Working in Silicon Valley is like living out one giant cliche—at least, that is according to Mike Judge’s newest hit HBO comedy. Although we’re only a few episodes in so far, Silicon Valley has already proven to be the most interesting depiction of technology culture since Fincher’s The Social Network.
Obviously, Silicon Valley isn’t a one for one representation of what you’ll actually find happening in the tech industry, but here are 5 things that the show gets remarkably right:
We’ve all heard the stories, some of them admittedly reaching into myth, of the glorious campuses and work experiences that Google, Apple, Microsoft and other massive tech companies provide their workers. Silicon Valley wasn’t about to get this important aesthetic feature of the Valley wrong, and they certainly didn’t.
Hooli, the show’s stand-in for Google or Apple, has a campus as ridiculous as you would expect of a top-tier company specializing in making your life easier, or at least making your smartphone easier to use. Its campus is filled with bright colors, workers in less-than-standard attire, “brogrammers” hitting the on-site gym, kitchens full of kale and, of course, bike meetings.
There’s a tendency in the tech world to put people on a pedestal. But not just any people. More specifically, it’s the people at the top who get the royal treatment—your Jobs or Page or Schmidt or Gates. Because of their success, the CEOs of Silicon Valley are treated with an absurd amount of deference, often casting an unfortunate shadow over the rest of the company, where those who do more work than they’re given credit for can’t escape.
Mike Judge’s satire of the tech world hits this note head on, with Peter Gregory and particularly Hooli CEO Gavin Belson. As Richard is waiting for his meeting with Belson, he is told continually how lucky he is to be meeting such a great man, that “amazing” hardly begins to describe it.
It’s no secret that the technology sector is severely lacking in women. It’s painfully obvious. According to an article published by The Atlantic in 2013, women hold 57 percent of total occupations in the workforce, but only 25 percent when it comes to computing occupations. This is a trend that Silicon Valley, perhaps unfortunately, represents flawlessly.
Save for Peter Gregory’s assistant, or whatever her title is, Monica and a brief appearance by Mochacino, no women appear on the show—or even seem to exist in the world at all. It has only been a few episodes so far, so there’s a chance that this could change—but for now, it seems bent on repeating the mistakes of the tech industry itself.
Everywhere you turn there are startups sprouting from basements, studio apartments and, yes, garages. But these days, a tech startup isn’t content on simply making a better CMS, a more durable phone, or even meat grown in a lab, they need to “make the world a better place”—of course, with their tremendous attempts at making a better CMS, a more durable phone, or lab-grown meat. Hooli, though not a startup, is no different.
They aren’t out to simply innovate the world’s technology, they’re out to change it for the better, or so they say. It’s a line that’s been smartly repeated throughout the series so far and if you’ve ever worked in a startup, you know exactly how common these tremendously overwrought statements are.
The quick joke in Episode 1 about how developers always want to make user-facing products without knowing how much money they could be making doing B2B is an all-too-familiar sentiment in the startup scene. There are designers and programmers all over the world that legitimately want to make innovative products that will serve the consumer and improve their lives. The problem with lofty aspirations like that is most of these good-intentioned people work for much, much larger companies who are more concerned with the dollar than creating something great for the user.
Richard experiences this early on when Gavin Belson is pondering the purchase of Pied Piper and it’s valuable algorithm. Richard imagines his algorithm will be used by musicians to see if they have infringed on any copyright, but Belson knows this isn’t likely to bring in cash the way Hooli would want, and so he plans to snatch away Pied Piper and bring it back to business.