23 things HBO's Silicon Valley gets right and wrong about Silicon Valley
How real is HBO's Silicon Valley?
How closely is HBO's Silicon Valley really capturing the world of programmers, VCs, and the actual Silicon Valley? Here's what the show gets right and wrong. (And, by the way: What did we miss? Let us know in comments.)
Right: Really weird tech
The latest season showed Jian Yang pitching a seemingly ridiculous idea: A "Shazam for food." Turns out, that's not too far off from reality.
Wrong: The diversity
According to stats crunched by fans, the show's cast is more diverse than real-life Silicon Valley, which is still mostly male, white or Asian.
Right: The lavish spending
Whether it's luxurious parties or extravagant would-be bribes (remember the Pappy Van Winkle that a potential employer sent to Gilfoyle?), money is wasted all the time in the Valley. Suddenly, Erlich Bachman's luau on Alcatraz doesn't seem so crazy.
Wrong: Lawyer-free board meetings
A startup of Pied Piper's magnitude would almost certainly have a corporate lawyer in the room for major decisions by the board of directors. Silicon Valley didn't bother with that detail during the end of a season-two showdown that ended with Richard being removed as CEO.
Right: AI powered by humans
In a season four episode of Silicon Valley, humans helped power an AI program designed to identify food. It's not uncommon for tech companies to crowdsource knowledge. After all, the program has to learn real-world knowledge from somewhere.
Right: The companies
Silicon Valley doesn't use real companies in its plots, but the startups and firms portrayed are clearly based on real-world entities. Hooli is a perfect example, as a stand-in for Google. In fact, season two saw the show introduce Hooli [xyz], which worked on bigger, world-changing products... Not unlike Google's GoogleX.
Wrong: Board wars
Having split votes on a board adds drama to a story -- and a few very funny moments -- but they just aren't as common in the real world.
Right: The lawsuits
In the second season of Silicon Valley, Hooli sued Pied Piper for what they called copyright infringement. The lawsuit is somewhat similar to the one Google filed against Uber, claiming that a former employee took a piece of Google tech and launched a startup with it.
Right: The pivot
The first idea isn't always the best idea. That was shown at the end of Silicon Valley season three, when the Pied Piper team pivoted away from their original idea to a video chat application. Those kinds of pivots happen all the time in real life. Take Twitter: The service was originally a secondary project developed by podcasting company Odeo.
Right: The flavor of the week
Life comes at you fast in Silicon Valley, and with no notice whatsoever, the entire industry can obsess over something totally new. Silicon Valley showed this through the arrival of virtual reality, which mimicking the current real-world fascination with it.
Wrong: The dreaded "down round"
Silicon Valley made a valuation down round seem like a death sentence, leading Richard to negotiate the value of his company down to Raviga Capital. But that's not how things work. You wouldn't see startups angling to get paid less money, and if their valuations drop in later funding rounds, they can still recover.
Right: It's all a huge gamble
As the Pied Piper team has learned, there is no secret formula to a winning idea. They're simply trying to stay afloat in an ultra-competitive environment. The real Silicon Valley is the same, with many of tech startups dying before they get anywhere close to success.
Wrong: VC civil wars
Not only is it rare for for VC to have two seats on a board of directors, as Raviga Capital did with Pied Piper, but it's even rarer that their votes would be split. They're serving the same entity, after all.
Right: VCs are super fickle
You could be on top of the world one moment and desperately clinging onto survival the next. As seen throughout Silicon Valley, VCs lose interest for any number of reasons and take their money elsewhere, leaving startups to find a new way to thrive.
Right: The pitch
Much of the first season of was about pitching Pied Piper to investors at an event called TechCrunch Disrupt. Not only is Disrupt a real event, the show used footage from it for use in crowd scenes.
At the end of Silicon Valley season four, Erlich left the tech industry once and for all (probably) to languish in Tibet. For a serial entrepreneur, that isn't very common.
Right: Failure is an option
Oftentimes, the Silicon Valley crew is met with failure, either financial or technical. Failure is a very bad thing for most industries... unless that industry is in Silicon Valley. After all, Steve Jobs was fired from Apple and went on to help found Pixar before bouncing back.
Right: Bizarre billionaires
Strangely obsessive behavior isn't uncommon when it comes to Silicon Valley billionaires. Most infamously, entrepreneur Peter Thiel bankrolled pro wrestler Hulk Hogan in his lawsuit against Gawker, which eventually brought the media company down -- all over a longstanding grudge.
Right: Selling things that don't exist ... yet
Erlich excelled at selling ideas as if they were actual products, persuading people to have confidence in a company, whether it was selling junk or not. And that happens all the time in read life, too: Everyone remembers mobile pay app Crinkle, right? No, you don't.
Wrong: CEO-free startups
Silicon Valley ended season two with the firing of Richard as CEO, leaving his chair empty. But in reality, VCs would never let that happen at a startup; a replacement would be ready to take over the moment he stepped down.
Right: The money is flowing
The Silicon Valley crew is constantly seeking out new sources of funding. In reality, there really are all those sources. The tech industry is swimming with VCs looking for ways to turn their millions of dollars into billions of dollars. All it takes is the right idea.
Right: The click farm
In Silicon Valley's third season, it was revealed that a click farm -- paid clicks and registrations -- had been used to inflate the numbers of the Pied Piper app. Those are very real, too, of course. They offer lots of activity -- be it likes, views, or downloads -- for very little money.