The actresses and businesswomen are judges and producers on 'Planet of the Apps'
Gwyneth Paltrow and Jessica Alba are adding another hyphen to their resumes. Combining their star power with their skills as the entrepreneurs behind Goop and The Honest Company, the two women form half of the judging panel for Apple Music’s first original series, Planet of the Apps.
The new show, which debuts on Apple Music on June 6 at 9 p.m. PT, follows aspiring app developers as they pitch their apps to the judging panel (which also includes will.i.am and Gary Vaynerchuk) for a chance to earn a share in more than $10 million of venture capital investment, as well as featured placement on the Apple app store. They have just 60 seconds to convince at least one of the judges to hear the rest of their pitch. If selected, the developers work with their mentor to refine their app and their pitch before presenting to Lightspeed Venture Partners.
The first episode will be available for free on planetoftheapps.com and iTunes, and the remainder of the episodes will be available exclusively on Apple Music each week on Tuesday evenings. Gwyneth Paltrow and Jessica Alba sat down with EW to talk about what it’s like to enter the world of reality television judging and the unexpected challenges and rewards of the show.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How did you guys get involved with the show, and what attracted you to the project?
GWYNETH PALTROW: I think Ben [Silverman] called me. And then he said he had the idea, and then I went and met Howard [Owens] and we went to [Apple Music chief Jimmy Iovine’s] house, and they asked me a lot about my business. … I realized about 15 minutes in, “This is my audition, they’re seeing if I know what I’m talking about.” It was like all these super hardcore business questions. It was really fun, and actually from that, Jimmy ended up investing in my company, so I was like this is a win-win no matter what. … I was very interested in the idea that the whole thing could happen end-to-end under the Apple umbrella — that it could be sort of contained within their ecosystem, that there was a real privacy element to it. And control, from a supply chain kind of all the way from the beginning to the end, and that there weren’t going to be commercials. So, it was really a way to celebrate content, creativity, entrepreneurship, and I felt there was a lot of kinship between the DNA of the show, which was to find someone great and amplify what they’re doing, to the DNA of Goop. And that’s what we do, try to connect people to whatever, the best hotdog stand, and amplify that guy’s business or whatever the case may be. So, I just felt like it was a really good fit, and I definitely wasn’t expecting or looking to do something like this, but the opportunity presented itself, and so I hopped onboard.
JESSICA ALBA: I’ve known Ben [Silverman] for quite a while. He mentioned the show, and I basically said, “Hollywood doesn’t know how to do tech.” And if you’re going to do it, it should be done right, and it shouldn’t be glamorized. You should really get into the nitty-gritty of what it actually takes. … I thought that this was a very contained way for me to do that without me having to completely have a third career. And then also, I just loved the instant gratification, that you can watch a show, you can download the app right away, and it really gives the entrepreneurs a platform that they would never be able to have without doing the show. So I just thought it was such a great opportunity for people who have dreams, who want to create something that doesn’t exist in the world, and a lot of us entrepreneurs are trying to make the world a better place one way or another. I know it sounds a bit high and mighty, but it’s true. We all have a mission and a purpose across all of our different industries that we’re in, and you can see that in every entrepreneur, certainly the ones that get through and get chosen. And I think that’s ultimately what technology is here to do, is to enhance our lives and make it better.
Unlike a lot of other competition shows like this, like The Voice or Shark Tank, you guys all seem so respectful of each other and very aware of what everyone’s strengths and weaknesses are and who people should go with for that reason, as opposed to being very competitive or creating drama for the camera. How did that approach come into it, and was it something you all wanted from the get-go?
ALBA: That’s that Hollywood thing that we wouldn’t do. … It kind of just happened naturally.
PALTROW: Also, a bit of a difference is we’ve all been there. We’ve all done our version of that pitch, so we all genuinely understand what it is to be in that position and understand the balls that it takes to have an idea, articulate the idea, and say, “Does anybody want to get behind me?” And so we have that respect for the developers and each other. And it’s just a different format. Because we’ve all been through it, we have probably an innate understanding and respect that the rest of the judges, not that they don’t on The Voice, but that wasn’t going to be part of the thing.
ALBA: We felt the gravity of people’s lives are kind of riding these businesses a lot of times. They don’t have a back-up plan, and so just being also cognizant of who’s going to be the best fit to help you take this idea to the next level and self-aware enough on our end to know where we fit and how that can be leveraged.
You’re both very successful businesswomen in your own right; what do you think it takes to make a business or a product successful, and what do you look for in your collaborators?
Alba: Relentless drive. And creativity and optimism.
PALTROW: All of those. And I think really understanding what the values of the business are and making sure that the values always come first. … And just relentlessness. It’s really hard. There’s so many ups and downs, and there’s so many pieces to trying to build a business, and if the intention isn’t very, very clear and the business isn’t reflecting that intention, then it makes it much harder. I think it would be impossible.
As you mentioned, representation is an issue that comes up a lot in tech. When you’re sitting in the room and hearing these pitches, is that something you are really looking for? How did it factor in your decisions as judges? I loved the moment where you, Jessica, told the guys with the dating app, Twist, that they’d only looked at it from the male perspective because it was so true.
ALBA: I really let them have it. I didn’t mean to.
PALTROW: I really loved that.
ALBA: But I don’t think it serves any minority or underrepresented group to be coddled. Because the world won’t coddle you. So I actually believe in tough love, hard truths, black and white. So really, the people that we chose are people we just felt a connection to, a genuine connection to. I just wanted to make sure that Ben, when he was going out and casting, was aware they needed to make sure enough people were coming through the door that don’t all look the same. And he was very aware of that because it was important for all of us, in order for us to be involved, because we’re a pretty diverse group.
Both of your companies can appeal to anyone, but they appeal particularly to women; did the apps you were interested in or were looking to pursue fall within that demographic?
PALTROW: Again, to her point, we were looking for viable businesses and businesses that had the potential to genuinely work, that we could bring in front of the [venture capital firms], and we also felt like “Oh, I could use this in my life!” or “This resonates with me.”And I think that that’s the beautiful thing about the show is really anybody can have an idea and articulate the idea and bring it forward. It could be a man, a woman, a child, any race. There is space for ideas right now and space for innovation. We were very lucky; the apps that applied, it was a fantastic selection of really viable businesses, for the most part.
ALBA: When it comes to diversity, women are still underrepresented in so many different places, but one place we’re not underrepresented is we hold a majority of the household income, and we control that. And so do we understand that demo very well? Yeah, we do. But were we going after businesses that were just appealing to what we know? No. I mean you can do any kind of consumer insights or research. There’s tons of data that you can grab and understand — a niche market or a certain demo. It’s not that difficult. You still need the same business skill sets, as far as like how do you tackle the issue? What’s your purpose? Do you have the drive and the hustle?
You only have 60 seconds to decide if you’re interested. Did you feel like that was enough time? And if you were on the fence, were you more likely to go green (yes vote) or red (no vote)?
PALTROW: It changed throughout the course of the show. For the first couple of days, we were like kids in candy stores just going green on anything, like “Oh fantastic!” And then as our rosters started to fill up, we got a lot more discerning. If we did it again, we would do it differently. … There were a few times where, especially toward the end, where really our rosters were totally full, and we all went red, and it was horrifying. It was terrible, it was just awful.
ALBA: It sucked. … ‘Cause you’re like, “You’re so good, and this is such a good idea, but I’m full. Ughhhh.”
PALTROW: And then we couldn’t say that for TV. You couldn’t say, “You’re awesome, but I have no space,” so we just had to reject people. It was hard. It was really hard.
ALBA: But I mean all the rejection that we’ve been through only made us stronger, and it’s part of being an entrepreneur. You kind of have to take the kid gloves off and let them feel it because it’s not going to be the first time that someone’s going to say “no” or close a door in your face. You’re going to have to figure out how to burst through it.
From the footage I’ve seen, Jessica you generally seem to like to ask a lot of questions, whereas Gwyneth, you seem to like to sit back and take everything in and reflect. Do you find that those are your approaches in life in general to decision-making?
ALBA: [Laughing] I should probably ask fewer questions. I have an issue with that. It’s a personality flaw, thanks for pointing that out.
PALTROW: Probably, I mean, for me, I ask questions, but I am more of a feeler and a listener by nature, so that’s why I need to be with her on TV shows.
Was there anything unexpected from this process in terms of challenges or rewards? Did you learn about yourself and your companies as well?
PALTROW: It was way more challenging in terms of time commitment and engagement. It was like once we took on these people, we felt a genuine responsibility to actually mentor them, and we spent a lot of time. I actually, I still talk to them all the time. From a commitment perspective, it was challenging and more than I had anticipated, but it was an amazing time. Because if your role is to mentor somebody, what you’re essentially doing is taking stock of what you’ve learned, the mistakes you’ve made, the successes you’ve had, and you kind of coalesce them and then you translate them back out, so that provided an interesting opportunity in terms of like, “Oh yeah, I made that mistake terribly, I figured this out.” So in terms of reflecting on my business and some of the mistakes, the wins and losses that I’ve had, it was illuminating.
ALBA: The time commitment, we’re still running the businesses and then wanting to give so much time to each entrepreneur, so that was for me, a challenge just trying to do that…
PALTROW: And kids too…
ALBA: Yeah, your family. I mean, nothing is put on pause. Everything is still happening. And then as far as just reflecting on what got you to where you are, there aren’t very many times where we have the space to sit and reflect and really understand the depth of what it took and the grit that we had to have to get to where we are. And so that was pretty eye-opening for me.
Planet of the Apps