Bloomberg's "TechStars New York The Show" debuted last night, launching the startup accelerator program further into the spotlight as it documents the trials of the entrepreneurial class and gives insights to those aspiring to a TechStars slot. [ Watch the first episode here ].
Reality TV always raises the question of how "real" the situation is, but the TechStars show feels more natural than the "Real Housewives of Beverly Hills" with conflict rising out of the constant challenges startups face -- "how are you going to compete with x?" and "how are you going to monetize this?" Although the producers included typical commercial segues that scream drama ["Which team faces a shakeup before day one?"], the actual program enters these scenes with less kick.
The show starts by introducing David Tisch, TechStars NYC managing director, and TechStars founder and CEO David Cohen. Tisch is clearly going to be the star of this series because of his strong leadership vibe and potty mouth, both of which come across very well on TV.
Wasting no time, TechStars introduces six companies -- Wiji, Onswipe, Homefield, Socrated, Urban Apt and To Vie For -- and both Davids weigh in on their potential. The Davids dig Wiji, a smart billboard company, from the get-go and suggest it's a perfect candidate for acquisition. To Vie For faces the most problems, having lost a founder before TechStars even begins.
The entrepreneurs themselves make for great characters. Cape Cod townie and Homefield founder Reece Pacheco -- who has no experience in technology -- is likely to be the most lovable because of his humble, approachable demeanor that wins Tisch and others over from the start. Pacheco even admits to moving back in with his parents prior to TechStars. Before accepting Pacheco into the program, Tisch received more than 12 recommendations from people who knew him.
Onswipe as a team (that's right, both of them) is the team to hate thanks to Jason Baptiste's cockiness, somewhat justified by having more than 400 paying customers before TechStars. His Al Gore-like statement -- "We took over the Internet, we won" -- is the main teaser for next week's episode.
But the show does educate on some levels, too. Watching TechStars could serve as a blueprint for companies looking to apply to the program. As Tisch crawls through all 579 applications, you learn it's not the idea that receives the funding, it's the team.
We see typical startup scenes like late-night coding sessions and stacked-up pizza boxes but also tense meetings with potential investors. VC Mark Suster, for example, rates a soon-to-be-revealed company as a one-out-of-ten -- you can almost feel the the heartbeats of the wide-eyed entrepreneurs as they hear the evaluation.
One of the biggest complaints we have seen (and share) about the show is its length. The 30-minute show -- about 22 minutes with commercials -- doesn't give enough time to delve into the characters as we jump from criticism of one startup to the next every few seconds. That also means little time for developing organic conflict between Tisch and Cohen and the startup founders.
To amp up the competition quotient that makes other reality TV shows successful, the Davids give their "Pre-Season Standings." Here they are:
1 - Wiji
2 - Onswipe
3 - Homefield
4 - Socrated
5 - Urban Apt
6 - To Vie For
The show is slated to run a six-episode season and airs on Bloomberg TV Tuesdays at 9 p.m.