As an entrepreneur with a front-row seat to the Silicon Valley tech scene, the premiere of Bravo's latest reality show, Start-Ups: Silicon Valley (which may have been better titled: Survivor: Silicon Valley) has many bubble-heads wondering if the "other Zuck" has what it takes to convey the stories and struggles of the real Startuplandia.
Critics say the show will paint an ill-fitting picture of entrepreneurship, while giving attention to a select group from the Valley's startup scene whose mantra is "party ergo innovation."
However, for every reality show exists the real version of events.
Example: the Jersey Shore is actually chock full of normal, God-fearing folk. Beverly Hills is also home to a slew of hard-working Americans who live in $2,000/month apartments. And P.S. -- the Kardashians are not representative of Armenian-Americans.
Annoying, "dumbifying" television personalities notwithstanding, varying depictions of any culture, be it lifestyle or technology, have their place. We do need entertainment after all. So instead of getting involved in arguments as to whether or not "The Show" will result in a slew of wanna-be-entrepreneurs flooding the marketplace (because they believe raising a Series A and slamming a vodka soda go hand-in-hand) my argument goes like this: See below.
From inside the bubble I bring you insights from some of tech's most inspiring and innovative entrepreneurs.
This is the reality.
"As entrepreneurs, our responsibility is to transform innovations into jobs and economic output. While this is a noble cause, it is not made for the faint hearted. Successful entrepreneurs have an innate, insatiable desire to think independently, challenge the status quo and relentlessly pursue their vision. You must be the kind of person that is willing to put his or her career and financial security on the line and take risks in the name of a big idea. It's in our DNA."
On whether startups and entrepreneurship is just a "fad", facilitated by Hollywood, the Advertising Industry, and Reality TV's recent fascination with "tech rockstars":
"To say that entrepreneurship is a 'fad' is absolutely absurd. I believe that the country (and world) needs more entrepreneurial-minded people than ever. We are moving at a faster and faster pace, which accelerates innovation cycles, which in turn, creates more opportunities than ever before. The more equipped we are to think entrepreneurially, the better off we will be."
Take Two: Selcuk Atli, Founder of SocialWire
"[As an entrepreneur] you learn to religiously stick to your guns but also dare to scrap your work and start over, often many times... and you don't give up. When I got my first check, I had no visa and I was staying at hostels. Now we have great investors, a world-class team and a great product. I can't be more psyched about how we are doing with SocialWire. I know it will continue to be a roller coaster, but I'm up for the challenge."
Take Three: Shahram Seyedin-Noor, Co-founder/CEO of GraphDive
"What does it take to be an entrepreneur? Patience, passion and perseverance.
Patience: Rome wasn't built in a day, nor was Google. Everything takes a lot longer than you expect -- from product development, to fundraising, to revenues. So it's important to focus on key milestones and enjoy the process.
Passion: No job is potentially harder, or more rewarding, than starting your own company. But if you're passionate about running a business, then it becomes a labor of love. You become an entrepreneur because it's the only 'job' you want.
Perseverance: Rejection, failure and disappointment are around every corner when it's your company that you're building, and it's your ass-ets that are on the line. The key is not avoiding the inevitable roadblocks, but anticipating them. Knowing that the road ahead is hard and bumpy, and enjoying every small victory, will give you the energy to succeed."
Take Four: Lee Waterworth, Founder/President, Yekra
"In my opinion, there are four key qualities that are integral to starting a company.
The first and arguably the most important is passion -- without that it will be extremely difficult to get anyone to buy into you and your vision. Which leads us nicely to the second: a clear vision and focus. Don't try to take on the world all at once -- it's better to do one thing really well opposed to five things mediocre.
Third: learn how to take risks without fear of reprisal -- learn as you go, if you make a mistake, or get a 'no,' pick yourself up quickly and walk faster than you walked before, safe in the knowledge of what you have learned. Fourth: employ and/or partner with proactive people who are more capable than you and have strengths where you are weak."
Take five: Tom McLeod, Co-founder of Crosswalk
"Deep in the throes of launching a company, I am increasingly grateful for my sense of humor. What the media (or camera) can't capture are the intimate moments in an entrepreneur's mind when he or she decides to stay the course when faced with massive roadblocks.
For me, in those moments, I have to remember that failure is only temporary; it's a perception of my current situation. If I can ultimately keep things upbeat and positive, while remaining realistic, the decision to keep moving forward becomes much less daunting."
Outtake: Hermione Way, Reality TV Personality, "Start-Ups: Silicon Valley"
"People say the technology industry and entrepreneurship shouldn't be 'sexed up' through a TV show, but if people watch the show what they will see beyond the entertaining qualities is the very nature of the industry: it weeds out the weak and only the entrepreneurs who are the smartest, and who sacrifice everything, will have a shot at 'winning.' You can push yourself to near death trying to get your idea off the ground. I highly respect anyone who has ever taken the risk and had a go trying to change the world."
On why she loves the tech startup ecosystem and why she chose to have a spotlight on her attempt at launching a startup:
"What other industry can you go from an idea to a $1 billion company in such a short amount of time? Facebook took only eight years to IPO and to reach one billion users. Starting a company is certainly the hardest thing I've ever attempted to do, but If I can make a difference and inspire future entrepreneurs, then I will be happy and it will have been worth it, controversy and all."
Beyond the spotlight...
Entrepreneurship has an exacting way about it. The level of focus, intensity and smarts required to truly succeed is beyond what a camera can capture. Between "takes" are intangible qualities only possessed by a select few. So while the surface level reality of launching a startup may be best served through the lens (because it is fun and highly entertaining), below the surface is a deeper, more important, take on entrepreneurship.