Reality Check: Did Bloomberg TV Show Taint the TechStars Brand?

Bloomberg's TechStars finale, which included a cast reunion.

The finale of the TechStars reality show is out, and it’s starting to look like Bloomberg took the Davids for a ride. Everyone in TechStars was required to participate–Bloomberg kept referring to the show as a documentary, and the program directors insisted it would be good publicity for everyone. “Tisch and Cohen fought VERY hard to make sure the finale episode was positive,” Melanie Moore, one of the first New York session alumni who was uncharitably portrayed, wrote on Hacker News last night when her blog post, “TechStars, Lies and Videotape,” hit the front page. “They felt just as disappointed and betrayed by Bloomberg as I.”

The show stitched together unrelated scenes and built a narrative that was in places entirely fabricated. It made Ms. Moore look like a ditz, David Tisch look like jerk and Jason Baptiste look like a braggert. But how did it make TechStars look?

From the Hacker News comments:

  • “It’s nice that the startup founders are defending Techstars, but as a potential applicant, this whole thing does raise red flags for me. Doing a startup is hard enough with your personal emotional ups and downs. To add a reality tv show to that just seems like the worst idea ever. Maybe it’s good for media startups to get as much press as possible, good or bad. But this blog post seems to suggest otherwise. If the people running Techstars really got fooled by Bloomberg, then how can I trust these people about giving good startup advice?” –revorad
  • “This actually reflects poorly on TechStars that they gave so much access to a media source without proper negotiaion and/or enforcement.” –badclient
  • “But still, forcing companies to do something or drop out? That is not how an accelerator should treat its companies, like they were your bosses. The only boss a startup should have is its customers, and now TS, due to its poor judgement has done the opposite of what it was meant to do. Not only do they make poor calls, but they also bully founders?” –abbasmehdi

And the worst:

  • “I would be shocked if PG allowed a program like this about YC to air.” –marcamillion

Ms. Moore and the other Bloomberg stars jumped to the incubator’s defense. “Please do not let the show color your opinion of TechStars. I would do the program over in a heartbeat, and made lifelong friends and mentors along the way,” she told one potential applicant, who answered: “I’m not. Friends and advisors who have gone through it or are otherwise related to the program have very highly recommended it so we’re still full speed ahead on the application. Incidentally, our company is working in technology around video editing.”

Says Mr. Tisch, by email: “The show presents only a tiny fraction of what actually happened–under one percent of what was probably filmed was used, and obviously focuses on drama. Our goal was to encourage mentorship and to help others understand the difficulties and challenges of doing a startup and we hope that’s the case. But people do have to remember that they’re watching TV–a narrated and massively summarized version of events.” Reality Check: Did Bloomberg TV Show Taint the TechStars Brand?