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?"
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?"
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!
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.