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Startup Reality: The Hottest Trend on TV

There’s no denying it; the entrepreneurial and startup culture is the hot trend on television.

For years, when it came to reality tv and business there were two shows that dominated the landscape; The Apprentice which started in 2004, and Shark Tank which started in 2009.

Both those shows offered different views of “business” culture.

With The Apprentice we followed along as contestants completed various marketing, sales, event, and management tasks. It sparked a series of copycat shows around the globe, many of which are still currently running.

Scratch-it Start up reality
Shark Tank Cast via

But Shark Tank took it to another level, taking us from the board room to the behind the scenes of startup negotiations, something the vast majority of viewers would never witness otherwise.

It wasn’t until the addition of boisterous billionaire, serial entrepreneur, and Dallas Mavericks owner, Mark Cuban, arrived on the scene at Shark Tank that the ratings really started taking off and the show became a true part of pop culture.

The show is so popular, it even got it’s own spin-off: Beyond The Tank that follows up on some of the businesses the investors funded to see where they are now.

With the popularity rising, it’s not hard to see why startup culture is popping up on the small screen everywhere.

The New Pop Culture Fad: Startups

In the last few years there has been an explosion of both scripted and reality shows created that depict the life of startups (both in and out of Silicon Valley), highlighting the growing popularity.

Just entering it’s third season, HBO’s popular Silicon Valley, has gotten both rave reviews and steady ratings as it follows a group of introverted developers and their misadventures getting their program, Pied Piper, funded.

On the reality side, you’ve seen CNBC go all in on combining the world of startup’s and reality:

The Profit stars Marcus Lemonis, the millionaire owner of Camping World who uses his own money to save struggling businesses.

Restaurant Startup stars restauranteurs Tim Love and Joe Bastianich as they determine what chefs, concepts, and restaurants will get funding.

Consumed gets down and dirty with the real life behind the scenes struggles of actual restaurant owners, like The Meatball Shop, in New York City.

Spike TV has also gotten into the mix, offering two shows:

Bar Rescue, which sends food and beverage expert John Taffer off to help save struggling bars.

Sweat Inc., which features Biggest Loser star and entrepreneur Jillian Michaels determines which aspiring fitness focused entrepreneurs deserve a $100,000 seed investment.

Of course, these are just the tip of the iceberg.

There are a number of other shows out there from Undercover Boss to Millionaire Investor that give viewers the inside look at what it really takes to grow a successful business.

The Launch Incubator

So, it shouldn’t be surprising to see today’s entrepreneurial hot shots get into the reality television game, with both Gary Vaynerchuck and Jason Calacanis diving in.

Gary Vaynerchuck is the founder of VaynerMedia and VaynerRSE. A serial entrepreneur, he was recently filmed as part of an episode on a new CNBC show called Follow the Leader, premiering later this month.

Jason Calacanis is a serial investor, host of This Week in Startups, and founder of Launch. He has decided to go all in on reality, just recently announcing last month that he has partnered with Hollywood heavy hitters the Weinstein Company to produce his own reality show.

Filming has already started, beginning at the Launch Festival earlier this month. So if you happened to be in attendance and noticed a few more cameras lurking around than usual, now you know why!

So what’s the show going to be about?

Calacanis recently took to his blog to explain:

My goal for the show is to inspire people to start companies that solve big problems in the world…

The show is going to take an inside look at my weekly accelerator, theLAUNCH Incubator, which happens every Thursday night, for three hours, here in San Francisco…

The show will overlap with about 5% of what Shark Tank does (the critical investment process), but the majority of the show will focus on how startups are actually created.

In an interview with The Guardian last week, a bit more about the format of the show was revealed.

“His reality show will involve 12 startups who compete for funding. Calacanis eliminates one each week until the end, when one winning startup will get a first round of funding.”

Sounds like something that is right up the alley of the American (and increasingly international) viewing public who can’t seem to get enough when it comes to startups lately.

Liz Froment

Liz is a marketing content writer for the Scratch-it team. She loves learning and writing about email marketing. You can find her tweeting about it and a lot more at @lfroment.