NBC Orders Entrepreneur Competition Starring Tyra Banks

Americas Top Model Tyra Banks - H 2015
Aaron Epstein/The CW

What happens when you mix The Voice with Shark Tank? NBC clearly wants to find out. The network has given a series order to Funded (working title), a new competition that will pit start-ups against one another in a grab for a $1 million cash infusion.

Each stand-alone episode will have rising companies paired with one of three vastly different business mentors: skateboarder-turned-entrepreneur Rob Dyrdek, brand builder Rohan Oza and brand ambassador and media giant Tyra Banks. For Banks, it's her first series since 2015, when she departed both her talk show The Fab Life and a long-running gig hosting America's Next Top Model. (The latter, canceled at The CW, is moving to VH1 without the supermodel in front of the camera.)

“I have spent my life encouraging people to BYOB — be your own boss,” Banks said Wednesday in a statement. “Making everyday people's dreams come true is what I live for. Funded is the life-changing type of television power project that gets me pumped. We will enlighten and entertain audiences big time and encourage our viewers to attack their most outrageous goals with fierce determination."

Each episode will crown a winner after the companies face a venture capitalist, in front of a live audience, to make a pitch for the $1 million investment. An entrepreneurial competition has been one of the few missing pieces of NBC's thriving reality empire. And while Funded is very clearly its own format, in adopting the mentor premise that's worked so well for The Voice, there's no doubt that it's intended as a network response for ABC's business-minded Shark Tank.  

Funded is the first series from NBC's newly formed Universal Television Alternative Studios. The in-house operation opened in June, with Paul Telegdy and Meredith Ahr in charge, in a bid for the network to own more of its reality offerings. The studio is producing Funded in association with Dyrdek's SuperJacket Productions.

“We set out to create a highly entertaining show for quality business ideas with innovative entrepreneurs who, with a little bit of guidance and capital, will have explosive growth,” said Dyrdek. “At its core, Funded is a serial entrepreneur competition show where the winner is the American dream."

Added Ahr: “Rob, Tyra and Rohan offer a level of business experience and expertise that is priceless to a burgeoning entrepreneur. They are perfectly suited to be at the helm of this series as it sets out to shine a light on extraordinary start-ups, provide invaluable guidance to innovators and give financial backing to the most deserving and revolutionary ideas that will shape our future."