For aspiring Internet moguls with burning questions, a TV call-in show

SAN FRANCISCO Wed May 7, 2014 8:17pm EDT

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SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Internet entrepreneurs made their television debut in April with the fictionalized comedy series Silicon Valley. Now start-up entrepreneurs are getting a self-help TV show in which aspiring tech moguls can call in anonymously and get advice from experienced industry players.

The new weekly television program, called FounderLine, will fill a void for the growing ranks of tech start-up company founders, said Joe Beninato, a serial tech entrepreneur who created and is hosting the show.

The program is modeled after the long-running radio show Loveline, in which callers solicit on-air romantic advice from the show hosts. Instead of fielding questions about infidelity or mysterious rashes though, Beninato said he expects to discuss topics such as problems raising money and whether a founder can be forced out of his own company.

Startup founders have lots of burning questions, but they’re often embarrassed or unwilling to ask a board member or investor, he said.

“It’s a bit of an awkward situation,” said Beninato. “You don’t want to show weakness.”

The weekly one-hour program will be produced and aired on a local community cable TV channel in Mountain View, California, the Silicon Valley town where Google Inc has its headquarters. But Beninato said he expects most of the show’s audience to watch online, with episodes streamed live as well as posted to sites such as YouTube.

The show’s first episode on Thursday is airing as the Internet industry has become a subject of fascination and envy. The HBO show Silicon Valley paints a humorous portrait of life chasing the dream of Internet riches; in the real world, eye-popping deals such as Facebook Inc’s $19 billion acquisition of messaging app WhatsApp, have reinforced the perception of a modern-day gold rush where anyone can strike it rich.

“One guy suggested I should do it five days a week and turn it into a media property, just because entrepreneurship is so hot right now, everybody wants to do a start-up or be a founder,” Beninato said. Still, he acknowledged that it remains to be seen how big of an audience will tune in to hear discussions about the merits of convertible debt versus equity.

One thing that’s not in short supply is the list of experts eager to dole out advice. Among those slated to appear on the show to answer questions are venture capitalists John Lilly and David Hornik, Geek Squad founder Robert Stephens, and Saar Gur, a venture capitalist who co-founded online video ad network company BrightRoll.

The guest-host slots are already filled through September, said Beninato.

(Reporting by Alexei Oreskovic; Editing by Ken Wills)

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