On last night’s episode of “Start-Ups: Silicon Valley,” the close-knit (like real close) brother-sister duo Ben Way and Hermione Way claimed to raise a $500,000 seed round for their health and wellness app Ignite–from respected angel investor Esther Dyson and Gramercy Ventures, no less.
(By email, Ms. Dyson confirmed that she invested $25,000. “I guess I would say the tech industry takes itself way too seriously….and anything that gets the public interested in either tech developments or a healthy lifestyle contributes some value to the world,” she said in response to questions about the perception of the show. We’ve reached out to Gramercy to confirm the size of its investment. But it’s worth noting that Gramercy managing partner Michael Gale delivered the good news shortly after saying, “I care about looking stupid”–perhaps in reference to the party he attended where Ms. Way pranced around in her birthday present, a strap-on.)
UPDATE: By email, Mr. Gale confirmed that Gramercy is an investor in Ignite, although not the size of the round. In an email to Betabeat, he wrote:
“We tried to ignore the whole reality TV aspect in making our investment decision and not be swayed too much by that. So we followed a fairly typical review process and made our decision. It is true however that within the context of reviewing the opportunity we did factor into consideration the TV show as a way to increase downloads of the app and that is an important part of the strategy. When the show was being filmed we had no idea what the response to the show would be nor what it would look like so we had no feel for pubic response to the show.
The company is off to a great start and we are very excited to be involved. We think there is a magnificent opportunity in this space and Ben and Hermione are very talented entrepreneurs.”
UPDATE II: Mr. Gale confirmed that Ignite raised a $500,000 round with $475,000 from Gramercy Ventures.
So after some deeply embarrassing, amateur hour attempts to pitch Dave McClure and Jeff Clavier, which involved napping under the conference room table and wondering if the firm would decide within the hour, it seems the Ways managed to make a semi-convincing case for their Wii Fit/Withings scale/Fitbit-like combo, sans prototype. A good thing since Mr. Way floated the possibility of stiffing their design company on camera.
The chance that viewers noticed the company’s big break? Pretty slim since Bravo tweeted out yesterday that the show would now be aired at 7pm Eastern/6pm Central on Tuesdays.
— Bravotv (@Bravotv) December 11, 2012
And that’s after already moving the show’s plum 10pm Monday slot, right after the capitalist screetch-fest “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.” As an earlier email from cast member David Murray seems to indicate, this latest change was not planned.
Bravo reps declined to comment, but it seems clear the blame lies with abysmal ratings. According to Futon Critic, the total audience for the November 27th episode, at its original time slot, was 512,000, down from 634,000 for the premiere. “Bravo is a big cable channel. 500K in prime time would not be good,” one ratings expert told Betabeat. “LOLWork,” the show about the Ben Huh and ICanHasCheezburger, appears to be faring even worse, the season finale is scheduled to air at 1.30am.
It seems all that hysteria that Randi Zuckerberg would bring barbarians to Silicon Valley’s gates may have been for naught. But cable execs with startup shows in the works–from the MTV show rumored to be produced by a Reddit cofounder to Mike Judge‘s version of the Valley–might want to take better care not to put recappers to sleep.
As for the Ways’ app Ignite, since the startup’s name competes with a New York lecture series, a Texas power company, and a social media firm, you’ll have to trek over to the unfortunate URL signup.goignite.it to find it. The current version of the app holds a two-star rating on iTunes and some scathing user commentary: “Sorry but bravo won’t help you succeed. Looks like this app was made by some kid over night.”