HBO’s ‘Silicon Valley’ Got Startup Success All Wrong. Here’s Why
Pied Piper needs to focus more on their team structure in season 5.
PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images
If you're a developer like Richard Hendricks from HBO's 'Silicon Valley,' then you're likely in the process of creating an app--or have already created one--you would like to grow into a company. There's no question the TV show has become popular due its rendition of the technology startup community and lifestyle in Silicon Valley.
But, after watching four seasons of Pied Piper go through its ups and downs as a company, there's one thing I believe Richard should have done in the very beginning.
Richard should have made Jared a co-founder of Pied Piper as soon as he poached him from Hooli.
Throughout my career, I have co-founded three companies and now mentor thousands of other early stage startups at Techstars. When we determine which companies are accepted into our programs, we look at criteria in this order: team, team, team, market, progress, idea.
When looking at prospective startups who apply to our programs, we hone-in on the founding team. A startup won't succeed without a solid team and a team won't succeed without great leadership. By hiring Jared as a co-founder, Richard would have a business partner to help him grow the company, which he obviously has trouble doing throughout the series. Here's why:
The company needed a leader focusing on the business.
Richard is wearing too many hats as a single founder running Pied Piper to run the company at an efficient level. So, when he needs help growing the business by seeking funding from leading VC firms, he turns to Erlich Bachman--not who I would pick as my first choice and viewers of the show can attest to this. We all know how this turns out in the end (sorry, no spoilers here!).
When selecting companies for its programs, Techstars typically looks for co-founders who balance out each other's skillset. So, if you're a strong developer like Richard, you should look to finding a co-founder with a strong business background--like Jared.
When in the Head of Business Development role, we get a glimpse of what Jared could have offered from the very beginning when Pied Piper was seeking its first investors. Jared could have kept the company on the right path because of his background in economics, his organizational skills and his experience working at one of the largest tech companies in the area.
Richard could then focus on further developing the technology.
In the beginning of the show, we find out Richard has developed the revolutionary 'middle-out' compression algorithm technology, but with no definite partner as his co-founder he isn't able to focus on building-out the technology as much.
If Richard had a co-founder on the business side from day one, he wouldn't have to worry about putting as much mind-power into the business development side of the company and could focus on making the product the best it can be in order to reach the famous '100,000 daily active users (DAU)' KPI.
If Pied Piper doesn't have a product people are engaging with, who then aren't becoming returning users, then VC firms will not want to invest. Richard needed a co-founder from the start who could have taken the load of developing the business side of Pied Piper in order to allow him to focus on the technology. Jared could have been the perfect fit for this role.
Having a co-founder works wonders for a company.
Looking back at a few of the largest technology companies in real life, I see one thing in common: each had a set of co-founders--one on the business side and one on the technology side.
Whether it's Apple (Steve Jobs & Steve Wozniack), Microsoft (Paul Allen & Bill Gates), or Facebook (Mark Zuckerberg & Eduardo Saverin), companies typically need co-founders in order to succeed. Co-founders are able to bounce ideas off one another and get the help needed to make a product the best it can be.
So, if you're a great developer with a product, find a business-minded professional to help grow it with you. And if you're a business-minded professional with an idea, find a developer who can create the product while you go out and find the funding to help it grow. If Richard would have made Jared his co-founder, who knows where Pied Piper would be heading into the fifth season of 'Silicon Valley.'