The Spiritual Wellness, and Perceptions of Silicon Valley
It looks like Pied Piper is a success, or on its way to becoming the best middle-out compression companies in Silicon Valley in the latest episode, Bachman’s Earning’s Over-Ride. This does not mean there aren’t problems inside the company. Erlich (T. J. Miller) still has not told Richard (Thomas Middleditch) that he sold his stake in the company to pay off his debts. But, as we all know, secrets do not remain secrets for long and when Richard finds out, he is not pleased.
There is a lot more going on in this episode than meets the eye. One of the concerns Richard has is what would people think if they found out Erlich sold his shares; in the world of start-ups, a negative rumor can kill you. Leaving nothing to chance, Richard drafts a scathing public release that describes in no unflattering terms what happened with Erlich. You almost feel sorry for the guy.
Whatever you may think of Richard’s actions, whether positive or negative, it shows his growth in the role as CEO; he is aware how the game is played. This is a stark contrast from his fumbling around in Seasons 1 and 2. He knows that how people perceive his company will influence whether they invest or not. It is important that a company controls the narrative rather than let speculation take root. This is seen in the fictional Code/Rag blog covering Belson’s (Matt Ross) exit as CEO to focus on “spiritual wellness and family.”
While only a fictional tech blog, Code/Rag serves an important part of Silicon Valley’s narrative. It shows us what the general public sees and hears, and often, it is very different from what we know happened in the show. We know, for example, that Jack “Action Jack” Barker (Stephen Tobolowsky) was ousted as CEO because of his decisions on the direction the company should take. This lead to him burning through most of Pied Piper’s initial round of Seed A funding. Instead of reporting the fact, which probably would cripple the company, Jack is given a gracious exit, saying that he is leaving to also focus on “spiritual wellness and family.”
Belson and Barker are not the only people with major roles in big tech companies to leave for the same reasons. Nelson “Big Head” Bighetti (Josh Brener) also left Holi XYZ for the same reasons. (Maybe this is Silicon Valley code for unceremoniously fired).
Silicon Valley has always been more than a comedy. The show’s satire is also Mike Judge‘s statement of his views on the tech industry. In a Wall Street Journal interview, he describes the tech industry as,
… a ridiculous business… there are parts that should be mocked and there are parts that are important.
It is fun to watch Pied Piper grow rather than constantly see our favorite characters run smack into obstacles all the time. This has not stopped Judge from telling a complex and nuanced story. A definite must-watch episode.