Hermione Way, one of the photogenic, brainy cast members of "Start-Ups: Silicon Valley," has a message for all those "haters" in the tech world who believe Bravo's new reality TV series is destined to be the ultimate horror show: Back off and chill out.

"I think it's crazy that a place so open to new ideas and ventures would be so averse to a little cable TV project," she says.

"Start-Ups" is an eight-episode cable series that follows six budding tech entrepreneurs as they market their ideas and try to strike it rich. The show, which debuts Monday, began generating controversy even before production began early last summer. Many in Silicon Valley expressed concern that prying TV cameras would misrepresent or trivialize the important work being done. Moreover, the critics reasoned that any show from the network that subjected the world to the "Real Housewives" would be awash in vapidity -- even if social media maven Randi Zuckerberg (Mark's sister) brought some tech cred as an executive producer.

Bravo, which is holding a premiere party Sunday in San Francisco rather than Silicon Valley, certainly did nothing to quell apprehension when it released preview clips a few weeks ago that depicted attractive youngsters not hard at work, but lounging poolside, chugging booze at toga parties and boasting about how "geeks are the new rock stars."

So is Hollywood about to turn Silicon Valley into a big, fat punch line?

"It is making us look like the 'Jersey Shore,' only without the tans," groused high-profile tech writer Sarah Lacy, one of the show's most vehement critics. In a tirade-filled blog post, Lacy went on to say, "I hope (Zuckerberg) made plenty of money off the deal, because as far as I'm concerned she's sold her Silicon Valley soul for 15 minutes of fame on basic cable."


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Regarding the overall outcry, fellow blogger Kevin Roose observed that "There hasn't been this much weeping and gnashing of teeth in Silicon Valley since Limewire got shut down."

Zuckerberg isn't surprised by the negativity. Silicon Valley, she says, has long been "a very closed community." But she insists her show will be both informative and entertaining.

"The reality is that so many people are fascinated by what goes on here," she said via email. "I think we are portraying the experiences of six actual people as authentically as possible. Is it representative of everybody's experience here? No. But some people spend 16 hours a day in front of their computer. That doesn't make for very good television.

"At the end of the day, we couldn't excite people about what's going on in Silicon Valley if we didn't make an interesting show."

As for the hard partying, Zuckerberg says, "Entrepreneurs, like everyone, need to blow off steam every once in a while."

It remains to be seen how the tech sector will react when it finally sets its sights on the full-fledged series. Monday's opening episode, made available to television critics, reveals that those provocative trailers were slightly misleading.

Yes, the episode does reflect a life-in-the-fast-lane attitude, but it also contains scenes of Hermione and her brother, Ben Way, nervously pitching a fitness-related app to prominent venture capitalist Dave McClure. In addition, viewers spend some time at the keyboard with Dwight Crow, a high-energy "programming savant" who happens to "dream in code."

"This is a slice of life that actually exists," says Crow, who provides the series with some comic relief. "I didn't modify my actions for the show. If anything, maybe I had a few more women approach me in the bars because of the TV cameras."

But make no mistake, "Start-Ups" is a largely formulaic reality series imprinted with the genre's stock characters and cliches. In a plotline given substantial play, Hermione Way and Sarah Austin, formerly good friends, are cast as the show's requisite catfight drama queens, locked in a feud over an incident that occurred before filming began. It's a dust-up made messier by the fact that Austin occasionally hooks up with Way's brother.

"That first episode gives you just a little taste of the conflict," teases Austin, a native of Marin. "Ugh. It gets a lot worse than that. We're not even talking to each other now."

"It's kind of sad to see a friendship fall apart," says Way, who admits she tried to persuade producers not to cast Austin. "But that's what happens when people like her get crazy."

While the series is sure to garner much attention in Silicon Valley -- at least early on -- it won't be a ratings hit for Bravo unless the network's overall audience is eager to embrace beautiful, self-absorbed "brainiacs" as much as they do rowdy housewives. Zuckerberg believes the time is right.

"I've noticed a trend that tech and entrepreneurship have gone more and more mainstream," she says. "Starting a business is a major part of the American dream. From the success of 'The Social Network,' to shows like 'Shark Tank' and 'The Big Bang Theory,' startup and geek culture is all the rage right now. (Our show) helps fan those flames."

Moreover, adds Hermione Way, "Silicon Valley is the sexiest place in the world. There's nowhere else where you can take a good idea in someone's head and turn it into global dominance and millions of dollars so quickly. People here sacrifice everything to hit it big and that makes for good drama."

And possibly good business. Unlike some reality shows where participants might be in it for Hollywood glory, the savvy individuals on "Start-Ups" have their eyes on the bottom line.

"It's a chance to put your startup in front of millions of eyeballs," Way says. "What entrepreneur wouldn't want that kind of exposure?"

"I'm looking big-picture," Austin adds, while referencing Bethenny Frankel, a woman who used reality TV to pump up her various business ventures.

As for how they'll come across to viewers through the often-unflattering prism of reality TV, these tech types aren't all that concerned.

"I really don't care," Crow says. "Most of my friends work very long hours and they don't own TVs anyway."

Read Chuck Barney's TV blog at http://blogs.mercurynews.com/aei/category/tv. Follow him at Twitter.com/chuckbarney.

'Start-Ups: silicon Valley'
When: 10 p.m. Monday
Where: Bravo

Meet the cast
Here's a rundown of the six Bay Area entrepreneurs at the center of "Start-Ups: Silicon Valley":
Ben Way, 32: A native of the United Kingdom, he allegedly made and lost millions of dollars before turning 22. Now, he's hoping to hit pay dirt again with the help of his sister -- just as long as their sibling rivalry doesn't screw things up.
Hermione Way, 27: A former journalist and marketing specialist, she's transitioning from covering technology news to making it. She's locked in a bitter feud with Sarah and is never one to shy away from a party.
Sarah Austin, 26: Raised in Mill Valley, she claims to be the Internet's first "life-caster," broadcasting her daily routine for the world to see. Clearly, she's comfortable in front of the camera -- and with speaking her mind.
Dwight Crow, 26: A UC Berkeley graduate, he's a high-energy "programming savant" who likes to party with his hacker buddies and solve complex algorithms while playing beer pong.
David Murray, 29: He claims to be one missed mortgage payment away from losing everything, so he's pushing hard to create the next big app without funding.
Kim Taylor, 30: A Midwest transplant and former NBA dancer, she has already helped lead one young company to success. Now she's trying to blaze her own path.