Top 3 things I loved about the last episode (S3E9) of HBO’s ‘Silicon Valley’

As an instructor, I feel like I spend a lot of time undoing the myth that all successful startups:

  1. Have an amazing epiphany
  2. Make the ideal pitch/Power Point for an investor
  3. Get funded
  4. Build a huge pre-revenue organization to build stuff
  5. Build stuff that their customer loves

The reality of successful firms is that they grind it out- they understand their customers, they know what problems they really have, and they try A LOT of different propositions before they find out what actually works. What does that mean, ‘works’? Well, it depends on your business model and that’s where fiction and actual innovation start to diverge.
While the HBO show ‘Silicon Valley’ is, hyperbolic and, above all, fiction, I think the research is pretty amazing. The top three things I loved about this episode were:

  1. Showcasing ‘Vanity Metrics’
    Without giving away too much of the plot, the team is excited that they have tons of downloads, but there’s an issue with actual usage. Why? That’s the question!
  2. The Focus Group Fail
    I hate focus groups as a means to customer discovery. But the scene where the founder is effectively educated by his focus group while he’s supposedly educating them about the platform is (directionally) great.
  3. Gilfoyle’s ‘Lies’
    Don’t get me wrong, saying your teammates are lying is absolutely, definitely not a good way to build the interdisciplinary collaboration that is so critical to successful innovation. That said, be your own Gilfoyle and constantly ask yourself whether you’re arriving at convenient or honest conclusions about your product.

Rightly or wrongly, my particular perspective on these matters is available online at Coursera in my agile course or in the classes I teach at UVA Darden (Software Design, Software Development).