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Building an App Lessons from HBO’s Silicon Valley

Few television shows are able to demonstrate tech life while simultaneously holding our attention. Yet Mike Judge has in what might be his funniest satire yet, poking fun at the lives of a startup in Silicon Valley and even, somewhat, accurately depicting how truly nerdy the life can be.

 Even better is you don’t have to be an engineer to follow the show and learn from the mistakes Richard, Ehrlich and the team at Pied Piper make throughout their adventures. Through the classic Judge humor and dry bumbling wit, Silicon Valley not only entertains but provides nuggets of wisdom along the way.

Specifically, here are a few things we noticed that those of us building apps – or interested in building apps – can take away from the show and apply to our app delivering endeavors.

Good Comes Before Great

 “Hooli isn’t just about software. Hooli…Hooli is about people. Hooli is about innovative technology that makes a difference, transforming the world as we know it, making the world a better place through minimal message-oriented transport layers. I firmly believe we can only achieve greatness if first we achieve goodness.” – Gavin Belson

While this particular quote is a playful jab at people who think they can change the entire world with one piece of technology, there’s some truth to it in the thought that good ideas come from great ideas. Begin by solving one problem and one problem only. Once you master that first problem, get good at it. From there, your application can become the application for that problem. Don’t become the, “Facebook of x,” or the “Pandora of y,” develop your app to solve a specific problem extremely well – then become the best solution for that problem.

 Know Your Vision

“Today’s user wants access to all of their files from all of their devices instantly. That’s why ‘cloud-based’ is the holy grail. Now, Dropbox is winning. But when it comes to audio and video files, they might as well be called ‘Dripbox.’ Using our platform, Pied Piper users would be able to compress all of their files to the point where they truly can access them instantly. We control the pipe, they just use it. That’s the vision in Richard Hendricks’ head.” – Ehrlich Bachmann

Ehrlich may be a wiry-haired goofball, but the second he understood the concept behind Pied Piper he was all over it. He defined what it was and focused, clearly articulating the vision of Pied Piper in such a way that potential VC’s couldn’t say no. Your idea may be clear in your head, but if you can’t explain it as an elevator pitch, you yourself don’t understand it well enough yet. Be able to explain your product in one sentence – from there you can focus and hone in on other elements that will make your concept a success.

Go Big

“If we can make your audio and video files smaller, we can make cancer smaller. And hunger. And AIDS.” – Gavin Belson

As hackneyed of a statement as it is, we’re going to say it anyway – shoot for the stars. Imagine that your concept can solve everything you ever want it to. Developing a top downloaded app isn’t a goal reached by people who barely care or have short-sighted vision. Believe that your app can solve everything in the world, and perhaps it can solve one thing well.

 Let the Successful Help You

 Richard made a tough decision. He turned down a $10 million buyout for his startup and instead took less funding from a VC who offered to help grow his idea. Seldom do any of us have an idea that draws that kind of buyout attention, but many of us have people who want to help our small ideas become something great. Many startups and entrepreneurs make the mistake of trying to do everything themselves – don’t be one of them. Align yourself with partners who can offer the stability needed to grow and go to market. There will always be others in the industry who have more experience in some part of the business than you do. Borrow brilliance and let those who want to support you, help you.

Slow to Hire, Quick to Fire

Richard has, so far, survived his decision of hiring friends and housemates for Pied Piper. It wouldn’t be a surprise if in coming seasons those friendships begin to unravel, as it is important to take time and attention to each person you bring on board with your company. In addition, Richard hired a young, so young he was in junior high, developer to work on a part of the project without consulting the rest of the group. What happened was the developer destroyed a significant part of the code, causing the team a significant amount of cleanup work that never would have happened if Richard took more time evaluating the new hire.

Whether you run a startup, enterprise, or well established business, building an app is a heavy task. Silicon Valley is filled with hilarious mistakes and gems of wisdom you can learn from to help your mobile or web application development process. From there, we can help bring your application solution to life. Ping us here.

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