3 Real-Life Lessons from HBO’s Silicon Valley


People working together in an office space

If you’re an IT entrepreneur and haven’t seen HBO’s Silicon Valley, I’d definitely add it to your “binge watch over a rainy weekend” list. Not only is it pretty darn funny, but you can learn real-life business lessons from watching the Pied Piper startup navigate Silicon Valley. As real-life entrepreneurs, we’ve faced many similar challenges in the “Silicon Valley of the East” and seen how art really does imitate life.

1. Select Your Investors Carefully

The guys from Silicon Valley continually battle issues arising from investors: one investor prefers that Pied Piper not make any revenue, another restructures the company and brings in a new CEO. Eventually, the founders’ vision behind the company gets lost in the bureaucracy and conflicting directions for the company.

Tip: Know your investors well. Treat them like another partner in your firm, and ask yourself if your goals for your company align with their goals for their investments. As entrepreneurs, our team had our share of poor matches. One of our potential investors started his own company with one of our lead engineers. Luckily, when we couldn’t find an investor who aligned with our goals, we were able to keep the company moving forward by sacrificing our own salaries and benefits, and doing everything we could to minimize our overhead costs.

2. Protect Your Intellectual Property (IP)

Your IP is valuable and may be the sole reason that you’re in business to begin with, so it’s extremely important that you take the legal safeguards to protect it, even when you’re sharing information with a potential customer or partner. I completely related to the Pied Piper team as I watched them present their solution in front of another firm whose team feverishly took notes and pictures of the white board with their mobile phones.


Photo courtesy of collider.com. View the actual Silicon Valley scene.

Like Pied Piper, our team learned this lesson the hard way…twice. The first time, a company visited our office to discuss a possible project they wanted us to lead. We eagerly invited them in and foolishly white boarded the entire architecture and framework of our project right in front of them without entering into a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA).

You can imagine our surprise when they handed our exact architecture and plans over to a local company.

The second time, we provided a potential customer with a solution to a long-standing issue – and they loved it. The problem? Our audience didn’t simply include the customer. It also included representatives from a large beltway strategy and technology consulting firm. The representatives listened to our presentation and later wooed the same customer by borrowing from our original solution.
These were tough lessons for us to learn, but it taught us to be vigilant about protecting our IP.

3. Hire Right

It sounds simple, but you need to hire the right person, with the right skills, at the right time. Do not hire out of desperation.

When you’re in a pinch, it’s very easy to talk yourself into bringing someone on board who isn’t right. Unfortunately, when you bring someone onto your team who doesn’t fit your company’s DNA, the results can be disastrous.

One bad apple can impact your company’s efficiency, morale, and reputation — not to mention your precious time and money.

A tip from our HR Director Kelsey White:

“…Every new person you hire should be a puzzle piece that builds out your capability road map.” He or she should have the skills to support your company’s growth plan, as well as the qualities to enhance your company culture.

Read Also: Building a Company Culture of Change Leaders

Fortunately, in all the years we’ve been hiring, we haven’t had the Pied Piper experience of bringing in an Adderall-addicted employee who ends up destroying all of our code. But safe to say that we’re not immune to this, should we ever hire blindly.

What It Boils Down to

As entrepreneurs, there are always going to be tough decisions and unforeseen challenges. Ensuring that your core team has the same vision and goals for the company, and can communicate and conquer those difficult situations together, can help you reap greater success than Hooli’s Nucleus program.