You know a reality TV show is hitting too close to home when its subjects are griping about it -- and it doesn't even air until winter. Bravo's new show Silicon Valley follows several startup companies that have recently landed venture-capital funding as they try to ramp their businesses.
Why are many Silicon Valley startup owners worried? First, because social-media insider Randi Zuckerberg -- yes, sister of Facebook's own Mark Zuckerberg -- is a producer on the show. What does she know? Who might she make look arrogant or clueless? We'll have to wait and see.
Beyond that, entrepreneurs have been squawking that the show trivializes their efforts to create amazing companies that change the world -- like, well, Facebook. Except most of their companies aren't going to turn out anything like that.
Also -- what did you expect? It is TV.
It's no surprise that Bravo has chosen to focus on some of the silliest and vaguest business concepts -- one brother-sister duo are creating a "fitness app," as if that hasn't been done before. And also a good many vapid, self-centered and outrageous entrepreneurs turned up for the casting call. It's like they injected show business into Bloomberg's gritty Techstars show. Expect a heavy focus on flashback-to-dotcom-era excess, as with that duo's $17,000-a-month rental home, which has its own Twitter feed and a rooftop pool.
In the biz, they call that "making good TV." Who takes it seriously? Apparently the answer is. . . startup owners in Silicon Valley.
It's pretty funny for me to see entrepreneurs get offended by this show. After all, do you see actual New Jersey housewives mounting a protest that they're not really like that? Not that I've heard. Most folks know TV is not real life -- even "reality TV."
What's behind the reaction here? I'm thinking there are three things about Silicon Valley that possibly hit too close to home:
1. They wish their own lives were this glamorous. Are we jealous? Maybe, since most real startup owners in the Valley don't have swank digs (just overpriced ones) and mostly do extremely dull stuff like sitting around coding until all hours. Entrepreneurs probably don't want the ribbing from their friends about the high life they're not leading. . . or to have all that excess shoved in their face. Because they're so not like those 1999-era startups. Really.
2. They don't want more competition. The last thing scrambling startup CEOs want is for millions more wannabes to see this show and crowd into the Valley trying to grab venture capitalists' attention -- and possibly deprive them of a deal. It's tough enough to get a deal as it is.
3. They don't want to show their hands. Unlike on Shark Tank, where we all know many of the deals fall apart or change after the show, here it sounds like we may get to see real funding going on and hear all the gory details on how much revenue they bring in -- or don't. I'm sure many entrepreneurs won't welcome any additional pressure to share their financials. But as more reality shows focus on entrepreneurs and talk about revenue, it's possible it will get harder to get away with telling the media: "We're a privately held company and don't disclose our numbers."
Will you watch Silicon Valley? Leave a comment and tell us if this show sounds interesting.