TechStars on Bloomberg TV - This is not the TechStars I know
Now that the season is over and the dust has settled I thought it time to weigh in, from an outsider’s perspective, on how TechStars was represented by Bloomberg TV. If you’re reading this then you probably know that I have the utmost respect for TechStars, both as a business and from the point of what the organization does for the entrepreneurial startup culture. I consider my professional relationship with the organization to be one of the most important that I’ve had the chance to nurture, and I will continue to do so moving forward.
But if you’ve watched this past season of TechStars on Bloomberg, I think you’ve not seen a representation of life inside the TechStars walls as I’ve had the chance to see it.
I can’t help but feel that editorial choices made for the sake of entertainment have gotten in the way of showcasing the true talent that these chosen startups have. In the production of a “reality” TV series, the things that make each of these startups incredibly real was lost and I fear that some of them will be ultimately damaged by a misrepresentation (or lack of representation) on the part of Bloomberg.
When the show was announced, David Cohen uncovered the fact that TechStars had been approached by a number of outlets previously, and that TechStars ultimately decided on Bloomberg because the company felt that it was the network which would most accurately display what TechStars is all about, preferring fact to creative edits.
But what you saw in the show was not what I saw in person. Granted, the majority of my time with TechStars has been spent in Boulder, but I’ve been to the New York offices as well. The closest glimpse of reality that was presented was done so only under narration, with quick edits. What was put out there for consumption was a watered-down version, high on drama and low on reality.
The reality of TechStars is walking into a room that is silent, filled with people who are head down into the day’s work. Often times that work lasts not just one day, but two or three or until the person doing it simply passes out on a couch for 2 hours before going back again.
Or sometimes the room is raucous and noisy. Impassioned debates over code, APIs and the like happen pretty regularly, whether you’re in a room or walking down the street. Heck, I went to the restroom in Boulder and overheard engineers from two companies in a friendly spat over the benefits of one programming language versus another.
But I get it - that doesn’t make good TV. Unfortunately, what does make good TV sometimes requires misrepresentation.
I was never a fan of ToVieFor. When I saw Melanie pitch at TechCrunch Disrupt in San Francisco last year I took the time to walk away and get a drink. It just wasn’t compelling. But I don’t have any doubt that her blog entry about “TechStars, Lies and Videotape” is anything less than the God’s honest truth. Running a company is insanely, prohibitively difficult at times. Melanie was made out to be an incompetent, headstrong and clueless leader. But I can tell you with absolutely zero doubt in my mind that if those descriptors were fact, she’d have never made it into TechStars.
You do not BS your way into TechStars.
Another instance came to light in the drama surrounding Immersive founder Jason Sosa. Now I won’t make it seem like I know the story, but I can tell you that the choice of David Cohen and David Tisch to stay rather mum on the subject doesn’t bode well for the Bloomberg-presented version of the story. Sosa spoke to Jason Calacanis over on Launch.is and I’ll leave you to make your own decision on what really happened.
The final problem that I have is that some companies were completely ignored, save for when it became more “dramatic” to show them. Namely I’m talking about CrowdTwist. Not familir with the name? That’s not surprising. You never heard about them during the show. And yet, with a $6 million series A, led by impressive names, the company is doing incredibly well. But, you know, they apparently didn’t have the right stuff for TV, except for the next-to-final episode.
I say all of that to say this - If you think you know what life is like inside of TechStars after watching a highly-edited, dramatized TV series, please think again. The organization, the business and the ethos behind both sides of it…all of these things are near-magic when it comes to TechStars. The organization boasts an 80%+ “hit rate” of successful companies, and it does so by being incredibly, tediously selective about which ones it chooses to accelerate.
I’ll freely admit that I don’t even know the full story of TechStars, but I do feel that I have a pretty good idea about what goes on inside the walls. As a fan of the organization, I hope that this is the only season that we see on Bloomberg. If I may be so bold, if you want to know about the real first class of TechStars NYC then I suggest you read my colleague Courtney Boyd Myers’ in-depth look at the history, genesis and graduation of it.