For those of you who have not caught the Silicon Valley bug, it’s worth a watch. The story begins with six guys trying to launch their startup company in the famous tech capital of the world; Silicon Valley. The episodes take you through the lifecycles of start-up company from securing funding to understanding the ins and outs of the business world while dealing with opportunist investors trying to steal the company’s IP. HBO series brings to life a hilariously real look at the tech industry. What is great about the show that it gives you real-life lessons for budding entrepreneurs and we will share the top 9 lessons with you.
Lessons to Learn from HBO’s Silicon Valley
1. Deciding on Investors
You may have a great idea and a dedicated team, the only thing stopping you now is the lack of money. You need to secure funding quickly to stay ahead of the game. Even so, how do you find someone who is not only willing to give your idea a chance but also has your best interests at heart? Choosing the right investor is vital to the success of your company. You need someone who will understand your vision and respect your ideas. The wrong investor can send your business spiraling by controlling how things are done. You also want to stay away from preying sharks who only want to swallow your idea and make it their own.
If you are new to the tech industry, you may want to find someone who can give you advice and show you the ropes. Or you may be looking for a silent investor who doesn’t interfere in decision-making. It is important that you lay out your terms before you take anyone on board or you will find yourself in the middle of arguments and disagreements over trivial matters.
Make sure you do a bit of research and read about the 3 primary investment options for start-up companies; angel investors, venture capitalist firms and private equity. Once you have decided what kind of investor you are after, try to get as many interviews as possible. Don’t settle for the first one who makes an offer, weigh your options wisely. The relationship you will have with your investor will affect your company’s future significantly. If you feel an investor isn’t right for your company, keep looking until you are happy with one.
2. Maintaining Relationships
Keep your relationships cordial and professional. Never walk out of a meeting in haste or rudely. Do not talk or behave unprofessionally; that means no foul language or weird jokes. Never show up in jeans if you want people to take you seriously when you are trying to secure funding for your business. Always wear proper attire and put effort into looking good because your appearance is the first thing people will notice. Research shows that people pay attention to well-dressed individuals and take their words seriously.
3. Quality is a Priority
Back in 2012, Apple launched its own maps which were a complete failure because they couldn’t guide people to their destination. When Google launched its maps, it made sure that the navigation system was accurate. People now use Google maps every day to get around, and nobody even remembers about Apple maps. Ensure that your product is free from bugs and quality issues before you launch it. Your product/service will only sell on the basis of its quality. Compromise on quality means you are compromising on the product’s sales.
4. Getting Good Marketing & PR
Only by identifying a gap in the market can you guarantee success for your business. Marketing will help you find out what the customers want and how to market your product benefits to them. PR will have to play a role from the beginning when early adopters buy your product because the word can spread quickly if it doesn’t meet their expectations. You will need to define your market position from competitor analysis and differentiate clearly. In promoting your products, you will want to focus on advantages or distinctions to attract customers.
5. Look After Yourself
Launching a start-up can be an excruciating process; chasing the investors, making decisions, last-minute revisions, following up and double checking everything can take its toll on your health. You need to look after your mental and physical health or those sleepless nights could turn into a potential health problem. Taking care of your health, diet and sleep will help you make the most out of the whole process. After all, you will need to be in good health to enjoy the benefits that come after a successful launch.
6. About Being Resourceful
Use the resources available to you instead of spending out of your budget to buy new things. Try to keep your costs to a minimum during the first few months while you build your customer base. Don’t get excited and stretch yourself. Rather, do what you can without incurring extra costs. This will give you an idea of what resources are necessary and what you can do without. Remember Google, Facebook, Apple and HP all started in garages and living rooms.
Research shows that resourceful managers are not only better at achieving goals, but they also respond better to stress. The majority of start-ups have extremely limited resources and must make the most of them even big companies like Body Shop had a humble beginning. The CEO, Anita kept her business costs and waste to a minimum by asking the customers to bring back empty bottles for refilling.
7. Don’t Make Comparisons
Working at a start-up is nothing like a regular job. On the contrary, it is a lifestyle. You are directly responsible for all the decisions you make and the success or failure that comes with them. Since it is difficult to separate yourself from the success or failure of the start-up and the emotional rollercoaster you face every day, it can bring you closer to your colleagues. Either you form long-lasting healthy relationships with them, or you enter into an unhealthy state of constant comparison with them.
One thing Silicon Valley has made perfectly clear to us is how important it is to keep your compensation details private. Just like your social security or credit card number, your salary information is for you alone. And the same goes for trying to ask your colleagues about what they are making. By comparing your salary and perks with others, you are only causing unnecessary stress and unhealthy competition. Both of these are toxic for any start-up and as we saw Dinesh and Gilfoyle learned this the hard way.
It is recommended that every employee should know their salary range and how it compares with the market but discussing salaries with your co-workers can cause resentment towards the management. There are a few reasons why you should not go around making comparisons in the office:
- It is demoralizing for you or your colleague if he finds out he is being paid less.
- It is very rare for two co-workers to have the same job, experience and background which is why no two people can get paid equally.
- There may be a case in which someone is earning less than others but gets other valuable perks to balance things out.
- If you go to the management complaining about not making as much as your colleague; you will only end up explaining how you found the salary information in the first place. This will reduce your chances of a raise in future as well.
- A better strategy is to do your own research and look for online salary databases like Glassdoor.
Keep in mind that salary ranges vary depending on geographic location and company size.
It is essential to remember that you all are in the same boat striving for the same goals. Making comparisons will only disturb your peace of mind and cause tensions in your professional relationships. The company will only succeed if everyone is working in harmony and supporting each other.
8. Dedicated Teams
Pied Piper, the fictional internet start-up created by Richard has a dedicated team. They usually don’t agree with each other, but they are all talented characters in their individual fields. Throughout the five seasons, they have faced their fair share of adversities. We have seen Gavin Belson, the fictional tech giant trying to sabotage Pied Piper to get his own way. Richard always had Jared, Erlich and others to provide support and solutions when things got tough.
Several times Richard was offered money to sell his algorithm to buyers, but he believed in his idea and team. The key to success is simple; you build a great product that solves a big problem for customers, build a dedicated team, and the numbers will follow. When hiring people, it’s important to focus on intelligence and capabilities rather than skills because skills can be taught. Usually, the smartest people come from unusual backgrounds who have not been to any of the Ivy league colleges. As a start-up, you need to prepare for problems that nobody has faced before, so you need to hire people who will think outside the box.
You may want to hire people who are up-to-date on certifications and training, so you don’t have to bear these extra costs. You can also think about outsourcing IT tasks to a dedicated team in another country to save substantial costs.
9. Return on Investment
Silicon Valley’s creators pride themselves in staying ahead of the tech trends and season 5 is more on point than ever. The writers of the show are ushering ICO to the mainstream as we saw in an episode titled “Initial Coin Offering”. In the fifth season, the lead character, Richard Hendricks, has finally made it in the industry. His invention of the data compression algorithm has made him rich. He has secured funding through pursuing ICO when the original plan fails.
It goes without saying that you have to be wise when choosing between investors as potential board members for your start-up. After all, you don’t want someone who cares more about expensive cars and parties than your company’s mission; no matter how cool it may be to hang out with the Winklevoss twins.
Silicon Valley has gained a massive following from tech guys and entrepreneurs all over the world. The creators of the show have captured real-life events and incorporated them into the show brilliantly. It truly depicts the phases a start-up has to go through and the challenges one has to face as an entrepreneur. Season 5 has brought many surprises such as Elrich’s character no longer being part of the show and Richard becoming the same kind of owner he once used to despise. It will be interesting to see how Richard’s character takes a darker turn this season.
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