The life of a startup is full of ups and downs. Fortunately, there is a simple way to prepare for the tough road ahead… watch the HBO show Silicon Valley. Whilst some shows and films may teach a few business lessons, Silicon Valley is an incredibly accurate case study that startups can genuinely learn from (whilst also being ridiculous and hilarious).
The show revolves around Richard Hendricks (CEO of fictional tech startup Pied Piper) as he attempts to grow his company in the saturated tech marketplace of Silicon Valley – famous for being the headquarters of huge tech giants such as Facebook, Apple and Google. Let’s take a look at some of the scenarios the show throws up and how they could inspire you.
Change the idea if it doesn’t work
The initial concept of Pied Piper is a music app that checks for copyright infringement for artists. However, the idea changes totally when it is discovered that the app contains a data compression algorithm – which is quicker than anything else in the tech marketplace. Consequently this becomes the focus point of the company.
If the initial idea doesn’t work don’t be afraid to evolve. As a startup it’s important to adapt and change when the situation demands it.
Make the brand reflect the company
Behind every great company must be an equally great brand. Creating a coherent brand is something Pied Piper initially struggle with (and their name certainly doesn’t help). This is demonstrated when board member Ehrlich decides to pay a graffiti artist a large amount of money to create a Pied Piper logo, one that is completely off-brand.
His naivety demonstrates how any branding strategy needs a great deal of consideration. Don’t rush the implementation of your brand as getting it right is vital to connecting with an audience.
Don’t value yourself too highly
In the first series Richard and his team demonstrate the fantastic capabilities of their product at Techcrunch. Naturally this gives the company exposure, exposure which results in an enormous offer being made for the company. Richard immediately accepts. However, his business mentor, Monica, urges him to reconsider by stressing the dangers of being valued too high too soon.
Huge investment equals huge expectations. Sometimes it’s far better to progress gradually rather than take a massive leap. Take a look at the below point for more on this…
Do your homework on investors
Just because someone wants to invest in you does not mean they are the right investor. Richard discovers this when he decides to go with the notorious Russ Hanneman who soon proves to be a bad fit. He is aggressive, too interfering and in fact becomes counterproductive to helping the company grow. Eventually he gets bought out but it’s clear from the outset that the whole arrangement was wrong.
Do your research before you get investment because even if the money on offer is good the investor themselves may not be right for you or your business.
Protect your ideas
When Richard goes in front of a Venture Capitalist firm assuming he is going to receive funding, he receives a plethora of questions about his product and how it works. He soon discovers that they are not VCs at all, but a competitor trying to get insight into the workings of their system.
When you are in the process of developing a product or service it’s important to be smart about who you share valuable information with. You never know if a rival company is watching.
Stress is no good for wellbeing
When Richard starts suffering from ‘night sweats’ his doctor suggests this could lead to bedwetting. As ridiculous as this suggestion is, there’s no doubt that Richard is suffering from stress.
If you are running a business it’s important to maintain a healthy lifestyle. This is easier said than done, particularly if you’re growing at a quick rate. There are however plenty of ways to do this. Why not take up yoga? Read a book, meditate, take walks – anything (within reason) that helps you relax.
There you have it, 6 moments of entrepreneurial inspiration from HBO’s Silicon Valley. We hope these help you whilst you are starting, running and growing your very own Pied Piper. Interested in reading similar posts? Take a look here for more from our dedicated small business blog.