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This New Reality TV Show Is Like 'Shark Tank' With a Gritty, Southern Spin


A new business-themed reality show coming soon to CNBC is a little like Shark Tank -- that is, if the Sharks were aggressively tech-illiterate, chugged beer in the boardroom and then hurled the empty cans at aspiring entrepreneurs when negotiations got heated.

West Texas Investors Club | CNBC
Rooster McConaughey, Gil Prather and Butch Gilliam.

Entitled West Texas Investors Club, the eight-episode series stars friends and business partners Rooster McConaughey (brother of actor Matthew McConaughey) and Butch Gilliam, who made their millions in the oil pipe industry.

The premise is simple: Alongside their friend Gil Prather, a Tex-Mex singer-songwriter, McConaughey and Gilliam have summoned 16 entrepreneurs deep into the heart of Midland, Texas, to hear their pitches and weigh potential investments.

But there's a catch. Because Gilliam says they're "looking at the person first and the business second," contestants are put through various challenges to test their character and ideas in situ. In previews, founders are seen weeping in helicopters, exploring the forest by flashlight and fleeing from bulls in pens. "Shut the gate!" one cries.

Related: Meet the New Shark Tank Sharks: Ashton Kutcher, Chris Sacca

"They're probably not being 100 percent themselves, and they have some sort of spiel they have rehearsed," McConaughey says of the traditional pitching process. "With the challenges, they can say what they want, talk shit back to us -- which we can respect -- and we as investors get to know them a lot better."

This way of doing business, he adds, stands in stark contrast to modern deal-making notions. "I've never done business in Silicon Valley, but in Texas, you can still do business with a handshake," McConaughey told Entrepreneur. "When it's all said and done, if it's not a good deal for everybody, then it's a bad deal."

Related: Meet the Scrappy Young Entrepreneurs of ABC Family's Upcoming 'Startup U' Show

West Texas Investors Club comes care of The Company, which is the same production outfit behind CNBC's The Profit. "I think our shows resonate with people because the guys -- Marcus [Lemonis], Rooster and Butch -- have a genuine desire and commitment to helping other people succeed," says The Company co-founder Charlie Ebersol.

For instance, one entrepreneur with a mediocre app idea ("What does app stand for?" Gilliam asks McConaughey in one promo) ultimately received a nominal $50,000 investment from the guys simply because they liked her personality. She then sold the startup at a significant profit in less than a month -- whereupon they immediately invested in her next venture.

"Business is about relationships and people," Ebersol said. "Character, honesty, passion and commitment are always more important than spreadsheets, power points, and EBITDA."

West Texas Investors Club premieres tomorrow at 10 pm EST.

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