Life Imitates Art: HBO’s Silicon Valley

By ​Rob Falcone

April 29, 2014

HBO's Silicon ValleyLast month, I detailed the similarities between the challenges faced by founders of small early-stage companies, and by marketers at some of the world’s largest and most established brands.

Clearly impressed by my analogy, HBO has launched a hysterical portrait of their own in Silicon Valley, the story of a rag tag group of guys trying to launch a startup called Pied Piper.

While the hilarious whirlwind of early stage company drama sparks a ton of memories of my previous startup (if only it was called “Aviato!”), the show nonetheless presents important lessons for folks at organizations large and small.

1. “You’ve Been Unassigned”

Upon coming to grips that his colleagues consider him lazy and worthless, the character dubbed Big Head leaves Pied Piper to take on a new role at the behemoth (and competitor) Hooli. He subsequently adds little to their cause, and is “unassigned”—a forgotten employee with no discernible career path.

The lesson: At big organizations where it may seem easy to fly under the radar, be on constant lookout for ways to tackle an organizational challenge. See an opportunity for improvement? Put together a plan to make it happen, and in the process, build your personal brand.

2. Your Competitors are Gaining Ground

Hooli races to close the gap between their technology and Pied Piper’s. The same is happening in your world. As much as you’d love to take on new initiatives, in many cases, simply being able to accomplish the current list of goals faster than your competitors would be a huge win.

The lesson: Look for tools that can bolt onto your current initiatives. There is a true dollar value tied to your ability to execute in one month, rather than six.

3. Ditch the Sunk Cost  

Pied Piper’s founder goes to great lengths to acquire the rights to his three-day-old company’s name—a name that his co-workers hate, and that he has to battle a local irrigation farmer for. Why? Because “we’ve already bought the t-shirts and business cards!”

The lesson: Don’t let your legacy tools—the ones you acquired years ago and now don’t give you the flexibility you need—be the reason your competitors to take food off your table. Forget the past, and make the right decisions for your future.

Personally, I love this show because it highlights what life at a startup is really like (no, most founders aren’t sipping sake with Justin Timberlake). But the reason why Silicon Valley is such a commercial hit, is that the challenges faced by the Pied Piper crew really aren’t that different from yours or mine.

Rob Falcone is the former Director of Solutions Engineering at Monetate, where he helped brands such as Brooks Brothers, Famous Footwear and others accelerate digital revenue growth through personalization. Prior to joining Monetate, Rob co-founded an award winning social media startup that was selected for funding by DreamIt Ventures, one of the world's top 15 startup accelerators. A Philadelphian born and raised, Rob is a diehard Phillies baseball and Drexel basketball fan.

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