Bravo explores the world of start-ups, but might be missing the point

Picture 2Television has long celebrated the entrepreneur. Ricky Ricardo was a nightclub singer who eventually got his own act. The Jefferson’s moved on up due to the success of George’s dry cleaning business. Even the titular Whitney lives with a man who never has to go to work because he sold an idea for a website (more time for tandem complaining!).

And now, we have, Start-Ups: Silicon Valley, the reality show treatment of the lives and times of start-up founders, brought to us by Bravo. Bravo, a television network that used to show Met performances and The Unbearable Lightness of Being, became a huge ratings monster when it decided to shift its focus to meticulously packaged and promo-ed permutations of “reality”–representations that bear very little resemblance to most viewers’ experience of being, say, a housewife or a chef.

So how do they package entrepreneurs, a category of people often known for creative idiosyncrasy and work ethic? Kevin Roos of New York Magazine thinks the show’s may have gone wrong (it has yet to achieve serious ratings) by getting it right:

“In the tech world’s opinion, the characters are too outlandish to represent the real, hard-working, humble entrepreneurs of the tech world. But in two episodes, the exact opposite has proven true. The cast members have mostly revealed themselves to be smart, driven, and a shade too self-aware. Sure, most of them don’t code, and a few border on pathological narcissism. But even the supposed ditzes, Hermione and Sarah, are shown plying their trades in a way that, if not always successful or well-advised, is at least representative of actual effort.”

BusinessWeek’s Sam Grobart was not as forgiving, writing, “When I’m on my deathbed, I won’t be accepting of my demise. I’ll be angry because I’ll know there are 44 minutes owed to from 2012, minutes lost to this sham of a show.”

TechCrunch expressed its feelings by having Lynda Harrison, a staff writer’s mom and “nurse who loves to sew” review an advanced copy of the pilot. In her review, Harrison may have pointed out the show’s biggest flaw, which is to have missed the opportunity to express what’s genuinely exciting about founding a start-up. She writes:

“Where do startup ideas come from? What research is done to get them off the ground? What happens when an idea fails or there is no funding? There is real drama in actual life situations. If, as the show states, 90% of start-ups fail what happens to those people? Do they develop new ideas, continue to party like there’s no tomorrow or do they move in with Mom and Dad and get “regular” jobs.”

Click here to read Harrison’s full review, or click here to watch video from the show and decide for yourself. Did Bravo get founders’ culture right? Or should Start-Ups: Silicon Valley consider a pivot?


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