What ‘Silicon Valley’ Can Teach Us About Entrepreneurs
You would think that after some thirty odd years, the tech industry would have accrued more parodies. But with only one movie and a handful of geeky shows available to watch we’re not even close to getting started.
One show rises above the rest in its wit, charm, and outright ability to roast its namesake. HBO’s Silicon Valley is what other geeky tv shows wish they could be.Today I’m going to take a look past the gags. And we’ll discover together what Silicon Valley’s writers actually think about entrepreneurs.
1. “I’m Offering You $4 Million Right Now!”
From the very beginning of the show, our protagonist, Richard Hendricks, falls head first into the whirlwind of Silicon Valley’s startup culture.
His boss at Hooli catches wind of his “game-changing” compression software and offers to buy it. At the same time, a Bill Gates-esque Peter Gregory offers to fund Hendricks’ possible startup, Pied Piper.
The poor young software engineer is literally on the phone with Gregory as Hooli’s Gavin Belson ups the ante to $10 million.
The insanity of the moment so rocks Hendricks that he leaves the room and pukes in a trashcan. But in the end, he decides to go with Peter Gregory’s offer of $200,000 and a 10% stake in Pied Piper over Belson’s $10 million buyout.
When visiting a doctor for his sudden (and understandable) anxiety, he learns about another entrepreneur who was faced with the same situation. The doctor can’t remember what the guy chose, but only that he had blown his eyes out trying to kill himself in the end.
While Hendrick’s situation is quite funny for the audience, it’s pretty realistic for anyone who has tried to gain funding for their startup.
Throughout the show, other people in Silicon Valley spout their ongoing or failed startup attempts. Even the lowly clerk at a local liquor store has a startup idea.
But only entrepreneurs know how low of a blow these opening scenes really are. You feel bad for the joe-shmo with the startup idea. You feel the weird exhilarating anxiety Hendricks experiences.
But above all, you realize that this comedy is actually the harsh reality we all live in. If you don’t take the $10 million dollars will you regret it later? Or if you take the startup money, will you fail miserably and wish for the $10 million?
We see both the plankton who get gobbled by the likes of Facebook and the fish that morph into whales (the Microsofts and McAfees of the world).
But what’s the lesson Silicon Valley wants us to learn up front?
Don’t always take the $10 million. Don’t be a sell-out. But just so you know, you could end up a clerk at some liquor store if your idea actually isn’t good.
2. “I Didn’t Know Any of This Stuff Was Due Yet…”
Entrepreneurship isn’t exactly like fishing. You can’t just toss a line out there hoping for clients to bite.
But some entrepreneurs make that exact mistake.
At the beginning of Silicon Valley, Richard Hendricks makes a similar mistake.
He shows up to his first meeting with Peter Gregory empty-handed.
Gregory starts listing off various business items including a business plan. Richard and his “co-founder,” Erlich, sit there dumbfounded. “I didn’t know any of this stuff was due yet…”, Richard stammers.
Gregory berates the newly minted CEO saying, “DUE?” He explains in exasperation that the compression algorithm is merely the product. That he’s asking about the company, Pied Piper, that will deliver the product.
He sends our show’s not-so-dynamic duo away with an actual deadline to fulfill.
“This Isn’t A High School Project.”
Over and over again in the first few episodes, Hendricks is taken aback as more and more business duties thwack him over the head.
We see him unable to cash his startup check because he never registered Pied Piper with the IRS. He runs out of money (credit) almost immediately. And he narrowly avoids getting beat up by a pipe layer over the purchase of his company’s name.
If you’re an entrepreneur, you may not run into some of these silly mishaps. But you might have assumed your product or service was enough.
You might have even created a website, started a crowdfunding campaign or just thrown a few ads onto the internet. And soon you found it’s not enough. This isn’t fishing, it’s business.
And you completely forgot about the business that delivers your product or service.
I might be preaching to the choir when I say entrepreneurship isn’t as easy as a high school group project. But sometimes, we just need to remember the basics.
Do the foundational work of starting your business before you go full steam with your ideas, services, or products. A business plan, registration, copyrights, etc.
Plan several AdWords campaigns ahead. And incorporate these plans into your overall business plan. If you’re struggling to do that, click here for some useful AdWords advice.
If you line up all of these things correctly, your backers and investors will bow at your feet.
And you’ll be more likely to succeed.
3. “The More Eyes On it the Better, I Guess”
From watching movies like The Social Network, you already know where this is going. And yet, you’re still going, “UGH! Don’t let them see your work!”
If you’ve seen the show, you know Richard Hendricks lands himself in hot water long before he even knows about Pied Piper’s potential. The character has such a bad case of imposter syndrome that even the slightest interest in his website garners trust.
He quickly realizes the Hooli software engineers he’s talking to are just making fun of him. But it’s too late. He’s already given them access to his groundbreaking algorithm.
It comes back to bite him later. Hooli’s CEO puts together a team to reverse engineer Hendricks’ software and try to beat Pied Piper to market.
Don’t Give Away the Secret Sauce
Learn from countless entrepreneurs before you. Trust no one.
Don’t give in to flattery. Your idea is your baby.
No matter if it’s wiper blade technology or a revolutionary surgical technology, don’t give away your secret to anybody. Have everyone you meet with sign an NDA. And keep everything as confidential as you can.
Even if you’re in the process of pitching, you could see someone else living your dream if you’re not careful.
“We Could Be the Vikings of Our Day!”
Almost every minute of Silicon Valley is filled to the brim with useful and biting satire. If you haven’t watched the show, it’s time to start binging all four seasons.
And while you’re watching, engage. You’ll learn a lot more about yourself than you ever should while watching a sit-com.
And once you’re done bunging the show and are ready to get your business idea rolling, be sure to contact us.