Get ready for another reality show that reveals what makes up the world of Silicon Valley. Starting tonight, cable network Syfy will air the first of six episodes of Bazillion Dollar Club, which follows startups as they navigate through an accelerator program from start to the infamous Demo Day.
But is it worth watching? It could be worse.
Bazillion Dollar Club is a product of the minds of two well-known industry individuals: 500 Startups’ self-proclaimed “Sith Lord” Dave McClure and Highway1’s Brady Forrest. Each episode is self-contained, meaning that viewers will get to know a startup from one of those two accelerators from start to finish. The first episode is centered on Vango, which provides an app to help you find art.
In the inaugural episode, viewers get to see the trials and tribulations that Vango goes through, ranging from pitching McClure and Forrest about its concept, to planning how to acquire users and handle scaling, and of course, telling a story about their startup.
Rather than show you that founders have it rough, Bazillion Dollar Club casts a spotlight on the other team members and the struggles they’re dealing with. Multiple times throughout episode one, one employee kept remarking that she “took a huge pay cut” to work for Vango, so much so that it felt like she was beating in the point: Startup life isn’t easy. But it seemed like she wanted to be there because she could be “part of building something.”
Other things viewers will get to experience is how Vango handled its server crashing after being featured by Apple, something teams will often have to deal with when trying to scale in order to meet increasing demand. What’s more, finding clever ways to market your service in order to get traction is also featured. At one point during a check-in with McClure and Forrest, the team acknowledged that it had 0 percent growth. “No one will put money in a company growing smaller,” said McClure.
Both McClure and Forrest play the “take no prisoners” approach when dealing with startups in the show. As is his custom, viewers will be hearing expletives (or at least a series of beeps from the TV censors) when he’s displeased, which is pretty often in the first episode. Most of it stems from the fact that Vango’s founder Ethan Appleby consistently isn’t able to put together a solid story about his company — if he can’t tell you what his app does, then how the heck are we going to use it or invest in it?
Somehow, Appleby puts things together in the end. But what’s missing from Bazillion Dollar Club is an in-depth look at the mentorship and the numerous help sessions that probably went on behind the scenes to prepare the company for Demo Day.
Bazillion Dollar Club is worth watching and at least paints a decent picture about what life is like as both an entrepreneur and as a member of an accelerator. The show is certainly not like the Bravo TV reality show Startups: Silicon Valley — there is no “bro culture” here. Compared to Startup U, the reality show featuring venture capitalist Tim Draper, Bazillion Dollar Club takes startups with some traction and accelerates them, which gives viewers a more realistic understanding of what life is like.
However, the title is a tad misleading. To assume that any of the six companies featured in season one are destined to be the next unicorn is a big leap of faith, just based on the seed investment. At least for me, if you wanted to find out more specifically what companies go through in an accelerator program, it’s probably best to check out Bloomberg’s series TechStars. But despite that, Bazillion Dollar Club still does a pretty decent job of explaining what being a startup is all about.
Will the show ever feature a company that doesn’t receive any investments and highlight how accelerators don’t guarantee success? We’ll just have to wait and watch.
Bazillion Dollar Club airs on Syfy on Tuesdays at 10 p.m. ET/9 p.m. CT.