We’ve been hearing about Apple’s first major push into video for some time now, and it’s finally here: Planet of the Apps – a reality show that sees developers pitch their apps to VCs in the hopes of scoring funding and making it big – is out now.
The first episode is available for free on iTunes, as well as on the show’s own site; subsequent episodes will be available to subscribers of Apple Music. Wondering whether it’s worth 45 minutes tonight? I watched the premiere episode to help you decide. Oh, and you can check out the trailer below:
It’s no secret that apps are big business; Apple netted $28 billion in revenue from iOS apps in 2016 alone, and paid out $20 billion to developers last year. So, while Planet of the Apps sounds gimmicky, includes will.i.am and looks a lot like many other reality shows, it does make a decent attempt to show how people might make those big bucks.
If you’ve watched Shark Tank, you’ll find Planet of the Apps’ format to be fairly similar. Developers have 60 seconds to deliver an ‘escalator pitch’ to a panel of four advisors, who will swipe left or right on tablets to indicate their interest in the idea. If any of them like the pitch, they can offer to mentor the entrepreneurs for six weeks as they prepare to meet VCs from Lightspeed Venture Partners and try to raise money.
The first episode focuses on two apps: Companion – which lets you share your real-time location with trusted contacts to feel safer while traveling – and Pair, an augmented reality tool for visualizing furniture in your room before you buy it.
Both apps seem to have compelling business stories behind them, and the advisors’ panel – which includes Jessica Alba, Gary Vaynerchuk, Gwyneth Paltrow and Will.i.am – does a decent job examining their viability and relevance, as well as the strengths of the team.
The second phase for the devs involves working with the advisors they choose (if they make the cut, that is) to gear up for a more gruelling pitch.
This time around, we got to see Vaynerchuk cut through the BS and drop some truth bombs about how Companion needed to position its service as Google had just launched a virtually identical product. Meanwhile, Alba is excited about Pair’s prospects, but is unable to help founder Andrew Kemendo focus on what will really help his business take off.
The VC pitch segment is significantly more difficult for the entrepreneurs, but I was glad that it wasn’t awash with unnecessary tension and drama. And for the most part, I could say the same about the rest of the show.
However, Planet of the Apps doesn’t entirely avoid all the tropes of similar reality shows, and it suffers a bit as a result of that.
The show could certainly do without diving into developers’ backstories about their families, or giving inarticulate ol’ will.i.am any amount of screen time (dismissing a dating app, he said, “Because I have sisters, I don’t want my sister, and my cousin Mimi who is hot and looks like Beyoncé, to have any more pressure than she has going to the club, with hawks and vultures swarming around her.” Fair point, Will, but we don’t need to hear about your crush on Mimi.).
Instead, I’d love to see PotA go deeper into more intricacies of the app launch process and the challenges of growing a business, building a strong global brand and addressing issues like safety, security and ethics. I’d watch the shit out of that, and wouldn’t mind subscribing to Apple Music to access the other nine episodes.
So, yeah, it’s not the worst thing you’ll ever watch, but it’s not the best show Apple could’ve made – yet. Check out the first episode for free for a limited time here.