American Idol, Startup Style: TechStars Reality Show to Debut on Bloomberg TV

8/2/11Follow @arleneweintraub

TechStars, the seed-stage investment and incubator program for entrepreneurs, announced today that it will be the subject of a series starting this fall on Bloomberg TV. The show, called “TechStars” (see trailer below), follows the inaugural New York program, which ran for three months earlier this year. The show will debut September 13.

TechStars holds three-month startup programs in Boston, Boulder, Seattle, and now New York. The program’s philosophy is to provide not just seed funding, but mentorship and connections meant to help entrepreneurs get a strong enough footing to launch their companies successfully when they leave the program.

In the trailer, TechStars New York’s managing director David Tisch is seen speaking before the first class of NYC entrepreneurs. “You have a chance to set a massively loud tone in this city,” he says. “Don’t blow that f-ing opportunity.”

In another clip, mentor and venture capitalist Roger Ehrenberg remarks in not-so-kind terms about one of the startups, which isn’t named. “If they keep that cockiness and that ego, they’re really going to screw themselves,” says Ehrenberg, founder and managing partner of IA Ventures. Ehrenberg is also one of our Xconomists.

TechStars founder and CEO David Cohen says such scenes aren’t an over-dramatization of what life really is like for TechStars entrepreneurs. “There’s a lot of tough love. It’s not all flowers and sunshine,” says Cohen, another Xconomist. “It’s very real.” Tisch echoes that sentiment. “Starting a company is really hard, and doing so in three months is even harder,” Tisch says. “We wanted a show to capture the true essence of that, not to be scripted.”

Cohen says the show starts from the time that TechStars selected 11 finalists from 600 applications. It then tracks those entrepreneurs through the program’s culmination—the April 14th demo day, a glitzy affair during which the companies pitched themselves to 700 venture capitalists.

Judging from the “TechStars” trailer, the entrepreneurs were sometimes overwhelmed, or at the least exhausted, during their three months of intense coaching. OnSwipe founder and CEO Jason Baptiste (also an Xconomist) is shown sleeping in the office. But Baptiste clearly wasn’t sleeping on the job: In June, just a few months after the series ended, OnSwipe—which makes a publishing platform for tablet computers—raised $5 million in a “Series Awesome” (and yes, the company’s investors really called it that).

Cohen says seven companies that participated in the TechStars New York inaugural class have received funding and “there are more that haven’t announced yet.” He hopes the Bloomberg TV show brings attention to the program and the value of entrepreneurship in general. “TechStars’ philosophy is to be open-source,” he says. “We want to help people understand the value of mentorship and to catch the entrepreneurial bug.”

Not to toot our own horn or anything, but it’s worth noting that Xconomy actually proposed a TechStars movie last fall. We thought it might even be better than “The Social Network,” especially if Cohen were played by Jon Favreau and Tisch by Shia LeBeouf. Ok, so Bloomberg TV isn’t quite Hollywood, but it’s close enough.

TechStars Trailer from Vortex Media on Vimeo.

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