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In 'TechStars,' See What VCs Really Think

TechstarsBloomberg TV's new reality show TechStars follows a half-dozen entrepreneurs through the TechStars three-month accelerator program. The six-episode show focuses on the New York TechStars branch as it takes its first group of entrepreneurs through the intensive start-up program, which combines mentoring with a little seed funding and access to heavy-hitting potential funders.

Capsule review: The half-hour show is frenetic and done in an overly hip style -- do we really need everyone's Twitter handles flashed to us onscreen? It's also hard to follow the plot, as all six startup stories get crammed into just 23 minutes -- going back to view episode one is mandatory if you want to have a clue what's happening in subsequent episodes.

But production style aside, the show, which airs on Tuesdays at 9pm EST, offers a fascinating behind-the-scenes glimpse of what venture capitalists think about entrepreneurs and their startups. (See the TechStars trailer below)

Here's a hint: There's a lot of cursing. As program mentor and video-blogging superstar Gary Vaynerchuk says: "It's not all Mother Teresa" in the feedback sessions.

In addition to Vaynerchuk, TechStars New York boasts an all-star lineup of mentors including FourSquare's Dennis Crowley, Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures and the popular A VC blog and Foundry Group co-founder Brad Feld.

VCs are interested in your cool idea -- a bit. But the show's big surprise is the extent to which it's all about the entrepreneurs -- their passion, past experience and knowledge of their industry. 

But even if your technology is great, you might still flounder in TechStars. Traits the program's mentors are looking for include humility and an openness to taking direction.

Early on, Tablet-publisher OnSwipe lands $1 million in funding from an outside VC and quickly checks out, avoiding the loft and blowing off meetings with TechStars high-powered mentors. The VCs quickly brand them as cocky and arrogant, and it's clear their interest in the team is fading fast.

Some of the startups' concepts begin unraveling as the VCs challenge the entrepreneurs to go out and road-test them. For instance, UrbanApt wants to make it easier to rent a New York pad, but the founders have no real-estate connections.

"That's a massive, massive red flag," TechStars New York co-founder David Tisch says in a meeting with the program's VCs.

To Vie For's auction site offers deep discounts on upscale handbags. But the team quickly finds manufacturers are uninterested in cutting their prices.

Still, some companies appear to be excelling in the program. At the end of episode two, Wiji got top marks from the VCs, despite having their name branded as "easily top five sh#*@iest names ever," by TechStars co-founder David Cohen. The team is "hungry as it gets" and is open to feedback about their interactive billboard technology, which gets the "cool" stamp of approval from the mentors.

One thing's for sure, it pays to hang around this crowd. TechStars recently announced that it has raised $24 million to give every company in the incubator $100,000 in additional funding.

What does it take to land VC funding? Leave a comment and tell us what you think the key is.

TechStars Trailer from Vortex Media on Vimeo.

Carol Tice, a freelance writer, is chief executive of TiceWrites Inc. in Bainbridge Island, Wash. She blogs about freelance writing at Make a Living Writing. Email her at carol@caroltice.com.

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