Silicon Valley is one of the smartest, most well-researched shows on TV. No one is going to accuse Mike Judge of creating a documentary, but the HBO series does draw a lot of inspiration from real people and events in the tech industry. Obviously, Pied Pier and Hooli exist in a heightened version of reality, but there have been many times over the seasons when Silicon Valley nailed the real Silicon Valley.
The show captures an array of personas, from VCs to CEOs to programmers, but most real-life Valley people aren’t near as interesting or funny. Elon Musk has actually criticized Silicon Valley for inaccurately depicting software engineers. But who’s going to watch a totally realistic version in which a bunch of people talk about refuctoring? Leave great television to Mike Judge, Elon. We’ll leave being a gazillionaire to you.
It's not like Judge didn’t do his homework. He was a tech engineer in the Bay Area during the ’80s. He also took his writers to Silicon Valley and did deep research into startups and incubators, immersing themselves in the culture of the real place, using observations and events to fuel the show's comedy.
This list collects times Silicon Valley has been very close to the real deal. Some are obvious to pretty much anyone and others are only for the hardcore tech geeks. That's why this list is here to sort them out.
The Compression Algorithm is Totally Plausible
Source: Hollywood Reporter
As Seen on TV: The whole adventure in cutting edge capitalism revolves around Richard Hendricks and his potentially revolutionary compression algorithm, Pied Piper, which he and his motley crew hope to turn into the next indispensable app, if they can survive as a software startup.
What This Is Based On: Tech Adviser Jonathan Dotan has 14 years in the business and wanted to create something very real for Pied Piper. He actually created the Pied Piper user interface featured the show. "We wanted to be sure that if a fan would freeze-frame the screen that anything they would see on there would be accurate," says Dotan.In creating the show's lossless compression algorithm, Dotan worked with Stanford professor Tsachy Weissman and graduate student Vinith Misra. They whipped up the show's Weissman Score, which measures the effectiveness of compression algorithms. Compression experts also consult on the show to make sure the niche science is represented accurately.
The Graffiti Artist Plot Is Straight from Facebook History
As Seen on TV: Erlich’s desire to be dangerous and bold in creating Pied Piper’s logo drives him to hire graffiti artist Chuy Ramirez. Chuy asks Erlich, “So you going to give me stock options or what?” They decide upon a straightforward $10,000 fee and Erlich ends up with a really pornographic mural. He was looking for something edgy, after all.
What This is Based On: Facebook hired graffiti artist David Choe to tag their office in Palo Alto in 2005. Choe said Facebook originally offered him $60,000, but he chose stock options instead. His stock is now worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
Peter Gregory May Be Based on Peter Thiel
As Seen on TV: The late Christopher Evan Welch's magnificently-played character Peter Gregory is a massively successful oddball and a sort of funhouse mirror version of Thiel, the co-founder of PayPal.
What This Is Based On: Both are eccentric and brilliant libertarian billionaires who zealously encourage smart young people to drop out of college, but Welch’s fictitious CEO is more of an introvert and most definitely an odder, more embellished duck. Thiel has pointed out that Asberger’s is an advantage in the tech world. Peter Gregory would probably readily agree.
Peter Gregory's Sesame Seed Plan Is Based on a Real Thing
As Seen on TV: After seeming to lose his mind to a sudden Burger King fixation, Gregory comes up with a way to make a whole lot of money off an impending sesame seed shortage. In series of stunning cognitive leaps, he breaks down of the simultaneous birth of cicadas in two countries and how investing in Indonesian seed futures could raise an easy $70 million, more than enough to make a bridge loan for Pied Piper.
What This Is Based On: In the real world, Bill Gates got very into peas and pea powder, not sesame seeds. General Mills saw the power of plant protein and stocked up, creating global scarcity. This attracted Gates and other billionaire investors who have been using the plant protein boom as way to reduce climate change and improve animal welfare... to make the world a better place.