Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates has said that if you want to understand Silicon Valley, you should watch Silicon Valley.
“The show is a parody, so it exaggerates things, but like all great parodies it captures a lot of truths,” said Gates in a blog post.
“Most of the different personality types you see in the show feel very familiar to me. The programmers are smart, super-competitive even with their friends, and a bit clueless when it comes to social cues. Personally, I identify most with Richard, the founder of Pied Piper, who is a great programmer but has to learn some hard lessons about managing people.
“And the entrepreneurs are well intentioned but prone to over-the-top vision statements. Even a huge believer in technology like me has to laugh when some character talks about how they’re going to change the world with an app that tells you whether what you’re eating is a hot dog or not.
Gates said the producers and writers do a lot of research before each new season of the show and that last year he was one of several people they met to talk about the history of the industry and “kick around some of their ideas” for season 5.
He added he has friends in Silicon Valley who refuse to watch the show because “they think it is just making fun of them”, but that he tells them ‘You really should watch it, because they don’t make any more fun of us than we deserve.’
Gates said the show captured perfectly the phenomenon “somebody gets an idea almost right, but not quite, and their business fails; then someone else does it just a little bit better and they are viewed as a genius for the rest of their life”.
He said he did have “minor complaint”, that Silicon Valley gives you the impression that small companies like Pied Piper are mostly capable while big companies like Hooli are mostly inept.
“Although I’m obviously biased, my experience is that small companies can be just as inept, and the big ones have the resources to invest in deep research and take a long-term point of view that smaller ones can’t afford,” he said.
Gates added that he would keep watching “as long as they keep making this hilarious show”.