- Bill Gates has a message for those in the tech industry who think that HBO’s “Silicon Valley” is too critical: lighten up.
- “I always tell them: ‘You really should watch it, because they don’t make any more fun of us than we deserve,'” writes Gates, who has consulted on the show.
- Gates says he identifies most with Richard Hendricks, the CEO of fictional startup Pied Piper, “who is a great programmer but has to learn some hard lessons about managing people.”
- His one gripe with the show is that it makes the mega-corp Hooli look inept compared to its upstart rival – but he admits that he may be biased in favor of large corporations.
There are those in the real-world Silicon Valley who think that HBO’s “Silicon Valley,” the network’s long-running satire, is too critical of the tech industry.
But in a new blog entry, no less than Microsoft cofounder Bill Gates has a message for those people: lighten up.
“I have friends in Silicon Valley who refuse to watch the show because they think it’s just making fun of them,” writes Gates. “I always tell them: ‘You really should watch it, because they don’t make any more fun of us than we deserve.'”
“Silicon Valley,” which is going into its sixth season, details the adventures of Pied Piper, a data compression startup that can’t quite seem to catch a break. It also follows Gavin Belson, the CEO of Google-esque mega-corp Hooli, who borrows attributes from real-life execs including Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff and Oracle founder Larry Ellison.
In his blog entry, Gates says that he’s one of the many tech execs who were consulted by the show’s creators to ensure authenticity – creator Mike Judge and his production team have interviewed the likes of former Twitter CEO Dick Costolo and investor Marc Andreessen, even embedding at a hardware startup to ensure that a running gag rang true.
Gates writes that all of that effort paid off, as the show is an accurate lampooning of the types of people and companies that he knows so well. He says that he identifies the most with Richard Hendricks, the founder of Pied Piper, “who is a great programmer but has to learn some hard lessons about managing people.”
“The show is a parody, so it exaggerates things, but like all great parodies it captures a lot of truths,” writes Gates.
Similarly, Gates likes the way that the show depicts entrepreneurs and startups.
“Even a huge believer in technology like me has to laugh when some character talks about how they’re going to change the world with an app that tells you whether what you’re eating is a hot dog or not,” he writes. That’s a reference to an infamous “Silicon Valley” gag where a character makes a cutting-edge AI-powered app that can tell you, indeed, if something is a hot dog or not. The show’s creators even released it as a real iPhone app.
He does have one bone to pick, though, with how the show depicts Hooli, the Goliath to Pied Piper’s David, as bloated and inept.
“Although I’m obviously biased, my experience is that small companies can be just as inept, and the big ones have the resources to invest in deep research and take a long-term point of view that smaller ones can’t afford,” writes Gates.
Of note is that while Gates may relate to the journey of Pied Piper, their stories are very different.
The fictional Pied Piper got off the ground after Hendricks and his friends quit Hooli to chase a novel new piece of technology; Gates and his late cofounder Paul Allen started Microsoft after moving to New Mexico to chase an opportunity with a then-revolutionary microcomputer. Gates and Allen definitely had their own problems, but they never had to fend off an angry ex-employer with an axe to grind.
Also of note is that not everybody in Silicon Valley seems to love the show as much as Gates. Astro Teller, best known as Google’s moonshot boss, is said to have once huffed out of a meeting with the show’s producers and tried to make a dramatic exit – on Rollerblades.
You can read Gates’ full thoughts on HBO’s “Silicon Valley” here.