Startup founders can learn a lot of invaluable lessons from their mistakes and failures. But there are also lessons they can glean from an internationally acclaimed satirical TV show called Silicon Valley.
The series is inspired by real-life tech culture, with creator/executive producer Mike Judge having worked as an engineer and lived in the real Silicon Valley in Southern California. Even the show’s star, Thomas Middleditch, who plays the brainy software engineer Richard Hendricks in the show, says he grew up as a nerd in British Columbia “playing copious amounts of video games and creating some websites.”
To maintain its authenticity, the show’s writers and producers do research trips to the tech hub to get further observations on the real-life interactions in the startup scene.
So, here are some useful lessons we can learn from the show.
1. Don’t sell immediately
Don’t be too quick to take the allure of an early, big-money buyout. In the series, Hendricks is offered US$4 million for his company, Pied Piper. He is tempted by a quick exit strategy, but he eventually takes a different investment route to keep control of his company and aim for a bigger goal.
Lesson: Figure out your exit strategy from the get-go and set your goals. Did you build your startup to help people and change the world? Or do you just want to make money? Don’t immediately sell when you get your first big offer.
2. It may not be easy to let a new leader take over
Startup founders can be brilliant, almost like shooting stars. But as a high-tech company evolves, an even more experienced executive may need to take the company to the next level. In the show, Hendricks was replaced by a seasoned veteran with the suggestion that “firing a young CEO and installing a much more experienced one looks like leadership.”
Lesson: A rapid success and expansion may mean looking for outside talent who can help you with your startup’s growing needs. But realize that, in a competitive marketplace, other companies are also looking to bring in leaders with similar skills, and any change in your company’s leadership may involve power struggles and conflicts. So, if your startup needs a new leader, you also need to maintain a shared purpose.
3. A verbal agreement is not a formal deal
A verbal agreement may not be a deal yet. In the fourth season of the show, Hendricks hands over control of Piper Chat (the former Pied Piper has turned into a video chat app) to a talented programmer. They have a verbal agreement about the access to the company’s database, but the programmer blocks him and all former employees saying, “We had an agreement, not a deal.”
Lesson: You cannot rely on verbal agreements. Once you have your eureka moment with your innovative idea, document it, open a Dropbox account, and save your documentation there. If you have partners, all co-founders should sign a thorough agreement that defines the relationship of the founders with each other and include a conflict-resolution clause to avoid conflict.
4. Know how to find a really good programmer
Identify the game changers in your company, challenge them with new ideas, and reward them. But there are also some employees who are like the software designer in the show called Big Head. He seems to skate past all problems but somehow manages to keep getting promoted. Finally, people realize he’s utterly useless and fire him.
Lesson: It’s said that what often destroys potentially viable startups are bad programmers. But business leaders may not be a good judge of talent and hire whoever seems like a good programmer (with a sterling resume) but actually sucks. The bottom line is don’t compensate employees for ineffectual results or slovenly attitude.
Source: Tech This Out News