Sep 11, 2015 · 4 minutes

I was told by the producers of StartupU that this was the week that things would get “crazy.”

If by “crazy” you mean an absolute snore-fest for the first 21 minutes and a mild denouement where one entrepreneur finally got a tiny amount of truth talk, then yeah. Crrraaaaaazzzzy.

The “stars” this week were Ana-- a generally likable and genuine entrepreneur who wants to turn her brick-and-mortar nail salon into an “Uber of manicures”-- and Shawn (pictured above) -- a man very impressed with himself who wants to win the show more than he seems to want to build a company.

Before I continue, let me say, I’m beyond bored with the structure of this show. Every week, it targets two of the “students,” shows the staff and guests minimally-- at best-- help them, but mostly expose their weaknesses with no real consequence, and then it just leaves them while they move onto someone else next week. No one is kicked off. Hardly anyone seems to make any progress. And this weird round robin means that once you get slightly invested in a character you never hear from them again. It’s just bad TV.

Which is astounding because each week there is something absurd that would make you want to yell at your screen: There was David’s emerging douchey villainy, there was Keyonna’s absurd mask that would smush makeup on your face, there was Tony’s sad over-reliance on his mom and insistence that he’d 3D print houses without a jot of knowledge of 3D printing. When you describe the show it sounds hilarious. When you sit down to watch it, it’s just boring.

This week the plot line meant to infuriate viewers was Shawn-- who lied to the DraperU staff, thought he was too good to do any market research, gave another student another idea to keep warm for him in case his flamed out, and then petulantly stole it back.

I could spend 1,000 words writing about the character flaws of Shawn and the staff’s tepid, over-scared approach to dealing with it. But honestly what’s the point? The staff of DraperU doesn’t care so why should we?

Poor Sequoia -- Draper’s EIR who seems to do the bulk of the mentoring in the place-- gets lied to and doesn’t confront him but tells the camera “we’re gonna play” and that if she has anything to do with it (“and I do!”) he’ll have to defend himself at the “pivot meeting.” You might remember the pivot meetings are when the Draper staff brings in expert entrepreneurs who might have the balls to actually tell the students the things we’re all thinking.

Shawn telegraphs to Sequoia just how little he respects her. And ultimately, there’s no consequence. Rather than do anything, the staff kicks it upstairs to Tim who has a semi-tough love meeting with Shawn. Tim-- to his credit-- tells Shawn the things he should be telling most of the students. “I don’t see you making this happen. I don’t see the personality of the entrepreneur. . . maybe this isn’t the right path for you.”

Don’t get me wrong. I’m thrilled that someone is finally saying something other than “YOU COULD BE ONE OF THE BEST ENTREPRENEURS IN THE WORLD! THIS COULD BE ONE OF THE GREAT BUSINESSES OF ALL TIME!” But they manage still not to be direct. Rather than confronting him about his lies, gaming the system via two startups, and treating another student like a minion, they tell him the things they should have told Tony and Keyonna: I don’t see you making this happen. That would have been great feedback for them. Because they have no prototype, seem to make no progress, and are proposing absurd ideas.

Instead, the staff says none of that. And instead of saying, “Hey, what’s the deal? We have video footage and know you lied.” or “You need to respect the staff,” or “You need to pick one company and apologize to poor Robbie for using him” or even “We’re going to ‘expel’ you from this ‘university’ if you are breaking the rules of the system.” Tim says a bland mealy-mouthed “I don’t see you making this happen.”

He’s not likable but it’s hard to blame Shawn for gaming the “university,” any more than you can blame him for flaking on the silly “egg drop” that was supposed to teach the students to get a product out the door. (This after two weeks of hugging and coddling two students who don’t have anything close to a prototype, nor the ability to create one.) There seem no real rules, no bar for excellence, and ultimately, don’t even demand that the staff be treated with respect. They’re gonna get the “students” that kind of system deserves.