Silicon Valley draws parallels to real life

March 18, 2017 — by Daniel Bessonov and Roland Shen

Since its April 2014 premiere, acclaimed HBO comedy-series “Silicon Valley” has managed to capture the viewership of millions, appealing especially to young people and Bay Area residents.

The show revolves around twentysomethings Richard Hendriks, Erlich Bachman, Bertram Gilfoyle, Dinesh Chugtai and Jared Dunn, who make up the core of a startup called “Pied Piper,” which operates out of Bachman’s Palo Alto house.

All characters emulate stereotypical Silicon Valley identities, with Hendricks representing the awkward, genius programmer, Bachman emulating the foul-mouthed, business-minded mentor, Gilfoyle and Dinesh playing the cliche developers and Dunn acting as the company’s quirky marketing director.

Unlike other popular television shows that hardly make an attempt at accuracy, “Silicon Valley” actually has quite a few parallels to the real Silicon Valley — a landscape familiar to many students here.

This summer, Daniel had the opportunity to intern at a startup in Mountain View, whose main focus was building a cloud-based, genomics platform. Having watched “Silicon Valley,” Daniel knew that his expectations for a startup-environment were extremely unrealistic — no way could a real-life startup function even remotely similar to Pied Piper.

However, as he walked into the office building on his first day, it was immediately clear that he could not have been more wrong.

While setting up his workstation and laptop, Daniel laid his eyes upon a man in blue jeans and a black turtleneck, who, walking slowly across the office, sipped on his cup of coffee. Daniel’s first thought was to yell — ”Bachman? Is that you?” — the only thing restraining him was the will to not get fired on his first day.

The coders Daniel worked with were also near-carbon  copies of Dinesh and Gilfoyle. From the contentious coders’ nonchalant, low-key programming competitions to their development-related rants, at some points he thought he was living in the “Silicon Valley” world himself.

There are also striking correlations between the show and the increasingly popular student “hackathons” that take place all over the U.S. Hackathons allow for students to work in small groups on projects, whether it be a mobile app, website or game. The catch is that attendees typically only have 24 hours to create a fully functional version of their project.

Naturally, with such a time limitation, coffee and other forms of caffeine become essential. Hackathon organizers tend to stock up on sodas, coffees and soylent bottles to keep the teenage hackers fueled, caffeinated and working throughout the duration of the long night.

In one episode, “Third Party Insourcing,” the Pied Piper team seeks a legendary hacker known as  “The Carver,” who is later revealed to be a teenager named Kevin, to assist them in completing a project before a set deadline. Just like the caffeine-junkie students at hackathons, “The Carver” cannot function without Adderall, a prescription drug meant to treat ADHD. Like the other comedic aspects of the show, Kevin’s dependence on Adderall is a more mature exaggeration of a more innocent real-life situation, in this case the caffeine dependency so prevalent at hackathons.

The show’s creators have done a remarkably thorough job drawing direct parallels to the real Silicon Valley. The realistic humor of the show makes it one of the most entertaining and comical shows on air.