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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.

Thousands without power as "hazardous" winter storm lashes East Coast

Winter view from Charlotte as winter storm Izzy creates dangerous conditions in Charlotte, N.C. on Jan. 16. Photo: Peter Zay/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

A major winter storm was lashing much of the East Coast on Sunday, causing widespread power outages and disrupting travel over the holiday weekend.

The big picture: Heavy snow and ice accumulations are "likely to produce hazardous travel," downed trees and more power outages from the Mid-South to the Northeast, per the National Weather Service. Some parts of the U.S. can expect to see up to a foot of snow through Monday.

Updated 1 hour ago - Science

Volcanic eruption in Tonga caused "significant" damage

This satellite image of the eruption on Jan. 15 taken by Himawari-8, a Japanese weather satellite operated by Japan Meteorological Agency and released by National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT). Photo: NICT via AP

Significant damage has been reported in Tonga following an undersea volcanic eruption on Saturday, which covered the Pacific nation in ash and cut off communication lines.

Driving the news: The eruption triggered tsunami warnings across Tonga's islands and in other regions, including the West Coast of the U.S. and New Zealand.