Kevin O’Leary of Shark Tank visits Harvard Business School and offers a few nuggets of truth. Kevin also listens to pitches from some of the student founders. While Kevin recognizes the advantages of launching at Harvard University, he does not realize how much schools like George Mason University, University of Chicago and others are doing to provide real opportunities to experience entrepreneurship and innovation on campus — now.
Regular readers know we love TV for entrepreneurs. The WSJ reports that hollywood is now thinking of producing TV shows and movies centered around the life of tech entrepreneurs and engineers. From Jessica Vascellaro, Entrepreneurs Get Big Break — on Screen:
Comcast Corp.’s Bravo television network is launching a reality show based on the lives of little-known Silicon Valley entrepreneurs this year. In Hollywood, two movies about Apple Inc. co-founder Steve Jobs are in the works. One, an independent film, will star Ashton Kutcher. Sony Pictures is developing another based on Walter Isaacson’s best-selling biography of the technology pioneer.
Michael Lewis, author of popular nonfiction works like “Moneyball,” may write a TV pilot about Silicon Valley, according to people he has spoken to about it. Mr. Lewis says he hasn’t committed to it.
“Geeks are the new royalty,” says Frances Berwick, president of Bravo and Style Media. Facebook Inc. Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg’s sister, Randi Zuckerberg, is an executive producer on the Bravo reality show, which is currently called “Silicon Valley.” Ms. Zuckerberg, through a spokesman, declined an interview request.
“Two 20-somethings just sold their company for a billion dollars,” says Ms. Berwick, referring to photo-sharing service Instagram, which Facebook announced last week that it had agreed to acquire. “There is something there that plays to the American dream.”
Media executives didn’t use to be so eager to chase the digerati. Even as businesses like Google Inc. and Facebook drew millions and made billions, Hollywood—itself upended by these two technology innovators—kept its distance. The concern: How to dramatize wonky technical breakthroughs and the often unrelatable characters behind them.
The 1999 made-for-TV movie “Pirates of Silicon Valley” chronicled the birth of Apple and Microsoft and their quirky co-founders Mr. Jobs and Bill Gates, though it generated little mainstream buzz.
But more recently, hot tech companies such as Apple have made technology cool. Hit shows about geeks, notably CBS’s “The Big Bang Theory” about physicists, proved to media executives the category could sell.
Then came “The Social Network,” the 2010 film about the origins of Facebook. The movie, written by Aaron Sorkin, topped the box office its opening weekend and won a plethora of awards.
Regular readers and students know that I think there are countless programs on TV that provide value for entrepreneurs and student entrepreneurs (from Shark Tank to How Its Made). A Workhappy post argues that Goldrush on Discovery Channel is great entrepreneurship tv. A snippet:
I’ll just say that Gold Rush is as close as I’m going to come to the euphoria, mental swings, and irrational emotional investment that some folks have watching sports.
Gold Rush is extra interesting to me because it has all the elements of an engaging startup story, but in a completely different context than my world.
For the uninitiated (and my apologies for those outside the US who may not have access to it), Gold Rush is a TV series which follows a team of hard scrabble, go-for-broke, all-in, heart-and-soul, down-on-their-luck dreamers who aim to cash in on the current high price of gold by starting a mining operation in Alaska.
Watching the sacrifices they make, the bond that builds between them, the impossible odds against them, and their pure unflagging determination in the face of a relentless wave of obstacles is, in a word, inspiring. The parallels to the startup world that you and I live in are myriad.
There are probably some weirdos who appreciate entrepreneurism, yet don’t like this show for some reason, but I can’t imagine who. The (relative) ratings boom the show has enjoyed confirms that my affection for the show is not uncommon. If you enjoy a good story, an against-all-odds tale of struggle in realizing your dream, this is a bit of television well worth your time.
Guess I’ll have to record a few episodes and add the show to our directory of TV for Entrepreneurs.
For students studying entrepreneurship, Bloomberg’s The Mentor is back for another season starting today, November 1. Interesting first episode during which Big Bear Choppers, makers of custom motorcycles, face operational, cash flow, and profit challenges. Big Bear’s products are similar to Orange County Choppers (to an non-motorcycle rider like me) but the owners/operators of Big Bear are nothing like the Teutul family).
Lyndon Faulkner of Pelican Products comes in as their mentor and quickly assesses the situation and gives them assignments to tackle, including reaching out to customers (like that old united commercial), changing their cost structure, and creating a viable strategic plan.
Check out the 2 minute preview here.
Any other shows entrepreneurship students and young entrepreneurs should be watching?
There has been a rise of television focusing on entrepreneurship and management of smaller and growing firms. Emma Jacobs at FT.com (reg required) has a great 20 questions feature with Peter Jones of the Dragon’s Den (the American version is called Shark’s Tank).
Here are a few highlights:
Did you ever think you’d end up where you are?
Yes. I don’t mean that in an arrogant way. I simply believe in having a detailed vision about your future, not just vague ambitions.
Oceanside Ale Works, a microbrewery in Oceanside, CA is the first subject of Bloomberg TV’s new series, The Mentor. The format of the show: a business faces challenges and an expert is brought in to help and advise them. In this case, Mark and Scott, the founders of OAW are growing 20% a month, are at full capacity and about to open a new brewing facility, and are interested in getting into bottling.
Only one of them works full-time in the business, the other is still a full-time firefighter. The duo is then introduced to a mentor, in this case Jim Koch, from Boston Brewing Company (Sam Adams).
He drops a few good one liners, “As you get bigger, improve your quality.”
The show then places some of Koch’s statements on ‘advice from the mentor’ ‘post-it’ type graphics. For example, “Don’t risk what you have to get what you don’t need.” Another was, “Put people in jobs that they will be happy doing,” and finally, “hire slowly, fire quickly.”
Interesting segments on managing their employees, their equity partners (wives), and communicating the changes taking place in light of their meeting with Jim Koch, the Mentor.
The show was interesting and worth watching. The premiere episode highlighted that growth does not occur overnight and that passion can lead one to a market opportunity and technology is almost never a barrier to entry. Check out The Mentor on Bloomberg TV.
During my introductory class of New Venture Management for undergraduates I explain the role the media has played in promoting entrepreneurs and the idea of running your own business. We discuss reality shows like American Chopper (Discovery Channel) and Ax Men (History Channel) and others like Shark Tank (ABC) and How Things Are Made (Science Channel) as well as ‘news magazine’ style shows like Donny Deutsch’s The Entrepreneurs and Bloomberg TV’s Venture.
The Wall Street Journal recently had a piece by Emily Maltby that looks into the trend of reality shows based on small businesses.
But for the few who land their own shows, the exposure often comes with headaches.
Duff Goldman, owner of Charm City Cakes LLC, the Baltimore custom cake shop featured on the Food Network’s “Ace of Cakes,” says his crew wasn’t able to spend as much time making cakes once filming for the show started because the employees were often being pulled aside for interviews.
So Mr. Goldman shifted the company’s business model, scaling down the production and designating more energy to fewer, creative requests ranging from a Hogwarts castle to a three-foot replica of an Old Bay Seasoning can.
With less revenue from the cakes, Charm City has compensated over time with licensing deals, books, speaking events and money from the show, which, Mr. Goldman says, doesn’t add up to much once the whole staff is paid. He declined to provide figures, but said that “if the show were to disappear tomorrow, we’d still be in the black.” The Food Network said it wasn’t able to provide comment on the show.
While the article focuses on the businesses that are featured on the shows, I am currently making a list of shows that are beneficial to entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship students. Looking for lesson’s within the quest for good content among television producers.
Please add your thoughts in the comments section below or email us at CampusEntrepreneurship@gmail.com. Thanks.