Ali Paterson has spent his pandemic binge watching HBO’s hit hi-tech show Silicon Valley. Here’s what it taught him…
Like many people during lockdown, I’ve been spending far too much time on Netflix. Specifically, anything related to COVID-19 explained, documentaries on disease control and the next big pandemic, with some incredible interviews with people who have made it their life’s work to study what we are now facing.
One common thread seems to connect all of these people. I kid you not, it’s the 1995 movie Outbreak.
Movies and TV shows have tremendous power to inspire and ignite a spark, both positive and negative. For every virologist motivated by Outbreak to defeat disease, you have a world-class d***head who wants to be Jordan Belafonte from The Wolf Of Wall Street. Which brings me back to my guilty binge watch.
I’ve just finished the series finale of HBO’s startup tech culture comedy, Silicon Valley. For anyone working in the startup scene, this is a must-watch. It follows the highs and lows of working at a startup, from seat-of-your-pants MVP to petrifying seed pitches and VC rounds and giddying scaleup, to excessive success and (in some, but not all cases) failure.
Data geek Richard Hendricks is the fictional founder of startup Pied Piper (think about it), which he built (painfully) to launch his data compression app. The aim of Pied Piper is to – ahem – ‘make the world a better place’ and in the final sixth season he and the team finally look likely to realise their ultimate dream: to build a new, decentralised internet.
What’s great about Silicon Valley, especially in the first few seasons, is how it captures the agony and ecstasy of working in the crazy world of startups. In one of the earlier episodes, there is even a visit to a tradeshow, with pitches on stage that could have been lifted straight from some of the early days at Finovate!
But, as in life, it is the characters that shine. Some of the traits are universal across any industry – from Richard’s hopefulness slowly atrophying into ruthlessness; to Erlich Bachman who wants to be Steve Jobs, but is more of a Sean Parker (we’ve met a lot of super cool people just like this).
Silicon Valley knew from the outset what a rich vein of comedy the tech and VC world could provide – quite literally when it comes to ‘blood boy’ coders (see Season 4) – but especially when set against the crazily wealthy workforce of the actual Silicon Valley.
Ultimately, though, what this show is about… is failure. How to own your failures, grow from your failures, how failing isn’t always OK, except when it is. And that is probably the most important thing to remember when entering the startup space.