SIMPLIFYING TECH: Planet of the Apps

Source: Apple Music

As a huge fan of Gary Vaynerchuk, I was extremely excited about Planet of the Apps when he announced he would be one of the show’s advisors earlier this year. My Apple Music membership trial had just expired when the show debuted and I genuinely only renewed it to watch this show. I’ve gotten a lot of hate for that decision but I honestly believed in Apple’s vision with this show and was excited to see Gary share his knowledge and advice surrounding the app industry to a broader audience.

Planet of the Apps: Apple Music’s first original series focused on the app ecosystem. Participants pitch to four advisors in a sixty-second“escalator pitch” in the hope to get chosen to participate in a rapid incubation stage and later pitch to Lightspeed Ventures, a renowned VC firm.

I loved the idea of the show. So many people right now are interested in the “startup world” and are eager to learn more about app development, pitching and VC funding. Planet of the Apps had the potential to capture this demand and show the whole process from pitching to ideation and iteration to funding.

Watching the first four episodes, it became clear to me that the only valuable advisor has been Gary Vaynerchuk. I might be biased but the truth is Jessica Alba, Gwyneth Paltrow and Will.i.am have given very unfocused, scattered advice to their incubees and have actually gotten many of the apps they were supposed to be advising off track and hurt them more than helped them. Particularly I am referring to Jessica Alba with Pair, and Will.i.am with Tracks. Gwyneth had success with Dote but that honestly had nothing to do with her advice and everything to do with the amazing app her advisee had built.

Lightspeed Ventures on the other hand has added great value to this show in my opinion. We often don’t get to see the inside of a VC firm and hear how those pitches go. It’s been really interesting to hear the questions they ask and see Jeremy, Nicole, Alex and Aaron in action. While I don’t agree with all of their decisions, I have a lot of respect for them as a VC firm and think they have showed a great deal of knowledge and insight surrounding the industry.

The show and Apple have received a lot of criticism recently mostly directed at the concept and advisors. However, I believe that Planet of the Apps is an entertaining show that is introducing a lot of people to the world of mobile applications. It is not by any means perfect. It has quite a few flaws but the vision is still there and people like Gary and the Lightspeed Ventures partners make it worth the watch.

I could not publish this piece without mentioning how disappointed I am in how the show and Will.i.am handled Subway Talent and Special Guest. The two apps were virtually identical except for the fact that Subway Talent was founded by Bens Hilaire, a true hustler with no name-recognition and that Special Guest was co-founded by famous actor Damon Wayans Jr. and “serial entrepreneur” Kris Jones. Will.i.am chose to advise both apps which showed a clear conflict of interest and even though he tried to merge both apps, he did Bens a huge disservice by giving away some of Subway Talent’s best ideas to Damon and Special Guest. He then proceeded to go with both entrepreneurs to Lightspeed Ventures and was clearly behind Special Guest rather than Subway Talent. After the episode ended, I was left feeling angry and upset. Not because it wasn’t “fair” but because I think that Will.i.am failed to truly “advise” Bens and Subway Talent. I genuinely considered cancelling my Apple Music subscription and quitting watching the show altogether but decided I would rather finish this season and would continue to remain critical and engage on social media with Apple, Planet of the Apps and the advisors.


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