"Silicon Valley" is a comedy series on HBO from Mike Judge, creator of "Beavis and Butthead, "King of the Hill" and "Office Space." The satirical show follows the adventures of a fictitious team of socially awkward programmers who try to build the next big startup.
The heroes of the show are an oddball group of tech geeks working out of a home-based "business incubator" run by a hippie/slacker/entrepreneur who somehow achieved Silicon Valley middle-class status by cashing in on a one-time lucky sale of a company he created.
The show is really funny and incisive in its portrayals of the tech world and the surrounding culture of the money-mad Silicon Valley startup scene. It’s a wickedly satirical sendup of a vision of the tech industry where everyone wants to get mind-bogglingly rich while also self-righteously “making the world a better place,” and where self-indulgent New Age spirituality combines with cutthroat business practices.
If you've ever worked in Silicon Valley, or if you just want to see a darkly hilarious portrayal of the tech world (in a way that still shows the warmth and humanity of some very likable characters who are surrounded by social mores and financial madness that they don't understand), check out Mike Judge’s “Silicon Valley.”
Here are a few of the funny insights from “Silicon Valley” that can help real-life tech professionals achieve bigger career success:
Follow the money – or follow your dream
The main character of “Silicon Valley” is Richard Hendriks, a shy, socially awkward programmer who has developed an app called “Pied Piper” that has an excellent data compression algorithm for storing and streaming music files. Unfortunately, Hendriks doesn’t fully realize the potential of what he has created – he’s ignored by his housemates and mocked by his co-workers – until he’s suddenly juggling two competing offers from some of the biggest names in Silicon Valley who want to buy his company. Richard is suddenly presented with a very stressful choice – he can either sell the company to one suitor for $4 million immediately, or keep 95% ownership and sell a small stake of the company for only $200,000. Richard ultimately decides to keep the company and accept a smaller amount of upfront money – even though there’s a chance that the company could fail and he’d be left with nothing. “Silicon Valley” shows the humorous (and dramatic) aspect of technology entrepreneurship in a highly colorful light – in the end, we all have a choice between following our passion and following a paycheck. Do you stay at a stable, lucrative job that you don’t really love, or do you set out on your own as a consultant or take a lower-paying job at a startup? Sometimes there is no easy answer as to how to get the right balance between love and money.
Tech skills matter – but so do social skills
The social awkwardness of Silicon Valley tech geeks is a frequent topic of satirical commentary on “Silicon Valley,” and one scene shows Richard trying to pitch his company to a potential investor who laughingly describes how many tech guys have no social skills and no ability to tell anyone what their company actually does. Unfortunately, Hendriks immediately botches his chance to explain what his company does, and loses the interest of the investor.
Not everyone can be Apple
At the end of the first episode of “Silicon Valley,” Richard assembles his housemates to form the new team for Pied Piper, and awkwardly, stumblingly tries to articulate his vision for the company – “Let’s think different,” he says, until he remembers that Apple already used that slogan. “I mean, let’s just do it!” Richard tries again, only to be reminded that he’s just unintentionally plagiarized from Nike. “Silicon Valley” is a funny reminder that not everyone can be Apple, not everyone can be Steve Jobs (the main character, Richard, claims that Steve Jobs was a “poseur” who couldn’t write code), but we can all attain our own level of success with the right friends and with hard work, a lot of heart, and a bit of luck.