Silicon Valley – The HBO Show (not the place)

SiliconWhile binge watching HBO’s Silicon Valley last weekend, I was thinking about whether the show actually mirrors reality, or if it’s mostly a work of fiction. Since I’ve never started up a tech company, I don’t have an opinion on how real that aspect of the show is, but since I do spend my days in the worlds of finance and communications, and I did work for a tech company that was incubated, I believe that the show’s conversations about venture capital, fund raising and public perception are pretty on the money (pun intended).

So, I thought a blog about Silicon Valley (the show) and its ties to business and celebrity of Silicon Valley (the place) might be interesting. But when I sat down to actually write something, I couldn’t quite figure out how to relate what I’ve seen on the small screen to my life in investor relations. That got me pulling up a search engine (one based in Silicon Valley, of course) on the off chance there might be something that would help stir my creative side. Much to my surprise, when I typed “HBO’s Silicon Valley and business” into the search bar, I got 421,000 results. Titles like, “3 Management Lessons from HBO’s Silicon Valley,” “Business Lessons from HBO’s Silicon Valley” and “INCUBATE THIS: Trade Secrets Lessons from HBO’s Silicon Valley” made me realize that this is a topic that has been done before.

At the risk of being somewhat of a copycat, here’s a quick summary of the lessons a lot of bloggers and journalists want to you take away from the show:

  • From Hivewyre: Have a work/life balance. “By taking the occasional break (or, gasp— even a vacation) you’re doing yourself and the company some good. Doing so means recharging your batteries, clearing your head, and coming back ready to kill it!”
  • From InsideCounsel: Protect your IP. “It is important for these companies to invest in protecting its own IP so that it can use that IP to defend itself if necessary.”
  • From WeberShandwick: Clear messaging is essential. “Especially in deep tech, it’s easy to get caught up in the specs and techs of a product. Our challenge is to elevate the messaging to something meaningful, but not generic. Instead of “making the world a better place,” can you get more specific?”
  • From Forbes: Do your homework. “Startups need to have the basics buttoned up long before raising money.”
  • From The Business Journals: Assembling a board is not an easy task. “Good board members can help young companies gain credibility and open doors. Board seats are valued rewards for key investors and personnel. But they also carry tremendous responsibility. Board members must place the company’s interests ahead of their own. And for every new board seat created, the value of every other board seat is diminished. The lesson: board positions matter and should be given out very carefully.”

If you haven’t given the show a chance, check it out. It’s politically incorrect and foul-mouthed, but an incredibly funny look at the culture of tech start-ups, and a fountain of good information…for what NOT to do!

— Laurie Berman,

While we’re on the subject of bubbles

Once again, Silicon Valley is humming.  Tech IPOs are hot, hot, hot.  Household names like LinkedIn, Pandora and Zynga, just to name a few, have recently gone public or have plans to do so, with many others awaiting their debut (think Groupon and Facebook).  It reminds me (and others, I’m sure) of the late 1990s/early 2000s when technology/Internet companies were going public at an alarming rate, without the revenues or profits to back up lofty valuations.  Fortune says there will be more than 50 tech IPOs before the end of 2011 and that proceeds so far from this year’s IPOs — $12 billion — have far eclipsed last year’s total.  A recent guest blogger on CNBC states that, “there is a familiar sense of déjà vu.  In some ways, it’s the year 2000 once again in the IPO world.”
Should we be scared that optimism has again returned to the Valley?  The Fortune article asserts that “the consensus is that there remains sufficient fear in the marketplace — be it on Sand Hill Road or Wall Street — to prevent exuberance from becoming totally irrational.”  Maha Ibrahim, a general partner at a Silicon Valley-based VC firm, says, however, “that bubbles can be very positive, and this one is needed to kick start a long-sputtering economy.”  Are we really in the midst of another tech bubble, though?  According to Business Insider, the current environment “doesn’t seem very bubblicious.”
Hopefully we’ve learned from past mistakes, but in my opinion, if recent activity helps drive the economy, than call it whatever you’d like.  After all, a bubble by any other name (to borrow slightly from Shakespeare)…is still a bubble.


Laurie Berman,