Geek Chic: Entrepreneurs Face Off in New Reality Shows

August 6, 2011

11:30 am

Tech entrepreneurs, fear the cocktail party no longer: thanks to a slew of reality shows, your job title may now elicit a smile of understanding rather than a blank stare.

Premiering September 13, TechStars, which we covered earlier this week and ranked as one of the top U.S. startup accelerator programs, will showcase the journey of the accelerator’s recent New York City class and some startups we’ve covered, such as CrowdTwist, Shelby.tv, ThinkNear, and ToVieFor. More of a documentary than a reality show, it will be broadcast on Bloomberg TV and online, although TechStars says that “several major networks” approached them—a clue that incubators could become even more popular in the future.

In the style of American Idol, a few other shows ask brave small businessmen to pitch their ideas to an all-too-honest panel of investors. The American series Shark Tank gave out $5 million of investment in its premiere 2009 season, to ideas like healthy soda and custom energy bars, marketplaces for class notes and gift cards, and a fitness machine. It draws its inspiration from the international brand Dragons’ Den, which launched in Japan in 2006 and somehow made its way to Afghanistan, Nigeria, and Saudi Arabia, among other countries.

Over in the East, Malaysia’s Make the Pitch, open to Malaysian citizens who already own companies, is holding auditions this summer and debuting in October, and the Asian Angel’s Gate—with a name suggesting more benevolent investors—is accepting applications through the end of August.

While these rapid-fire shows may not present the most nuanced view of negotiations, or offer the best investment terms to startups, bringing entrepreneurship mainstream is certainly an achievement. Late-night coding and seducing new users beats soap opera drama any day.

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Kira M. Newman is a Tech Cocktail writer interested in the harsh reality of entrepreneurship, work-life balance, and psychology. She is the founder of The Year of Happy and has been traveling around the world interviewing entrepreneurs in Asia, Europe, and North America since 2011. Follow her @kiramnewman or contact kira@tech.co.

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