Startup founders are the new reality TV stars. No, really! Today, the exec producer of the TechStars TV show on Bloomberg TV, Cameron Casey, is announcing his plans to film a second startup-focused reality show. This time, the show will follow a group of entrepreneurs out in L.A., courtesy of a partnership with the Start Engine accelerator.
But here’s the big news: this time, the show is planned as a multi-season series for a network.
The TechStars reality show was apparently successful enough for Casey to give the format another shot. The producer is still shopping the show around to networks, however – there’s no distribution deal in place as of yet. But based on the success of TechStars, word is they’re very confident that a deal will be signed soon. And it will be for a five-year run to start, they say.
The documentary-style program will follow the entrepreneurs enrolled in Start Engine, the L.A.-based incubator founded by Howard Marks, co-founder of Activision, and investor Paul Kessler, founder of the Los Angeles Film School. Start Engine is a rapid accelerator, offering four 90-day cycles per year, each culminating in the nerve-wracking Demo Day events, where the founders pitch a roomful of top angel investors and VCs.
At Start Engine, the goal is to launch over 100 companies per year, with sessions that include around 30 companies each. According to Kessler, this incubator is different because of its focus on the entrepreneurs. “This is the first effort on a really large scale that’s not driven by VC’s, but by the entrepreneurial spirit,” he says. He points to the program’s large line-up of mentors, as an example of that. Around fifty are on the Start Engine website, but many more are not. As for the companies themselves, teams (not individuals) are preferred and one on the team should be the technical co-founder. The founders are bright, well-educated and the experience of watching them go through the program should be inspiring to other entrepreneurs, says Kessler.
Casey approached Start Engine around 30 days ago about the idea, and Kessler immediately recognized the opportunity to showcase L.A.’s entrepreneurial talent via this show.
“We were big fans of TechStars on Bloomberg TV,” he says, “so we’re excited to be partnering with Cameron to shine a spotlight on how innovation is created here in the City of Angels where the media, technology and entertainment industries converge.”
For those of you who watched TechStars, you’ll be familiar with the formula employed by the new show. It will document how entrepreneurs apply, get chosen, the mentoring process and finally, the big pitch. There have been complaints, however, that the “reality-tv-ification” of the startup process led to some inaccuracies which painted some founders in a bad light.
According to Casey, the accuracy problem is related to the genre itself. “This is a very challenging TV format to tackle,” he says. “Considering the series was documented in real-time following multiple teams, dozens of characters, and multiple story lines over nearly nine months of filming in total. Some stories may be out of sequence, but we try to tell each story as accurately as possible.”
In other words, it may be inaccurate, but it might not be wrong. Hmm?
Kessler adds, ”there’s always a risk [of a negative portrayal, but I’ll do everything in my power to do things accurately, and protect the companies and the folks associated with those companies.” He also notes that the applicants won’t be required to be on TV – if for some reason a company says they cannot, Start Engine will accommodate that. But that’s a bridge they’ll cross when they come to it.
Says Casey, “considering that Start Engine is both a TV series and a exercise in media training and marketing, I would hope that founders would appreciate the value, and jump at the chance of having the birth of their new business documented.”
The series will reportedly appear on a network first, then online afterwards, starting sometime in early 2012.
Update: Credit where credit is due. We’re hearing that Casey’s involvement was minimal, and that if anyone should get credit for TechStars’ production it should be Bloomberg’s Elizabeth Gould, the show’s producer. Casey reports he was in charge of hiring the crew and payroll, however. With regards to “executive producer” and “producer,” the bigger title isn’t always the bigger job.