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10 Things Entrepreneurs Can Learn From HBO’s Silicon Valley

10 Things Entrepreneurs Can Learn From HBO’s Silicon Valley

The third season of HBO’s critically acclaimed comedy Silicon Valley premiered last week (alongside Game of Thrones, no less!). The fanfare might have been lesser than GoT, but what it lacks in quantity was made up in quality. Apparently, Mark Zuckerberg wears a Pied Piper t-shirt to work, and Sergey Brin and Larry page did their ALS Ice Bucket Challenge wearing the show’s t-shirts. In fact, the satire’s popularity has transcended the Bay Area. It has been lauded for its somewhat flawed but scrupulous portrayal of the absurdities of the Valley.

Geek or not, the show is good fodder for anyone who appreciates good humour. Alternatively, it can work as a fun lesson for entrepreneurs. So, here are 10 things that we can learn from the show.

(Spoiler Alert: There are a few minor spoilers from all three seasons. But, that’s fine.)

For the uninitiated, Silicon Valley is a show about a bunch of young entrepreneurs who runs a startup called Pied Piper in Silicon Valley.

Ideas can come from anywhere and everywhere. Here’s why

So, do what IBM has been telling you for a century – THINK!

Your Company Precedes Your Pride

Season 2 ended on a happy and sad note. Although, Pied Piper got the necessary funding, Richard was removed from the position of CEO. Season 3 begins by showing how tough it was for him to accept the fact. After leading the company from front, he was ousted from his own company and offered the position of CTO.

But, eventually he wraps his head around the insult and accepts the position. This showed us that sometimes we need to swallow our pride for the greater good.

Share your IP wisely

In the season 2 there was this episode that showed how a few VCs (in reality, members of a rival company called End Frame) tricked Pied Piper into revealing their algorithm. Later on, they almost ran out of business to End Frame  due to that one small mistake. A Quora user, in fact, relived a similar experience, saying, “I will never forget that experience. It’s as real as it gets. Before any meeting, decide exactly how deep you are willing to go technically.”

Beware of bad investors and bad money

In the second season a desperate Richard ends up taking money from Russ Hanneman (an obtrusive billionaire, supposedly modelled on either or both of Mark Cuban and Sean Parker). He has poor mentorship skills and makes poor financial judgement. Overall, he did nothing but bring down the startup.

So, no matter how desperate you are for money, choose your investor wisely.

Define Your Product and Vision

Time and again, we have seen the central characters facing a crisis regarding what their aims and visions are. That possibly also prevented them from seeing the bigger picture. So, before you set on a journey, it’s important to define the company’s visions and line of ethics. So that conducting business and creating products is aligned as per your set ideals. That brings me to the next point.

Don’t Compromise on your product in favour of anything (particularly marketing)

The second episode of season 3 shows that the marketing team has completely taken over the company and the product, and that Richard (and his technical team) might have to give up their plans in favour of the marketers’ wishes.

Do your legal work properly to avoid any legal hassles

Although, there are many instances where the startup or the founders faltered legally, one major example would simply be Richard’s negligence in registering the company. He had a six-figure cheque from Raviga at a time when he didn’t even own a registered entity called ‘Pied Piper’. Later, he had to go through the trouble of buying the Pied Piper trademark from an irrigation enterprise, and what not!

Choose your company’s board members carefully

We all know the value of a board seat. It has led to Richard’s ousting from his own company amongst other things.

High valuation is not necessarily a good thing

After Pied Piper won TechCrunch Disrupt, a lot of funding offers came pouring in for the startup. Raviga offered them $20 million at a $100 million valuation. But, after some contemplation and good advice coming from Monica (Raviga’s representative and Richard’s friend), Richard went for a $10 million at a $50 million valuation. Monica had a legit concern when she said, “Accepting the initial offer would be setting yourself up for grand failure.” While it may not be completely true, the fact remains that a down-round foreshadows underdevelopment and troubles.

Respect Everyone. Or better, just don’t insult anyone

A lot of people probably love to hate Erlich Bachman. Someone as insolent and insensitive as him might not even exist in reality. Although, I personally find the character quite amusing (sans some of his dick jokes). He has taught us at least one thing – don’t be a jerk! His brash attitude has often been detrimental to Pied Piper.

Keeping moral compass aside, being an entrepreneur you can’t afford to antagonise others (specially investors).

Here I have just scratched the surface. Season 3 comes with a lot of promises and education. So, if you haven’t yet watched the show, it’s high time you to do the needful.