As one of the most successful businessmen in the history of the recorded (Microsoft) word, Bill Gates has ideas and thoughts that are considered doctrine by many. The billionaire philanthropist recently gained some more comedy cred in blogging about his love for HBO's Silicon Valley, paying it the ultimate compliment in the process. For anyone who wants to understand the real world's Silicon Valley, Gates says watching HBO's tech satire is the way to do it. Not that he doesn't have at least one complaint.
First, though, Bill Gates lauded Silicon Valley for being the rare pop culture entity that properly showcases the impact that the tech industry has had on the world, for better and worse. The Microsoft co-founder and former CEO says he recognizes a lot of the truths that Silicon Valley filters through its spoofy gags. Via his GatesNotes blog:
The show is a parody, so it exaggerates things, but like all great parodies it captures a lot of truths. 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.
Anybody who has watched Silicon Valley has witnessed Richard's stunning brilliance becoming overwhelmed by his mountainous ineptitude. It's not exactly comforting to know that Bill Gates sees so much of himself within Thomas Middleditch's beleaguered programmer, considering how globally widespread Microsoft and Windows have gotten in the past 40 years. I mean, Richard is a "leader" who vomits under his desk and breaks his face on glass walls.
Obviously, even if Bill Gates did get some puke on his shirt over the years, his accomplishments have greatly overshadowed any personal embarrassments or setbacks. The same can't quite be said for Richard, Dinesh, Gilfoyle and Jared, whose Pied Piper faces two major problems for every one minor success.
In fact, the one complaint Bill Gates has with Silicon Valley, which he calls "minor," involves startup Pied Piper being depicted as so much more put-together than Gavin Belson's monolithic corporation Hooli. In Gates' words:
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. But I also understand why the show focuses so much on Pied Piper and makes Hooli look so goofy. It's more fun to root for the underdog.
To Gates' credit, there are few companies on TV that are depicted with the amount of contempt that Silicon Valley heaps onto Hooli and Matt Ross' Gavin Belson. Everything that Gavin does is born of greed, vanity and the endless pursuit of superlative glory, which clearly isn't comparative to Bill Gates himself, who has donated more money to charities than most people make in their lives. It is interesting, though, that Hooli and Gavin's successes are known and accepted on Silicon Valley, even though they're rarely depicted.
When Gavin does win big, though, you can almost always bet that Richard and Pied Piper's products and advancements were part of the equation. In his blog post, Bill Gates says that Silicon Valley totally nails this element of the bloodthirsty tech world. (As opposed to, I guess, gags about masturbation and horse sex.)
Silicon Valley's mindless consumers don't wholly care if it's Hooli or Pied Piper that's responsible for their data compression. Similarly, everyday people don't always care what company or genius introduced the latest tech upgrade, only that the upgrade actually exists for us to use.
What's certain, though, is that Silicon Valley is a product that could likely only come from a combination of creator Mike Judge's sardonic wit, HBO's encouragement, and razor-sharp performances. There can be no Hooli ripoffs here. Now, if only Bill Gates was able to talk about someone he knew who was like T.J. Miller's Erlich.
Silicon Valley's first five seasons are currently available to stream on HBO Go and HBO Now, with Season 6 set to possibly not debut until 2020. (Delays pushed the production back to Summer 2019.) While waiting to see where this app-driven mayhem goes next, be sure to keep up with all the shows currently airing with our fall premiere schedule and our midseason TV guide.