The Great Recession threatened the well-being of tens of millions of Americans, dramatically weakened the working class, hollowed out the middle class, and strengthened the position of the very wealthy. Against this backdrop, the hit reality show Shark Tank premiered in 2009. Featuring ambitious entrepreneurs chasing support from celebrity investors, the show offered a version of the American Dream that still seemed possible to many, where a bright idea and a well-honed pitch could lift a bootstrap business to new heights of success. More than a decade later, Shark Tank still airs regularly on multiple networks, and its formula has sparked imitators everywhere, from elite universities to elementary school classrooms.
In Entertaining Entrepreneurs: Reality TV's Shark Tank and the American Dream in Uncertain Times (UNC Press, 2020), Daniel Horowitz shows how Shark Tank's version of entrepreneurship disguises and distorts the opportunities and traps of capitalism. Digging into today's cult of the entrepreneur, Horowitz charts its rise from the rubble of economic crisis and its spread as a mainstay of American culture, and he explores its flawed view of what it really takes to succeed in business.
Horowitz offers more than a look at one television phenomenon. He is the perfect guide to the portrayal of entrepreneurship in business school courses, pitch competitions, popular how-to books, and scholarly works, as well as the views of real-world venture capitalists.
Nick Pozek is Assistant Director at the Parker School of Foreign & Comparative Law at Columbia University.
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