment.
- The funding comes from the show’s panel of investors, the global investment community, and people who watch the program.
Things got emotional on the third episode of “Unicorn Hunters,” a new online series that provides pre-IPO investment opportunities to historically underserved populations.
Pedro Lichtinger, chairman and CEO of Starton Therapeutics, an emerging biotech company, spoke openly about the serious side effects of his brother’s prostate cancer treatment while explaining his company’s proprietary transdermal (through the skin) drug delivery technology.
Lichtinger said the new technology allows people to receive continuous treatment, and it minimizes the side effects of cancer treatment drugs such as Revlimid.
“If side effects can be reduced, multiple cancers that were previously a death sentence would become more like a chronic disease with a longer life span and better quality of life,” said Lichtinger, a 31-year veteran of the biotech industry who was born and raised in Mexico City.
His presentation visibly moved the show’s “Circle of Money” panelists, especially the show’s executive producer and co-founder, Moe Vela, the attorney, author, entrepreneur, and former director of administration to then-Vice President Joe Biden during President Barack Obama’s years in the White House.
“I watched my sister’s quality of life diminish during her fight with cervical cancer,” Vela told Healthline. “As a Latino, I am moved by what Pedro is doing. His company checks all the boxes. We are looking for emerging companies like his that are disruptive, impact peoples’ lives, and make the world a better place.”
“Unicorn Hunters,” which has already showcased three health-oriented companies, features the “Circle of Money” panel of entrepreneurs as well as business experts, including Vela, Steve Wozniak (co-founder of Apple Inc.), Silvina Moschini (founder and CEO of SheWorks!), Rosie Rios (former treasurer of the United States), and Alex Konanykhin (CEO of TransparentBusiness).
But what sets the show apart is that home viewers are also invited to invest.
“Unicorn Hunters” gives viewers access to global executives and provides opportunities to invest in historically marginalized entrepreneurs, such as women; Latinx people; Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC); and LGBTQIA+ people.
Recent data shows that Black, Latinx, and female founders received less than 3 percent of total startup research funding in the first 8 months of 2020.
The other thing that sets apart “Unicorn Hunters” from other investment shows is that the panel treats executives who appear on the program with kindness.
“I have great respect for ‘Shark Tank,’ but when a company comes before us, they will be treated with respect,” Vela said.
And while the “Circle of Money” panelists will sometimes say out loud that they will invest, the amounts remain private.
Vela added the show also keeps viewers updated on how each company is doing.
Moschini, who is reportedly the only Latin American entrepreneur to found a unicorn, or startup company valued at $1 billion or more before going public, told Healthline she’s not doing this show for the money.
“You do something like this because you believe in it,” said Moschini, who’s also president of TransparentBusiness. “It is very important to allow more people to be part of the investment community. The people we see on this show could be the creators of the next Uber or Facebook.”
Moschini said she does not hire a person because of nationality, heritage, or choice in partners. She hires a person because they’re talented and have something to offer.
“We just make sure no one is left behind, and we remove the bias that separates incredible talent from opportunity,” she said.
“I don’t weigh in more because the person is diverse. I just remove that bias. I see a person. Taking away the bias will bring so many more people to the investment table and change the world,” Moschini added.
Lichtinger said his experience on the show was a positive one.
“The process was professional, and I enjoyed that each of the judges had a different perspective. As a CEO, I thought it was a good opportunity to communicate our story,” he said.
Lichtinger said that appearing on “Unicorn Hunters” is an effective way to support his company and bring more smaller players into the investment community.
“When you look at biotech startups, 99 percent of them are through venture capital. Large funds,” he said.
“As a result, the normal individual does not have the opportunity. Companies have to go through a large venture capital firm. And what happens is that these venture firms take the lion’s share of the profit. The reality is the normal individual investor did not have access to this,” Lichtinger said.