Hollywood just can’t get enough of geeks coding in hoodies. Following the successful first season of Mike Judge’s HBO brilliant farce Silicon Valley, NBC Universal techie network SyFy will try to show what being inside the tech bubble is really like.
SyFy has greenlit a new, six-episode series that will follow teams of startups through the accelerator process in the Valley. The show, called The Bazillion Dollar Club*, is expected to focus on 12 companies (six each) participating in the 500 Startups Accelerator and PCH International’s Highway1 program.
According to 500 Startups founding partner Dave McClure, the show plans to focus on two startups in each episode — one hardware and one software — and follow them through the 12-week accelerator programs. The idea is to show them going through all the ups and downs that early stage startup go through as they try to build product, get customers, and eventually (maybe) get funded.
Shooting is expected to start early next year and extend throughout each accelerator class, with the series itself running sometime next fall. The startups that will be featured haven’t been picked yet, in part because the application process is still open. (Wanna be famous? You can apply for 500 Startups Accelerator here and Highway1 here.)
Anyway, this isn’t the first reality show to hit the Valley. Two years ago, Bravo tried its hand at showing what it was like to live in the tech world and it failed spectacularly.
Then again, that was probably based on the show’s premise: Rather than show what tech worker are really like, Bravo’s Startups: Silicon Valley gathered up a bunch of wantrepreneurs, threw them in a house together Real World-style, and invited them to throw a bunch of parties.
McClure actually had a cameo in that show, when a couple of the cast members pitched him on their startup while seeking funding. It didn’t go well.
But there’s reason to hope this time they’ll get it right. That’s because this show will be put together by Zero Point Zero (ZPZ) Production, the company behind such brilliant shows as Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown and David Chang’s The Mind of a Chef.
As McClure told me, “These guys do the Anthony Bourdain show and we trust they’re not going to do all the in-the-guttter bullshit…. We’re not making The Real Housewives of Silicon Valley. We have a fair shot to tell the real story and a fair shot to give these companies national exposure.”
Moreover, McClure has been working with ZPZ for about two years to get the show made and is confident the product will be more of a documentary than the kind of sensationalist drivel that has come before.
“There’s a certain aesthetic and quality we use when we create things,” ZPZ’s Craig Shepherd told me. “I think as we all know over the years lots of TV producers are poking around this space… We’re thinking about, ‘How do we make something that’s not pedantic?'”
“I wouldn’t have done this if it wasn’t a company like ZPZ producing,” Highway1’s Brady Forrest told me. “It won’t be 12 teams competing against one another… We’re not trying to put people in a contrived circumstance… This is a narrative, but this is a narrative that would already be happening.”
So what kind of “drama” can we expect then? Forrest said there will probably be debates about which features get put into a product, entrepreneurs trying to figure out what the value of their business is, that type of thing.
“Anytime you start a business, there’s going to be natural drama about what this business is, how do we tell this story… but also the interpersonal relationships between the founders themselves,” ZPZ Shepherd said. “When you consolidate a 120-day series into a 44-minute episode… I think that’s enough natural inherent drama, that the viewer will respect.”
McClure said “Some people get million dollar checks, some don’t, and some break down,” he said. “It’s not going to be, ‘Oh, hey, they’re coding on a screen… How exciting.'”
But for both accelerators participation is mostly about getting their companies in front of a national audience as they go to market. That’s something which they hope the show will bring, something that you know, you can’t get by just being featured in TechCrunch.
“I think I’m getting a small amount of money for doing each show, but frankly I don’t give a shit,” McClure told me. “We’re doing because it’s a chance to tell our story and get some exposure for our companies.”
* Everyone assures me this is a working title, which is good because it’s horrible.