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Don't like Bravo's take on Silicon Valley? Get ready for more

November 02, 2012|By Jessica Guynn
  • Cast members Kim Taylor and Dwight Crow in Bravo's "Start-ups: Silicon Valley."
Cast members Kim Taylor and Dwight Crow in Bravo's "Start-ups:… (Bravo )

SAN FRANCISCO -- Don't like the new Bravo reality television series "Start-ups: Silicon Valley"? Get ready for more shows to roll out of Hollywood.

Real Silicon Valley entrepreneurs will get their first look Monday night at the series that shows six young hopefuls looking to make it here -- a subculture that was clearly ripe for exploitation.

The show, which is supposed to give a glamorized glimpse inside the real world of risking everything to build a start-up, has a lot of haters here. But it may also get a lot of viewers.

It's not your typical take on Silicon Valley, which is often cast as the eccentric land of social misfits who bang away on keyboards 16 hours a day and can’t be bothered to pay attention to the finer points of hygiene.

Shari Levine, Bravo's senior vice president for production, said the cable network targeted Silicon Valley because "it felt like it hadn't been done before."

"We instantly liked it," she said.

Pitches for new shows are bubbling up all over Silicon Valley, which in recent years has captured the popular imagination as a magical place where a lucky few improbably young people can become unimaginably wealthy in just a few short years.

That's because "The Social Network," the controversial hit film about the origins of Facebook, struck box-office gold and made Silicon Valley suddenly cool in Hollywood — even if it's not really a place where young techies talk like an Aaron Sorkin script or look like Justin Timberlake.

"Geeks are definitely the new rock stars," 27-year-old blogger and cast member Hermione Way proclaims on "Start-ups: Silicon Valley."

And these rock stars are getting their Hollywood moment.

Back in 1999, the made-for-TV movie "Pirates of Silicon Valley," which told the story of Apple and Microsoft and the tempestuous relationship between Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, didn't generate much interest. But the rise of Apple, Facebook and Google in popular culture has set the stage for hit shows about geeks such as CBS's "The Big Bang Theory."

Now two films about Jobs are in the works: an independent film starring Ashton Kutcher, the other from Sony Pictures based on Walter Isaacson’s bestselling biography.

"I have had about five to six calls in the last six months about different TV shows related to Silicon Valley," said angel investor Dave McClure.

McClure appears in a cameo on the show in which he decides not to invest in Hermione and her brother Ben Way's fitness app.

"For better or for worse, the Silicon Valley story is a mainstream America story now," McClure said.

Andrew Keen thinks it's for worse. The author of "Digital Vertigo" and a new-media critic known for slicing through Silicon Valley's distortion field, panned the show without seeing it.

He says the voyeuristic cultural phenomenon of reality TV is "intimately bound up" with the narcissistic, exhibitionist rise of social media.

"I don't think this show reflects how smart people in Silicon Valley really are," Keen said. "It's an inaccurate version of the world. If you are a serious entrepreneur you don't have time for this stuff."

Silicon Valley entrepreneur Matt Brezina, chief executive of Sincerely, said he himself does not. But he can see why someone else would jump at the chance.

"Entrepreneurs are always looking for opportunities for publicity. If I was one of these entrepreneurs and I had a consumer product that would benefit from the Bravo audience, which I do, I'd consider doing this myself. Entrepreneurs are hustlers and we will do anything it takes to help our products get attention," Brezina said. "That said, do I think this show is going to accurately portray entrepreneurship? Unlikely. Real entrepreneurship happens at 9 p.m. during a long coding session on a Friday night or over coffee talking about the future of the Internet. It doesn't make for great TV."

Another true-to-life Silicon Valley success story, Aaron Levie, the hard-working CEO of online data storage company Box, said he can’t really judge the Bravo show, having seen only the previews. But he doesn’t plan to watch it.

Why's that?

Levie, who wears sneakers with his suits so he can walk faster, responds in typical Silicon Valley shorthand with eight words and a hashtag: "Probably won’t have time to watch the show. #realsiliconvalley"


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