E-Survivor!

How about a reality TV show in which dot-commers vie for funding?

By Katharine Mieszkowski
July 11, 2000 11:11PM (UTC)
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Note to ZDTV programming execs: Here's a $100 million idea for a new show, sure to rake in the viewers and ad revenue. Combine the craze for reality TV programming with the increasingly desperate lust of start-ups looking for funding, and you have ...

"Who Wants to Be an E-Millionaire?"

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Just gather a panel of the usual suspects: VCs, journalists, CEOs, analysts and assorted self-appointed techno pundits. But instead of inviting them to give snarky commentary on the day's tech news, let them loose to pepper sweating would-be entrepreneurs with rude questions about their flimsy business models.

"How do you plan to make money giving away your product?" "Do you have a single paying customer?" "You have how many employees already?" "So, seriously, how many weeks until you run out of cash?"

"Is that your final answer?"

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At the end of the week, whoever holds up best under this humiliating grilling gets lavishly funded by a sponsoring venture firm. Surely the winning company will be able to go straight from its first round of financing to an IPO, skipping all those expensive in-between rounds, since the invaluable name recognition from appearing on the show will make any company a winner with the general public, now known as stock-market investors.

This is just the "nail-biting, yet upbeat" programming, we need in these times of dot-com doldrums. Think of it as a public service to help jump-start the stalled market for Internet IPOs. Besides, it's not all that different from those dog-and-pony-show conferences like Ready, Set, Pitch.

Best of all there's already a European precedent to steal ideas from. This week, in the U.K., "The Emillionaire Show" launched, offering entrepreneurs a chance to compete on TV for 2 million pounds (about $3 million) of funding. Those zany Brits invite the viewers to choose the winners!

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American TV execs have already gleefully copied reality shows like "Survivor" and "Big Brother" from their Euro-counterparts. Why not respectfully borrow a bit from "The Emillionaire Show"?

Really, it's a little embarrassing that here in Silicon Valley we're so "behind the curve" in creating a Net biz reality show of our own. But like they say in the dot-com business: "First-mover advantage" is great, but it doesn't always make you the winner.


Katharine Mieszkowski

Katharine Mieszkowski is a senior writer for Salon.

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