HBO's Silicon Valley is funny even if you work for a startup in London
I just watched the first episode of HBO's brand spanking new sitcom Silicon Valley. Substantial hype precedes it not least because king of cynical workplace comedy Mike Judge made it happen. He's the chap who made Office Space. You're right to be intrigued.
Now I have no experience of working at Google nor of founding a startup. The closest I've come is being the first engineer at Qubit and starting Zonino with a couple of other chaps as an interesting project on the side. We call ourselves founders because it's fun and when you're coding at 3am for the fourth night running a little ego massage goes a long way. And I live in London where it's grey and drizzly and the streets are paved with tweed. Palo Alto it ain't. London's startup scene is towards the adorable end of the spectrum when compared to California's.
But despite this lack of experience I still find myself relating to the show. I squealed with laughter and delight on several occasions. And the appeal here comes in two distinct forms. The first is that Silicon Valley delivers everything I love about a good sitcom: It's silly. It's wry. The characters are delightful.
But there's something more going on here. Fawlty Towers did not make me want to go and buy a hotel.
What's different for me here is that I connect with the emotions that Richard Hendrix, the show's protagonist, is feeling. It's not just that it's ruthlessly well observed or that the tech jokes are actually funny (take note Big Bang Theory). I think they do a really good job of capturing the simultaneous excitement and terror of realising that you've built something from nothing that might actually be useful. I've only had the most trivial of glimpses of this but it's a powerful jolt.
For all its cynicism Silicon Valley actually left me feeling inspired. I spoke to my chum and Zonino co-founder Karolis about this. "Is it weird that a sitcom has left me inspired?" I typed, uncomfortably.
"Actually - no," he replied. "I guess it's like watching Spiderman and wanting to be Spiderman. But this time you can." He went on to explain that there were some problems in comparing software engineers to superheroes. But fundamentally he's hit the nail on the head. It's exciting to see a startup take shape - even if it's a ficticious one.
I rather like feeling inspired by a sitcom. It's new. It's pretty cool. I felt connected to the characters and their all too familiar dispositions in a rather charming way. I think I'm going to enjoy this series. Thwip.