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SILICON VALLEY episode 2: Kumail Nanjiani.

SILICON VALLEY episode 2: Kumail Nanjiani.

Startups

Silicon Valley: What Canadian startup founders thought of HBO's new show Add to ...

HBO’s new half-hour comedy series, Silicon Valley, has already garnered rave reviews in advance of its premiere this Sunday, April 6. But the editors of the Report on Small Business wanted to see how Canadian entrepreneurs felt about the show (was it funny? Smart? Engaging? True to life?), so we asked 12 startup founders across the country to watch the first episode, jot down their thoughts and rate the show out of five stars.

Matt Mickiewitz, Vancouver, B.C.

HBO has a track record of producing some awesome shows, but Silicon Valley isn’t one of them. While the storyline could’ve been engaging, it instead relied heavily on stereotypes to push the plot along, giving us very little character development, and more bad acting than anyone should ever be exposed to.

As I watched, I found many of the scenarios depicted to be at best unrealistic, and at worst, downright ridiculous. At one point, we watch as the main characters attend a party where someone’s eating “$200 liquid shrimp” while partaking in a private concert from Kid Rock. These overblown stereotypes do nothing to engage the viewer past a superficial level. It doesn’t give us an authentic or nuanced inside look at what really happens in the Valley., nor is it funny. Ultimately, these sorts of stereotypes make the characters–and the storyline – unrelatable, and not very funny.

Getting paid a few million–or even billion–for your big idea is a sexy premise for a show, but “Silicon Valley” falls short due to its unoriginal plot line and shallow caricatures of well-known Silicon Valley personalities and companies.

Overall:

  • Rating (1-5) – 1
  • Funny? No.
  • Smart? No.
  • Engaging? No.
  • Realistic? No.

Will you watch again? Negative.

Matt Mickiewicz is the CEO of Hired.com, a career marketplace that helps techies land dream jobs at over 700+ companies in San Francisco and New York.

Hongwei Liu, Waterloo, Ont.

I didn’t enjoy Silicon Valley. I was prepared for the satire, and most of it was bang on: the bearded wash ups, silly company names, awkward dialogues, and hollow idealism. But it was uncomfortable to watch because it focused so much the absurd. Sure, all of those things exist, but that isn’t what makes the tech world attractive. The egotistical landlord running the “incubator” and the guy who sold his company to Google and “made the world better” (by making himself a ton of money) are just noise. Only the ignorant and naive would find their deeds admirable. Giving them so much screen time robs the show of real meaning. Imagine if The Godfather focused on the whims of groundskeepers and hired guns, instead of the members of the Corleone family.

Many characters do remind me of people I’ve met in startup, but they are people that I try to avoid – because they don’t matter. So I guess it’s a letdown that the show takes on such a tedious view. Any industry with high variability in returns will attract pettiness and greed. But as a whole, the people in tech are more like the group of kids living in that house – smart, hardworking, and human. And when someone actually does “make the world better” by creating a new product or service, it will have a net positive impact. Yet movies about mobsters or investment bankers have more relatable characters.

I love comedies; Zoolander was hilarious because they really committed to the parody. Silicon Valley starts the same way but clearly wants to maintain authenticity – the result is neither funny or true. (Most) nerds deserve better.

Overall rating: 2 out of 5 stars. I love TV, and HBO has rarely missed, so I'll give it a chance.

Hongwei Liu is the co-Founder and CEO at MappedIn, makers of an interactive indoor navigation system 

Joelle Parenteau, Ottawa, Ont.

Sillicon Valley was ridiculously entertaining. Firstly, there were many hilariously awkward comments that had me unexpectedly burst out into fits of laughter. Secondly, there were more than a few scenarios that, though perhaps somewhat exaggerated, were still plausible enough to be disturbingly thought provoking. As a startup founder I often found myself thinking ’what would I do if this happened to me?’ – followed by surprisingly deep consideration. I believe they did a phenomenal job of presenting the dilemma and inner turmoil a founder might experience facing an offer to sell their ’baby’ for an obscene amount of cash; I’d puke too. I will definitely tune in again and look forward to both more chuckling and pondering.

Overall rating: 4 out of 5 stars.

Joelle Parenteau is a young female founder to be reckoned with. At 25 she founded Edge to Epic: a startup with a big vision for small business. This buying group is quickly disrupting the status quo: uniting small business coast-to-coast to enable access to the VIP treatment typically reserved to large corporate.

 

Michael Sikorsky, Calgary, Alta.

The first episode of Silicon Valley focused on a few of today’s biggest dilemmas including the price/need for higher education, the increasing unaffordability of San Francisco/Bay area for non-tech workers, whether you should sell-out and lose control vs. keep control and try to build a more long-term meaningful company.

The real story that resonated with me was that the stars of the show see themselves as most of their generation do, as the vikings of today. It is a bigger statement about how technical innovation (read: disruption) of today keeps levelling the playing field and continues to give the power to the makers over the gatekeepers.

Overall Rating: 3.5 out 5 (trending towards a 4, so I would definitely tune in again)

Facial Hair Rating: 5 out of 5 (T.J. Miller should not change his beard - ever)

Hidden Lessons in it for entrepreneurs:

Q: The show’s principle conflict revolves around: should you take the money and run? Or build the business for the long haul? How would you know what to do?

A: You don’t. Instead come at it from a personal angle – if all you could imagine working on, was the same thing you were selling, then don’t. This gives you the conviction that it doesn’t matter what the “right” choice was, that you still had more to do and the time is not now.

Q: Is funding success?

A: Funding as a success metric. Reminder: it isn’t. At best, it is a proxy that you may be onto something or that you're a good speaker. And, in a world where the costs to create and scale technology keep decreasing, you need to question in general how far you can get before letting in your new bosses.

Q: Consumer vs Enterprise?

A: There was a great moment in the show, where the large-company people realized there was gem hidden behind the "clunky ui". This is extremely important and why I think entrepreneurs should be talking to varied people about their ideas (vs worrying someone will steal them). This insight and perspective that what you have created may not be truly useful in the context you put it in, but, in the right context it could be game-changing is the reason to tell your story. It can be the difference between winning and losing.

Michael Sikorsky is a Calgary-based tech entrepreneur and the 2013 Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year in Technology. He is the co-founder and Chief Robot, of Robots and Pencils, an app development company with offices in Calgary (Alberta), London (England), Austin (Texas), and known for its top-ranking consumer apps, transformative enterprise apps and gamified learning platforms. @robotsNpencils

LP Maurice, Montreal, Quebec

Silicon Valley is both funny and smart. The show highlights the "rollercoaster ride" set of high and lows that come with trying to build something that matters in the world. The t-shirt and hoodie clad main characters are simultaneously engaging and endearing, with their unique mix of awkwardness, humour, hubris and limitless supply of nerdy behaviour.

Having worked in the Valley, I do think the show gets a lot of details right and feels authentic. Set in a land of big dreams and high rents filled with deluxe campus shuttles, eccentric moguls and exploding investor term sheets, it also does a good job at portraying the current hype in the Valley. That said, the show stretches the satire elastic a bit far at times, making us forget that engineers are first and foremost thoughtful and helpful problem solvers.

After decades of TV shows about doctors, lawyers and police officers, it's about time that the world had a show about the engineers who build the technology that we use daily. I'll definitely try to tune in again to follow this scruffy bunch on their road to glory! 

Overall rating: 4 out of 5 stars.

LP Maurice is the CEO & co-founder of Montreal-based travel startup Busbud, as well as the co-director of the Founder Institute Montreal and a mentor at the Founder Fuel and Next 36 accelerator programs.


Lindsey Goodchild, Toronto, Ont.

Some notes on Silicon Valley:

  • Clever humour calling out the unique culture of tech space. The show contained just about every buzzword that’ll be said thousands of times this week in Palo Alto.
  • The composition of the characters, from the giant tech firms to the subculture and personalities of those in the hacker house, was fulsome. I enjoyed the variety of perspectives and personalities, but as there were quite a few characters to meet, I’m wanting to learn more of who they are in later episodes.
  • The show captured the essence of Palo Alto, in the sense that everyone was thinking about the next big thing (even the Doctor was pitching poor Richard post panic attack realizing he could have 10-milion in his pocket the next day, stands true).
  • I’d be remiss to mention the lack of female presence in the show, however, Monica appears to have the boldness and intelligence that you do find in SV’s women, would love to see her with a bigger role in the show.
  • The biggest test of the show, and to Mike Judge, will be keeping the stereotypical jokes fresh week after week.
  • I was hoping it would get more into the underbelly of startups, and their characters. I’d love to see more of the sweet, and often awe-inspiring qualities that you find in startup dreamers.
  • Overall rating: 3.5 stars, lots of potential! Excited to see where this rocketship goes… 
  • Fave character: TJ Miller is ridiculous, and amazing.

P.S. I watched the show with two pals (who do not come from the world of startups) and at the end of episode they asked the obvious question, “Is it really like that?”, and without much hesitation, I said “yep, and pass me a PBR, because I have an idea I want to run by you…”

Lindsey Goodchild, Toronto Canada CEO & co-Founder of Greengage Mobile a software company that combines the power of mobile tools and tangible rewards to drive positive action in health, green, and community programs with employees and consumers.

Ian Andrew Bell, Vancouver, B.C.

Mike Judge’s Office Space was a picture of my life working at Cisco in San Jose, and was at least a small part of my motivation to quit and join a startup. So I expected more insight... more funny-because-it-hurts humour. But the show’s somewhat successful effort to capture the realities of life in the Valley (so far anyway) are proving that those cliches and caricatures are representative of the real thing – but they’re not all that funny.

Aaron Sorkin’s The Social Network did a lot of bushwhacking in bringing some facets of the Silicon Valley scene to the popular consciousness. With “Silicon Valley” Mike Judge has to either bring deeper explorations (which presumably they can in a whole season of shows) or dredge up more as-yet-unkown oddities from that culture for our eye-rolling amusement..

The show evidently has all of what we’re now starting to establish as the long list of Silicon Valley cliches..

1) The antisocial entrepreneur whom everyone thinks has a social disorder 

2) The hoodie-wearing scrums of developers representing each of the now-hackneyed archetypes which, at least self-consciously, the writers call out as such when 

3) Rent is expensive, many consumer behaviours are ridiculously out-of-whack 

4) Developers are mollycoddled by big companies, treated like children (and therefore often behave as such) – with money as the great pacifier (These are cliches because they are true... unfortunately)..

One thing I hope the show will explore is one of the things I found most humorous and frustrating about Silicon Valley: everything’s so bleeding edge, and people are thinking so far ahead and jumping so early into technology, that nothing ever , that nothing ever #%@$ing works properly there. Silicon Valley replaces every mechanical object with software, and things that have worked fine for decades now crash and misfire and error out with regularity. Witness: the phone. :)

Now THAT’s funny stuff we can all relate to.

Ian is a passionate recreational hockey player who moonlights as a technology entrepreneur and pathological product manager. He has conceived and created a host of popular consumer internet services including the ill-fated Geekmail and the massively successful RingCentral; he also launched Tingle and Rosterbot


Derrick Fung, New York City

Going into the show, I was expecting a well-written and witty production which would accurately depict the ups and downs of Silicon Valley. 

After enduring a grueling 30 minutes of what seemed to include all the cheesy lines taken from both the movies Social Network and The Internship, it was anything but that. The show took every stereotype of Silicon Valley and exaggerated it to the point where it made all types of the start-up ecosystem look dumb – founders, engineers, and even investors. The show made the start-up fundraising process seem more like an auction and highlighted the greed of the Valley a bit too much.

One thing that the show did do well, however, was showcase the roller coaster ride that is the start-up. You could be the small fish in a big pond one day and become a shark the next day – then lose it all over night when Google decided to directly compete with you. Entrepreneurship is no joke, and I think the show did portray that, especially by adding a few scenes of “founder vomiting”. I would be interested to see how this founder’s B2C turned B2B company evolves over time, but I certainly hope they found a new script writer after that horrid first episode.

Overall rating: 1 out of 5 stars.

Derrick Fung founded Tunezy, a music start-up originally based in Toronto, which was acquired by SFX Entertainment (NASDAQ:SFXE) in October 2013. He was named to the Forbes Top 30 under 30 in 2014 and is now based in New York City.

Somen Mondal, Toronto, Ont.

If only selling a company and raising money was that simple! Silicon Valley exaggerates situations that a tech startup might face. Selling a company typically takes months (if you’re lucky) of due diligence and negotiations where the show boiled it down to a 5 minute conversation. I like how the show mocks the larger than life egos and nerdy personalities inherent in the tech world. Is the show realistic? No. Is it entertaining? Absolutely.

Overall rating: 4 out of 5

Somen is the co-founder & CEO of Ideal Candidate. Prior to Ideal Candidate, Somen served as co-Founder & CEO of Field ID until it was successfully acquired by Master Lock LLC.

Eugene Dong, Vancouver, B.C.

Silicon Valley is a sitcom that portrays some of the experiences and situations that startup founders have in their careers. The entrepreneur, Richard, had developed an amazing technology that no one is using. To express how unpredictable that the Valley can seem from the outside. Richard goes from nearly being kicked out of the house and incubator to having multiple offers for his company. The unpredictability is something that every entrepreneur faces, but loves it because it keeps life exciting. Unfortunately, a lot of the show was exaggerated from the truth. For example, it shows that everyone in the Valley is launching a startup, including a family doctor that will ask for a patient’s investment.

I have enjoyed shows, like Suits, which features the day-to-day lives of lawyers. Now, it is finally possible to watch a comedic sitcom that covers the scenarios that I may face as an entrepreneur. This show is like a startup and the story will take some time to build, but it is off to the good start. Although the show was not fully realistic, it was still humorous and I will definitely continue to watch! 

Overall rating: 4

Eugene Dong is Procurify’s co-founder and CTO. We create software that makes Purchasing Ridiculously Easy for small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs).

Jerome Ng, Vancouver, B.C.

HBO’s Silicon Valley is humorous and true in most respects. The nerds, brogrammers, incubators, pitching, valuations, and constant name-dropping all exist and are encountered on a daily basis. The real Silicon Valley is just as entertaining but in a slightly different way. This show focuses more around the hype of the Valley while glossing over the blood, sweat, and tears that it takes to succeed here. I’m looking forward to more entertaining references to tech culture in the next episode.

Overall rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Jerome is the co-founder and CEO of VenueSpot.co, an online venue marketplace.

Josh Hillis, Kitchener-Waterloo, Ont.

Pretty hilarious and sadly accurate portrayal of start up life! Also makes me love being in the community too. I think they managed to say every current and past buzz words and magically fit it into a half hour. 

Overall rating: 4 out of 5 stars.

Josh is the co-founder of Flykyt, a new and simple way to share between mobile to mobile

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