Top Business TV Shows for Startup Founders
Business TV shows shed light directly on the challenges, dilemmas, and common experiences faced by entrepreneurs. Use the shows below to gain insights, knowledge, and lessons that you can apply to your startup.
1. StartUp (2016–2018)
- Creator(s): Ben Ketai
- Stars: Adam Brody, Edi Gathegi, Otmara Marrero
- Where to Watch: Crackle, Amazon Prime
“StartUp” was a drama series released directly to the web. The story follows the creation of GenCoin, a cryptocurrency startup in Miami. Founder and CEO Nick Talman (Adam Brody) is passionate about his product and vision. However, he quickly learns that starting a business is not as easy as it seems. The show highlights the challenges faced by startup founders, such as finding funding, building a team, and building a great team.
2. Shark Tank (2009–Present)
- Creator(s): Mark Burnett
- Stars: Kevin O'Leary, Mark Cuban, Robert Herjavec, Lori Greiner Daymond, John Barbara Corcoran, etc.
- Where to Watch: ABC, Hulu
“Shark Tank” gives everyday entrepreneurs a chance to pitch their business in front of a star-studded cast, including Mark Cuban, Kevin O'Leary, and Lori Greiner. The Sharks offer their own money for a stake in the business. But they're also known for being tough negotiators. Each episode provides valuable insights into how to pitch to investors and what they look for in their investments.
3. Silicon Valley (2014–2019)
- Creator(s): Mike Judge, John Altschuler and Dave Krinsky
- Stars: Thomas Middleditch, T.J. Miller, Josh Brener, Martin Starr, Kumail Nanjiani, Zach Woods, Amanda Crew, Matt Ross, Jimmy O. Yang
- Where to Watch: HBO
The popular HBO show “Silicon Valley” is a must-watch for startup entrepreneurs. The show follows the journey of Richard Hendricks (Thomas Middleditch), a shy computer programmer who creates a revolutionary new compression algorithm. He then tries to navigate the cutthroat world of Silicon Valley to take his company public. Even in this comedy series, entrepreneurs can still learn creative ways to stand out in competitive markets.
4. Dragons’ Den (2001–Present)
- Creator(s): Nippon TV
- Stars: Evan Davis, Peter Jones, Rachel Elnaugh, Theo Paphitis, Deborah Meaden, James Caan, Hilary Devey, etc.
- Where to Watch: BBC One
“Dragons’ Den” was the original version of “Shark Tank,” starting in Japan and then remade in the UK. The show features a panel of successful entrepreneurs, or "dragons," who hear pitches from startup founders and decide whether or not to invest. Like “Shark Tank,” “Dragons’ Den” is a great show for entrepreneurs who want to learn how to gain an advantage when pitching their businesses to angel investors.
5. Better Call Saul (2015–2022
- Creator(s): Vince Gilligan, Peter Gould
- Stars: Bob Odenkirk, Jonathan Banks, Rhea Seehorn, Patrick Fabian
- Where to Watch: AMC, Netflix
“Better Call Saul” was a spinoff of the highly acclaimed series, Breaking Bad. It follows the story of Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk), a small-time lawyer who starts to represent criminals. While the show is a great example of how not to run a business, it's still entertaining and provides insights into getting creative when pushed to your limits.
6. The Dropout (2022)
- Creator(s): Elizabeth Meriwether
- Stars: Amanda Seyfried, Naveen Andrews
- Where to Watch: Hulu
“The Dropout” follows aspiring entrepreneur Elizabeth Holmes (Amanda Seyfried) as she drops out of college to start her own company. The show is based on the true story of Elizabeth Holmes and her now-defunct blood-testing startup, Theranos. Even though the company was a massive failure, “The Dropout” is a case study on the overpriced unicorn and the dangers of Silicon Valley greed.
7. Halt and Catch Fire (2014–2017)
- Creator(s): Christopher Cantwell, Christopher C. Rogers
- Stars: Lee Pace, Scoot McNairy, Mackenzie Davis, Kerry Bishé
- Where to Watch: Netflix, Amazon Prime
“Halt and Catch Fire” is a bit of a history lesson for startup entrepreneurs. The show is set in the early days of the internet and follows a group of people who are trying to create a new computer. While the show is fictional, it's based on real events and provides valuable insights into how startups can change the world. Any entrepreneur wanting to brush up on marketing and operational techniques can learn the evolution of Halt and Catch fire.
8. Mad Men (2007–2015)
- Creator(s): Matthew Weiner
- Stars: Jon Hamm, Elisabeth Moss, Vincent Kartheiser, January Jones, Christina Hendricks, John Slattery, Rich Sommer, etc.
- Where to Watch: AMC, Prime Video
Described by some publications as one of the greatest shows of all time, “Mad Men” follows the personal and professional lives of employees at one of the top advertising agencies in New York City in the 1960s. Of course, it’s important to note that “Mad Men” is an exaggerated version of the free-living times of the 1960s. Nevertheless, it is a well-written show worth watching for its ability to showcase the creation of many marketing tactics still used today.
9. The Profit (2013–2021)
- Creator(s): Marcus Lemonis
- Stars: Marcus Lemonis
- Where to Watch: Peacock TV
Marcus Lemonis stars in this reality show where he offers to help struggling businesses turn around their misfortune for investment into the business. He usually invests his own money into the business and becomes a partner. “The Profit” is a great show for entrepreneurs who want to learn how to turn around a failing business and the financial dealings of creating a partnership. Marcus Lemonis provides valuable insights and strategies that one can apply to any business.
10. Billions (2016–Present)
- Creator(s): Brian Koppelman, David Levien, and Andrew Ross Sorkin
- Stars: Paul Giamatti, Damiam Lewis, Maggie Stiff, David Costabile
- Where to Watch: Showtime
“Billions” is a fictional story inspired by the actions of real people. The show is set in the world of high finance and follows two main characters: a billionaire hedge fund owner and the United States Attorney who prosecutes him. “Billions” is a great example of how greed in high finance can easily turn illegal when the goal is profits at no cost.
11. Empire (2015–2020)
- Creator(s): Lee Daniels, Danny Strong
- Stars: Terrence Howard, Taraji P. Henson, Bryshere Y. Gray, Jussie Smollett, and Trai Byers
- Where to Watch: Hulu
“Empire” stars a family trying to navigate the cutthroat world of the music industry. While “Empire” is a fictional account, it's a great example of how family dynamics can affect business. The show also does a good job of highlighting the power struggles that can happen in any organization.
12. Ballers (2015–2019)
- Creator(s): Stephen Levinson
- Stars: Dwayne Johnson, John David Washington, Donovan W. Carter, Troy Garity
- Where to Watch: Hulu, HBO, Amazon Prime,
“Ballers” stars Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson as a retired NFL player who is now working as a financial manager for other NFL players. “Ballers” is an excellent example of how to handle money and how to manage client relationships. The show also does well when highlighting the importance of networking and building relationships.
13. House of Lies (2012–2016)
- Creator(s): Matthew Carnahan
- Stars: Don Cheadle, Kristen Bell, Ben Schwartz, Josh Lawson
- Where to Watch: Hulu, Amazon Prime, Showtime, Paramount Plus
“House of Lies'' is a comedy-drama series about management consultants who will do anything to get the job done. The main character, Marty Kaan, is arrogant and often uses unethical methods to get what he wants. The show is based on a book by Martin Kihn and is a loose portrayal of his time as a former consultant at Booze Allen Hamilton. The show is a dramatized depiction of the high finance lifestyle and the dangers of succumbing to corporate greed. Entrepreneurs looking for a warning tale about how not to run your business will find “House of Lies” entertaining.
14. Planet of the Apps (2017)
- Creator(s): Howard Owens, Ben Silverman, will.i.am
- Stars: Jessica Alba, Gwyneth Paltrow, Gary Vaynerchuk, Will.i.am
- Where to Watch: Apple Music
“Planet of the Apps,” created by Apple, showcases app developers as they compete for a spot on Apple's App Store. The show is hosted by will.i.am, Jessica Alba, and Gwyneth Paltrow and features guest appearances from celebrities such as NBA star Shaquille O'Neal and singer Usher. Entrepreneurs get 60 seconds to pitch their ideas to famous investors. The entire time they are on a slow-moving escalator (much like the classic elevator pitch moniker). While the show ultimately only had one season, it's an interesting look into how quickly decisions can be made in the tech world.
15. Billion Dollar Buyer (2016)
- Creator(s): David Tibballs
- Stars: Tilman Fertitta
- Where to Watch: Peacock TV, Amazon Prime
“Billion Dollar Buyer” was a short-lived reality-based show that follows Tilman Fertitta, owner of Landry's Inc. and the Houston Rockets, as he goes around the country visiting small businesses to try their products with an eye toward investing in them. The show is great for entrepreneurs who want to know what it takes to convince an investor to fund their project. Consumer businesses will learn the techniques and nuances of securing funding and business operations.
16. The Grand Hustle (2018–Present)
- Creator(s): T.I.
- Stars: Clifford "T.I." Harris
- Where to Watch: Amazon Prime, BET
Clifford "T.I." Harris, the famous musician, created “The Grand Hustle” as a way to give back to his community. The show is set in Atlanta and features 16 aspiring entrepreneurs who compete for a chance to win a spot on T.I.'s team and receive a $250,000 investment. “The Grand Hustle” is unique in that it focuses on entrepreneurs who are people of color (POC) and/or come from disadvantaged backgrounds. T.I. showcases what it takes to earn a place as a successful entrepreneur.
17. Mary Queen of Shops (2007–2010)
- Creator(s): Optomen
- Stars: Mary Portas
- Where to Watch: Amazon Prime
“Mary Queen of Shops” is a British reality show that follows retail expert Mary Portas as she tries to turn around struggling businesses. Portas visits each store personally and does a complete analysis of what works and what needs changing. Mary Portas is a successful TV star who has been creating entrepreneurial shows for decades. Startups in the retail space will learn firsthand the techniques and methods of creating a successful business in competitive spaces.
18. Dirty Money (2018)
- Creator(s): Netflix
- Stars: Mat Taibbi, Fisher Stevens, Alex Gibney, Fahmi Quadir
- Where to Watch: Netflix
“Dirty Money” is a documentary series that exposes the global financial system. The series is broken up into six episodes, each one focusing on a different aspect of the system. Crippling payday loans, cheating emissions tests, and other brazen acts of corporate greed and corruption are highlighted. The show captures what it's like to fight against these systems and the resulting need for change. Entrepreneurs looking to disrupt the industries highlighted in the docuseries will gain valuable insights on how they can help.
19. Kitchen Nightmares (2007–2014)
- Creator(s): Daniel Kay
- Stars: Gordon Ramsay
- Where to Watch: Fox, Amazon Prime, Hulu
Gordon Ramsay stars in this reality show as he tries to help struggling restaurants transform losses into profits. He uses his no-nonsense approach to help them turn things around and become successful. Ramsay is loud and entertaining, but his style and expertise in running successful restaurants is a master's course in hospitality. Restaurants are often remodeled and menus overhauled. Entrepreneurs in the hospitality space will appreciate the thorough operational lessons and unique insights gained.
20. WeCrashed (2022)
- Creator(s): Drew Crevello and Lee Eisenberg
- Stars: Jared Leto, Anne Hathaway, Kyle Marvin
- Where to Watch: Apple TV
“WeCrashed” was released in the same year as “The Dropout,” and both feature entrepreneurs who were caught up in chasing profits over building successful businesses. “WeCrashed” follows the rise and fall of WeWork, a gripping story of ambition, greed, and hubris. It's a cautionary tale for entrepreneurs who want to avoid making the same mistakes. It also offers an inside look into investors and what it's like to seek funding from the top venture capitalists in the world.