Lessons That Aspiring Start-Up Founders Can Learn From “Silicon Valley”

The hit HBO series Silicon Valley certainly took many artistic liberties, but it was based on the creator’s actual experiences working in the real Silicon Valley. Creator Mike Judge worked as an engineer before working in Hollywood, and this shows in the realistic portrayal of a start-up company’s trials and travails. There are real lessons that aspiring start-up founders can learn from the mistakes and good decisions made by the start-up in the show.

These include finding the right application for your tech, not being afraid to walk away from a bad deal, looking into the backgrounds of contractors before you hire them, working with venture capitalists that you trust, and ensuring that your team members have healthy relationships. Read on to learn about the real-life lessons that aspiring start-up founders can learn from Silicon Valley.    

Find the Right Application for Your Tech

One of the most important lessons that aspiring founders can learn from the show is to find the right application for their tech. The start-up in the show, Pied Piper, was originally supposed to be a music copyright service. It wasn’t very useful for this application, but was useful was the data compression algorithm coded into the app. The founder, Richard Hendricks, did not originally realize that he had created the greatest data compression algorithm in the world. Others had to point out his app’s real value to him. The lesson to be learned is that founders should spend time finding the right application for their tech, even if someone else has to point it out to them.

Don’t Be Afraid to Walk Away From a Bad Deal

Another lesson that aspiring founders can learn from the early episodes of the show is to not be afraid to walk away from a bad deal. Hendricks’ boss at the beginning of the show, Gavin Belson, finds out about his app and offers to buy it for what seems like a lot of money. After Hendricks hesitates, Belson quickly increases the offer several times. This gives Hendricks a suspicion that the real value of his tech is far higher, and he walks away from the deal. He eventually accepts an investment that offers far less funding upfront but allows him to retain control of the tech.

Look Into Your Contractor’s Backgrounds

In one particularly memorable episode, Pied Piper hires a contractor known as “The Carver” to work on their app. “The Carver” has a reputation for being a brilliant programmer, but he ends up damaging the company quite badly. He turns out to be a teenager, and he ends up having a breakdown which negatively affects his work. If Pied Piper had done so much as a job interview, they could have avoided the situation. 

Work with Venture Capitalists That You Trust

 Pied Piper works with several investors throughout the show. They have the most positive relationship with a young VC named Monica, who helps the company secure necessary funding several times. At one point, they also work with an angel investor who is known for being sleazy. While he provides Pied Piper with an injection of cash, he ends up harming the start-up in several ways. This shows the importance of working with trustworthy VCs like Patrick Chung of Xfund.

Ensure Team Members Have Healthy Relationships

Two of the initial team members in the show, Dinesh and Gilfoyle, have a toxic relationship. While this provides great comedic material, it also harms Pied Piper on several occasions. In real life, founders should strive to ensure all their team members have positive working relationships and that they resolve conflicts in a healthy manner.

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