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‘Startup U’ showcases entrepreneurs in training

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Tim Draper joshes with students at Draper University in San Mateo in the new reality show “Startup U.” (Courtesy Tim Neely/ABC Family)

“Startup U” doesn’t look like a university.

The new ABC Family show, set at San Mateo’s Draper University, a seven-week bootcamp of sorts for good-looking young entrepreneurs run by venture capitalist Tim Draper, looks a lot like, well, reality TV.

The first episode, which airs at 10 p.m. today, introduces participants ages 18-30 vying to win funds to help them launch their business.

They include a former Miss USA with an idea for an online gift service for couples; her husband, who has a vague building construction-related plan; women who want to provide makeup and nail services, guys with dating and studying apps, a fellow offering a service related to medical marijuana and a woman who wants to sell colored kitty litter.

In the first episode, aided by program director Charlie Taibi and entrepreneur-in-residence Sequoia Blodgett, the students are asked to come up with a one-minute pitch.

But the show doesn’t spend much time showing them working on that exact thing. Instead, they watch wacky Draper repel down the university’s building on a rope. Or they see him jump, fully clothed in a suit, into a pool, and they all follow — even the woman in white pants.

In another session, they’re teamed up for a volleyball game in which they must make up new rules. It’s a scene that’s difficult for work-a-day world viewers to understand. How does Draper’s insistence on a a new twist to an old game (in the show, the players carry each other, or call out a color during each play) add to the value of the contestants’ burgeoning business plans?

When the students at last do give their pitch, it’s clear they have a lot to learn about presentation. Some of their ideas seem flimsy. Others simply need to work on public speaking skills, about to how excite, rather than bore, listeners.

If upcoming episodes of “Startup U” focus more on the students’ actual ideas, rather than high jinks and hanging around in beanbag chairs, perhaps the show might have the “Shark Tank”-style appeal its promoters are pushing. Until then, it’s about a C.

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