HBO’s Silicon Valley cleverly satirizes the tech-industry located in, you guessed it-Silicon Valley, home of the biggest tech corporations. The show is a long linear story following 5 men who founded a company called Pied Piper.
Richard Hendricks, who initially created Pied Piper as a low level music app, discovers that underneath this app lies the best file compression algorithm in the industry (in English: it allows big files, such as music and video, to be compressed to a much smaller file without losing its quality- thanks, Wikipedia!). It’s a great underdog story about this small company facing up against bigger corporations to stay independent.
Having watched seasons 1 and 2, I feel like I have a better understanding of what goes on in the industry. It may sound bland, but don’t let the premise fool you, this is one of the funniest and clever shows I’ve ever seen. For instance, in the second season, there’s a scene where the Piped Piper crew are introduced to the SWOT method (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) of evaluating a business plan. A few scenes later, the SWOT method is introduced again, when Pied Piper gets the opportunity to power a live stream of a dangerous car stunt for an energy drink company. Two Pied Piper employees, Dinesh and Gilfoyl, realize the math for the stunt written on the board is wrong and try to tell the driver, Blaine, that if he does it, he will crash and die. Blaine rudely brushes them off before they could warn him. Dinesh and Gifoyl use the SWOT method to analyze what will happen if Blaine dies, leaving his hot girlfriend, Gina, single for Dinesh’s liking. Here’s an example of what their SWOT looks like:
Strengths: Blaine severs jugular bleeds to death last thought is realizing math is wrong
Weaknesses: Blaine’s funeral televised preempts Star Trek TNG marathon
Opportunities: Gina needs consoling
Threats: Guilt (Dinesh only)
Silicon Valley is able to balance its drama with hilarious characters. Mike Judge, who also satirized the office environment in the cult classic, Office Space, is one of the show’s creators. Mike worked in Silicon Valley in the late ’80s for a startup company, and his bad experience with the company’s culture inspired the series. The show uses a lot of real math and science, and even has an epic, crude joke at the end of season 1 which Stanford University verified and wrote a paper on (Spoilerish article here). You can go in knowing nothing about technology or business and the show will give a good amount of exposition; like you, many of the characters need explanation to know what’s going on. I highly recommend this to get an inside glimpse of how your favourite apps are made, who makes them, and also just to get a good laugh.