5 Startup Lessons You Can Learn from HBO’s ‘Silicon Valley’

May 9, 2016

12:30 pm

While Game of Thrones continues to dominate HBO’s Sunday night lineup, their comedy department is patting themselves on the back for locking down Silicon Valley, a show that follows an introverted computer programmer and his friends as they attempt to make it big in the tech startup world. While it is a comedy series, there are a number of important lessons entrepreneurs can take away when it comes to running a business.

This guide will show you what you can learn from watching this show.

Cloud Is Winning

Silicon Valley revolves around Richard Hendricks, Erlich Bachman and a company named Pied Piper, which allows people to upload video and audio files to the cloud at faster speeds than Dropbox, Google Drive or any other cloud-based platform. The focus on the cloud in the TV show is no coincidence. There are a huge number of startups working with the cloud to become successful startups.

In many ways, it mirrors the entrepreneurial spirit of today. If you are doing anything in business, you must use the popularity of cloud computing. The cloud will ensure that you get things done faster and that you can work from absolutely anywhere. By 2019, cloud traffic will make up 90% of all traffic on the web.

Have a Clear Vision

Silicon Valley is all about knowing what you want to be. One of the main characters, Richard Hendricks, and his friend, Erlich Bachman, almost fall into the trap of deeming their company the ‘Airbnb for something’. And that’s something a surprising number of entrepreneurs fall into.

Companies need to know who they are through a comprehensive vision statement, rather than just thinking they are a different version of some other company. When Hooli defended Gavin Belson’s image using the online reputation industry, they did so because they didn’t want their image to be compromised. They didn’t want to be someone they weren’t.

Simply put, you need an original image and you have to stick to it. If your brand can’t be original with your vision statement, your product or service won’t be able to either.

Hygiene Is Important

No, this is not in reference to the disheveled stated of Erich Bachman (played by TJ Miller) in the show.

Entrepreneurs tend to struggle when it comes to capital. That’s why most of their early months are spent seeking out investors. In Silicon Valley, Richard knew nothing about business planning or how to make a pitch to investors. To solve this problem, he hired a business development professional. The business development expert helped him to make sense of both his finances and how the business is run.

All this information is required for successful entrepreneurs to provide a credible presentation to investors. With help from a business development advisor, the company was able to flourish properly. You don’t necessarily have to hire a business development expert yourself, but the inner workings of your company should be communicable to investors and customers alike.

Exceed Expectations

Once Pied Piper was up and running, they made a mistake by saying that their new company would make them billions. Its competitor also said their product would change the world before they even managed to produce it. The result: catastrophe.

Silicon Valley demonstrates that the key to success is to be realistic about what you can achieve. Never make a promise based on something you may or may not do in the future, especially not on your landing pages. Once you start to make your ambitions public, you are promising the world that it’s going to happen, a bold move for a company that is just starting off.

If a startup says they are going to make two billion dollars and they make one billion dollars, they will still be considered a failure. And that’s scary because, despite enormous success, they will have been brought down simply because of one ill-judged statement.

Tie Yourself to a Large Boat

Entrepreneurs need support from bigger fish to succeed. When Richard turns down an immediate buyout from his company, he accepts some funding from a venture capitalist, which also comes with business guidance. Rather than trying to make a quick buck, he decided to associate himself with someone bigger.

Partners in the industry can be a major saving grace. Learning from experienced partners can enable your company to be sustainable and successful in a much shorter period of time.

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AJ Agrawal is an entrepreneur, speaker, and writer. He is the CEO and Co-Founder at Alumnify Inc.

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