Was Start-Ups:Silicon Valley All That Bad?

Emiah Gardner | Jan 8, 2013

Why did Start-Ups: Silicon Valley (SUSV) fail?

startups silicon valley

© Bravo

The easy answer is because it wasn’t good. But, you may reply, awfulness hasn’t always stopped a TV series from succeeding: Fair enough.

Picture a Venn diagram consisting of three circles: people who aren’t sick of reality TV shows (a dwindling number), people who aren’t turned off by the idea of an entrepreneurial TV show (actually a growing number, as we’ll see), and people who weren’t driven away by the blatant factual problems with the show (anyone other than tech-savvy Bay Area inhabitants who have knowledge and experience concerning the real rigors of entrepreneurship).

The intersection of these circles is small enough to begin with, but from the very beginning, controversy and skepticism surrounded the show, claiming that it mirrored the vapidity of Bravo’s bread and butter Real Housewives franchise and misrepresented entrepreneurship.  Turns out the critics were right; SUSV was a mess of an hour filled with gossip, random uninteresting dating scenes, and drinking, all of which were unevenly balanced by tiny interjections of startup talk and unfortunate meetings with venture capitalists. Once the air date began to fluctuate, the end was inevitable.

While Bravo and Randi Zuckerburg (Mark’s sister) did not strike gold (or even silver for that matter) with SUSV, their idea was spot on: entrepreneurship is intriguing, smart is sexy, and 20-something potential billionaires are fascinating.

Right idea, wrong focus

Sure, you can’t make a TV show out of people who spend 12-22 hours a day behind a computer—but you’d think that there’d be plenty of fodder for drama and conflict in the rollercoaster rush of venture capitalism and from-scratch value building.  It was nice to see brother/sister duo Hermione and Ben Way meet with venture capitalists, but we saw so much of it that I can now pitch Ignite1. Pitch, pitch, and pitch some more until someone says yes. We get it, but this is a reality show. Watching these repetitious meetings lead up to someone saying yes for the entire season is both exhausting and unentertaining.

Maybe Bravo was thinking that with a Real Housewives of Beverly Hills lead in, their audience would crave drama, canned conversations, and stupidity. Bravo viewers tune in to a see a different way of life, to laugh, and to grow with cast members. Unfortunately, the cast members were not outrageous enough to be considered riveting, not portrayed as smart enough to be aspirational, and overall were essentially quite…boring.

With a bit of refocus and a Darwinian elimination process, could SUSV be saved?

Hermione and Ben
hermione wayHermione is eccentric and raunchy enough to be entertaining, plus both smart and pretty.  Regrettably we saw more of Hermione boozing, dating, and handing out tiaras this season than working—and I bet she’s a sight to see in action, a girl who gets the job done in her own unique way. She proved this season that she’s got VCs on speed dial, so let’s see more of how she got there. What exactly does she do anyway?

Ben is clearly smart and put together; let’s keep it that way. Sorry, Ben, but you should be a supporting character not a full-time cast member. With 43 companies under your belt and the “millionaire before 21” title, Ben would be far more interesting if he were seen problem solving or in meetings rather than dating and awkwardly riding a mechanical bull.

Kimmy Taylor
I don’t agree with Chris Matyszczyk 2; Kim is not completely boring. There is an interesting story here. We should have learned that she was thinking about leaving Ampush in the first episode, she should have done it in the second, talked about it to everyone and their mother also in the second, and filled the remaining episodes with the roller coaster ride of acquiring capital and leading a fashion startup.3

Dwight
It pains me to say this because my love for Dwight is so deep, but let’s revoke his full-time cast member status.  Dwight is smart, a programmer.  He really is the guy that spends 22 hours at his computer, which ultimately is not worthwhile reality TV.  However, brief scenes of Dwight out with the group infamously binge drinking and lusting over Kimmy could be refreshing.

Sarah and David
For different reasons and various faults, let’s get rid of these two all together. Sarah just makes no sense. What did she do this season? She’s a social media something or another, living at the Four Seasons because of…? She’s unnecessary.

David is actually a talented programmer and realistic entrepreneur, but his story was less than captivating and there are better ideas and founders floating around the Valley.  Sorry, David.

New Cast members
If you’ve been counting, I just eliminated two cast members and made two others into supporting characters, so let’s add three new full timers to the cast. Let’s visit the San Francisco WeWork4building and add in a couple of “if this doesn’t work out I’ll be homeless” type of entrepreneurs. Finally, add one aspiring VC working currently working for someone like Dave McClure on the lookout for new ideas. It would be exciting to see someone from the other side and to learn about what it’s like working for a VC.

There you go, Randi; SUSV was just saved.  You’re welcome.

What are your thoughts?  Do you think the aforementioned ideas could save SUSV?

Follow @EmiahGardner


1 Read more about Ignite and watch view a demo
2 Chris Matyszczyk Startups recaps
3 Kim is currently working on fashion startup Shonova
4 WeWork is a shared boutique office space


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