13 ways HBO’s ‘Silicon Valley’ nailed the real tech industry

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Jaimie Trueblood/HBO/”Silicon Valley”

HBO’s “Silicon Valley” is hilarious, but it’s also committed to authenticity – even if it means things sometimes get weird.

To get there, showrunner Mike Judge and his crew employ consultants and even a few real-life startups – in addition to reading tech news from sites, including Business Insider – just to make sure things can be as real as possible.

That means going beyond a few nerdy in-jokes and reflecting the real culture of the actual Silicon Valley, capital of the tech world.

Here’s how “Silicon Valley” gets the little things right so it can make some big jokes:


The thing with HBO’s “Silicon Valley” is that it’s packed to the brim with little, authentic details that make it sometimes feel almost too real. People in San Francisco and the real Silicon Valley often joke that it feels more like a drama than a comedy.

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HBO

Right off the bat, “Silicon Valley” nailed the look and feel of the massive campuses of tech titans like Google — the fictional Hooli has a very Google-y aesthetic.

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Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images/HBO

That’s down to Hooli’s ridiculous kitchens, which mirror those of Silicon Valley’s most perk-happy companies …

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HBO

… right down to the slogans on the walls. Here, Facebook gently mocks its own “Move Fast and Break Things” motto.

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Owen Thomas, Business Insider

A memorable scene from the first season sees rapper Flo Rida playing a party for an incongruous crowd of Silicon Valley nerds. This is 100% accurate: MC Hammer, just as one example, often officiates at after-parties for Salesforce’s Dreamforce conference.

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Getty

Richard Hendricks, the hero of “Silicon Valley,” is a Hooli employee who’s trying to design a tool for musicians to see if they’re violating copyright, but accidentally ends up inventing the most efficient file-compression algorithm known to man.

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HBO

Lots of startups invented their best products by accident. Slack, the $3.8 billion chat app, started as a tool that the developers of a weird multiplayer game, “Glitch,” used to stay coordinated. The game died, but Slack lives on.

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Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield.
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Slack

Hendricks developed Pied Piper while he was living and working in Erlich Bachman’s “incubator,” where he didn’t have to pay rent in exchange for some equity in the company.

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Jaimie Trueblood/HBO/”Silicon Valley”

In real life, incubators do exist — hot startups like Dropbox and Airbnb came through Y Combinator, the real Silicon Valley’s hottest incubator program. But the real incubators are more about mentorship and networking, not room and board.

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Wikimedia Commons

The show also nails the way the programmers work together. When the team needs to stay organized and keep building the platform, they turn to the very real “Scrum” method …

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HBO

… a methodology where teams of engineers also have a “stand-up” meeting, where you literally stand while you deliver your reports. The idea is that standing up promotes short, focused meetings.

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Wikimedia Commons

In the show, Hooli “benches” employees who have outstayed their welcome at the company, but who are too valuable to go elsewhere. This is actually an effective tactic used by the likes of Google in real life. It’s sometimes called “rest and vest,” since you keep earning shares in the company even if you’re not doing anything.

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HBO

Hooli CEO Gavin Belson, the show’s main antagonist for the first two seasons, is a composite of a whole bunch of Silicon Valley CEOs. Like Marc Benioff, he’s a big fan of “gurus”; like the Google cofounders, he loves “moonshot” projects; like all of them, he’s proved himself to be utterly ruthless, even if he has a smile on his face.

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HBO

In the current season of “Silicon Valley,” Hendricks is fired as CEO of the company he founded, after his main investor loses faith in his leadership ability.

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John P. Fleenor/HBO

It sounds crazy, but it can and does happen in real life. Even Steve Jobs was fired from Apple by the board of directors after he tried to usurp control from then CEO John Sculley. Eventually, Sculley got fired, too. It does happen.

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Lou Dematteis / Reuters

In the show, Gilfoyle (left) is a Canadian citizen working at Pied Piper on a visa. These kinds of work visas are a controversial issue in the real Silicon Valley, with lots of tech companies sponsoring visas for well-educated programmers from overseas in lieu of paying a more competitive salary.

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HBO

Hooli’s “brogrammers,” or super-macho programmers, are a real phenomenon in the streets and startups of Silicon Valley. They’re an extension of a culture where wearing a T-shirt and a hoodie can pass as business casual.

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HBO

One thing that Silicon Valley does not nail is representation of women. The most majorly recurring female characters are venture-capital investors — but in real life, only 7% of partners in Silicon Valley investment firms are women. It’s probably the least realistic part of the show — even when you put aside the fact that the main cast are all dudes.

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YouTube/Screenshot

Source: TechCrunch