To the outside world, Jared Dunn may seem like the classic Silicon Valley tech nerd. However, to think that he’s a one dimensional character would be to underestimate Jared, who is perhaps the best developed character on the show in terms of backstories. Some of the best Silicon Valley Easter eggs are the hints about Jared Dunn that are dropped in every episode. Out of all the characters, Jared seems to have had the hardest life before his time in the tech world. However, we may never know the truth about Jared Dunn. We can only examine the facts provided and develop a variety of theories and timelines regarding Jared's tormented personal history.
Unlike the rest of his coworkers at Pied Piper, Jared Dunn has seen true adversity. His backstory is filled with tales of life on the streets, Dickensian family members, and a time spent in the foster care system that seems to have destroyed him mentally. Some clues are dropped in so fast it's easy to miss them, given Jared's penchant for mentioning extremely disturbing personal details in routine conversation. However, no matter how horrible the origin story of Jared Dunn is, it’s made him uniquely qualified to handle the everyday ups and downs that come with running a tech start up.
In the Season 4 episode "Hooli-Con," Richard tries to gloss over the fact that he has stolen data from Hooli by referring to it as "forced adoption through aggressive guerrilla marketing." Jared's response is telling. He says, "As a product of forced adoption, I can assure you there are consequences."
How does forced adoption work? And how does that kind of thing affect a kid who's thrust into a system of foster homes? Apparently, they turn out like Jared.
Throughout the series, Jared has both implied and straight up admitted that he was a child sex worker. He's spoken about himself in terms of being Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman. In Season 2, he told Richard, "You pulled me out of that life, and you gave me hope and a sense of self-worth. Like Richard Gere did to Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman. Every day here has been like that shopping-spree scene. I'm putting on hats!"
Of course, Jared is a quirky guy, and this could just be interpreted as an oddly chosen metaphor if not for the subsequent hints sprinkled throughout the series. In Season Four, Jared tells Richard that he learned how to paint his nails because it was a means of survival on the streets. In Season Five, he makes reference to having to prove he was a "legitimate male prostitute" via exposing himself to someone and also claims he had to learn not to fall in love every time he "[turned] a trick."
The Season Five opener "Grow Fast or Die Slow" has multiple instances of Jared revealing small things about his past that are both funny and harrowing. Perhaps most notable is the blink-and-you'll-miss-it moment when Jared hints that half his family suffered some kind of horrible fate. When Jared and Richard are interviewing Kira from Optimoji about bringing on part of her staff, she says that she has to bring everyone because choosing only 12 people would be like cutting her family in half.
Jared empathizes with her, saying, "I know what it's like to only be able to save half your family." Richard quickly cuts him off, leaving viewers wondering what exactly happened to the family members Jared failed to rescue.
While trying the pizza provided by "SliceLine" in the first episode of Season Five, Jared explains to the group that he never had pizza as a child because his "foster mom didn't consider Italians real white people." Growing up without pizza is bad enough, but this isn't the only time that Jared's discussed his life in the foster system.
On the Pied Piper blog Jared wrote that he lived with "largely well-meaning" foster parents who housed him in attics and semi-enclosed porches, which he was forced to pay for "with endless, backbreaking chores and things no child should see."