Randi Zuckerberg has ruffled some feathers this week with the announcement that she is co-producing “Silicon Valley,” a reality show set to air on Bravo that purports to be all about the San Francisco Bay Area tech scene. In an extensive post on her Facebook page today, Zuckerberg acknowledged the haters and pledged to stand up to them — “I’ve never been one to shy away from a challenge or back down from critique” — and defended her decision to bring the tech world to the small screen.
Since the brief “Silicon Valley” trailer seems heavy on partying, name-dropping and conspicuous consumption, some very cogent arguments have been made that it looks like an inaccurate portrayal of what really happens here — and at worst, it will give the larger world a negative impression of the tech industry at a crucial time in its development. But in her post today, Zuckerberg maintains that the show is meant to go deeper than it looks:
“Given the current economic climate, I think it’s really positive that mainstream media is celebrating the entrepreneurial spirit and portraying people who pursue innovation and startups as being “aspirational” for the general public. Entrepreneurship has existed outside Silicon Valley for quite some time (yes, people start companies every day all over the world!) and inspiring more people to pursue an entrepreneurial American dream can only be a good thing.”
An oft-heard criticism of “Silicon Valley” is that the seven-person cast is hardly filled with the industry’s typical bold-faced names — not a Dorsey or Morin to be found. In fact, most people I’ve talked to have no idea who the majority of the cast is. Pointedly, Zuckerberg suggests that snobbery is afoot in some of these complaints:
“I respect that the people cast in this show are all trying to make something of themselves. Some are newcomers to Silicon Valley. Some were anonymous cogs within bigger companies who chose to leave and create their own path. While you may not know them yet and while they may not be involved with Pinterest, AirBnB, Dropbox, Square or one of the other hot companies of the moment, it certainly doesn’t make their journey any less authentic or worth following.”
And, despite the all-encompassing name of “Silicon Valley” (which, to be fair, is a working title) Zuckerberg also says that people shouldn’t expect this to be a totally accurate and complete picture of the industry at large:
“Will we showcase every single painstaking detail of startup life? Of course not. This is reality TV, not a documentary. The show isn’t meant to represent all of Silicon Valley, but to authentically follow the lives of a few young people trying to blaze their own trails.”
Of course, there is an element of self-promotion here too. Zuckerberg acknowledges that one reason she’s involved with the “Silicon Valley” reality show is the platform it can give to “R to Z,” the company she started last year after leaving Facebook.
“Finally, as an entrepreneur building my own company, I welcome and value the opportunity to work with Bravo and reach the network’s massive audience for the constellation of projects we’re developing at R to Z. Part of our mission is to make accessible and to humanize the increasingly important tech community for the average consumer who does not speak in 1s and 0s. We will do this by advisement on select media projects, like this Bravo show, but mostly through original and creative content production.”
So, that should clear up all the drama surrounding this show, right? Probably not. But it is a very good effort at responding to the criticism and trying to diffuse it. And the real reality is, the tech industry is becoming sexier by the day — where the money goes, lots of attention usually follows. Whether we like it or not, it may just be time for everyone in tech to get ready for a close-up.