A Visit from Chelsea Handler, And A Nervous Wait Afterward

As you may have heard, brash comic Chelsea Handler is set to host a new series on Netflix entitled “Chelsea Does…” in which she’ll explore a range of issues, including a universe still foreign to many outside of it: Silicon Valley.

Now, as the series debut approaches on Saturday, January 23rd , at least one venture firm –- Foundation Capital — is waiting on pins and needles. The reason? Foundation somewhat bravely agreed to let Handler and crew into their offices so she could pitch them on a mobile app while the show was being filmed.

On Friday, we talked with general partner Paul Holland and Foundation’s marketing partner, Meg Sloan, about what went down and how they’re feeling about it now.

TC: How did it come to pass that you’re in this new show?

MS: [Foundation entrepreneur-in-residence] RJ Jain was working with [Handler’s] development team on her app. We’re also early investors in Netflix, so I think we were on the radar of the production team.

I used to work at Facebook, where we have posters that say: “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?” I joked [to the team here] that the answer was to say yes to being in a Chelsea Handler documentary.

TC: What was the idea exactly?

MS: That she would pitch us her app. We also talked with the producers, who asked for our help with some locations, and we put together a happy hour for Chelsea in Palo Alto with a cross section of folks we know. I think she was super interested in the social scene here in Silicon Valley, to the degree that there is any.

TC: How long was this entire process?

MS: It all happened back in June. It’s surprising how quickly they pull these things together. It’s not months and months of preparation. It’s weeks and days, though to them, it probably felt like an eternity. [Laughs.]

TC: Did the app interest you?

PH: In the spirit of keeping our relationship with entrepreneurs confidential, she doesn’t want a lot of exposure [regarding the app] until the show airs. But it was definitely in the power alley of what you’d expect a Chelsea Handler app to be, meaning it has a little edge, it’s a little irreverent, and it’s associated with relationships and things of that nature.

TC: Was the pitch straightforward?

PH: She came in with an entourage – not her entourage from [her long-running E! Online show, “Chelsea Lately”], but she’d encountered a young kid along the way, a 10-year-old, Silicon Valley kid who has [his own] app and she was fascinated by him. She also brought her dog, Chunk, who is very cute and incredibly devoted to her. I’ve never seen such a devoted dog. It stared at her the entire time.

TC: You haven’t seen the show yet. Do you have any idea of how you’ll be portrayed?

PH: I’ve seen her [E!] show and I’ve read her books because I think she’s hilarious. We had a discussion around, is she going to come in and abuse us and make us look foolish or, in my case, make fun of the middle-age white guy. But we ran [the pitch meeting] as if she were coming into any partner meeting. We gave her a serious hearing. We spent time outlining what we look for in investments, and where her offering fit in terms of pros and cons, and she was into it. She was very excited about entrepreneurism. She didn’t come in as a diva or Hollywood personality. It was: I’m proud of this thing I’ve done and I think it’ll be useful for people.

TC: Did you fund it?

PH: We can’t say one way or another. We agreed it would be part of the reveal for her when she does her show. I’d say the broad category is a very lucrative one and has yielded a lot of significant prices and outcomes.

TC: Was there anything that was particularly absurd about the experience?

PH: Well, we don’t usually have entrepreneurs bring along a dog and small child.

TC: You’re not nervous then.

MS: I think it anyone who does anything with Chelsea Handler is probably a little nervous. But if we can’t laugh at ourselves a little bit in Silicon Valley, we’re all taking ourselves too seriously.

PH: It’s funny. You go from, I hope it goes well, to I hope they like me enough that [our part] doesn’t get left on the cutting room floor. It’s entirely possible that what we did was too mundane.

(Readers, if you’ve missed the trailer for Handler’s show, which looks to be very funny, you can check out here.)

Photo at top of page: From left to right (everyone pictured is from Foundation, except star Chelsea Handler):  Anamitra Banerji,  Joanne Chen, RJ Jain, Paul Holland, Handler, Meg Sloan, Melissa Costello, Rob Goodman, Chunk the dog.