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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

In a new show that debuted on Amazon Prime this week, venture-backed companies face a panel of potential investors — including ex-NSYNC member Lance Bass and Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak — who grill them about their businesses and decide whether to cut a check.

Why it matters: "Unicorn Hunters," bills itself as bringing the craft of pre-IPO investing to the mainstream and as "a master class for people out there," Bass tells Axios. The title is a play on "unicorn" — the industry-wide nickname for startups valued at over $1 billion.

  • Part of the show's pitch is "democratizing wealth creation" by making it possible for people at home to also invest in those private companies. Think "Shark Tank," except you, the viewer can also get in on the deal.

What they're saying: "If we learned anything by the Robinhood-Gamestop-Reddit thing in January, it's that the masses are raising their hands and want to invest," show co-creator and panelist Moe Vela tells Axios, referring to the social-media fueled sudden price jump and drop of the video game retailer earlier this year.

Yes, but: This opportunity will ultimately be mostly available to accredited investors (requiring $200,000 in annual income, a net worth of $1 million, or a financial professional license) given U.S. fundraising laws for private companies.

  • The companies themselves are handling the investing process, not the show.
  • Vela points out the show aims to make it very clear to viewers that these are risky investments and that they should make thoughtful decisions.

Our thought bubble: The show is dropping in an awkward time of reckoning over wealth creation, and who gets to access it and how.

Go deeper

Aug 10, 2021 - Economy & Business

Investment in digital media slows, years after venture-backed boom

Expand chart
Data: Pitchbook; Table: Axios Visuals

Media upstarts are attracting far less cash compared to the venture-backed media boom of 2014 and 2015, according to new data from Pitchbook.

Why it matters: Investors are no longer willing to shell out hundreds of millions of dollars on new digital media sites, given how long it's taken for some of those investments to materialize and drive major returns.

Students vandalize and steal from schools for viral TikTok challenge

TikTok logo displayed on a phone screen in Krakow, Poland on July 18, 2021. Photo: Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images

A viral TikTok challenge is leading students nationwide to shatter mirrors, steal fire alarms and intentionally clog toilets, The Washington Post reports.

Driving the news: Dubbed the the “Devious Licks challenge, students are showing off their "devious licks" on TikTok — with a sped-up version of "Ski Ski BasedGod" by rapper Lil’ B playing in the background.

Axios-Ipsos poll: People of color face more environmental threats

Expand chart
Data: Axios/Ipsos poll; Note: ±2.5% margin of error; Chart: Sara Wise/Axios

Americans of color are much less likely than white Americans to experience good air quality or tap water or enough trees or green space in their communities, and they're more likely to face noise pollution and litter, a new Axios-Ipsos poll finds.

The big picture: Our national survey shows Black and Hispanic Americans are more likely than their white counterparts to live near major highways or industrial or manufacturing plants — and to have dealt in the past year with water-boil notices or power outages lasting more than 24 hours.