There’s an ongoing question in hit comedy show Silicon Valley: do you have to be a jerk to succeed? For the entire first season of Mike Judge’s HBO comedy about the new economy gold rush, it’s been Steve vs. Steve 2.0.
Part of what makes the show a resounding success – it’s already confirmed for season two – is how realistic it is. The startup lads at Pied Piper have been under the gun preparing for a big demo: they have a spot at the TechCrunch Disrupt Battlefield. Yeah, that’s an actual thing. The show is set where TCD takes place, in the barn-like San Francisco Design Center Concourse, and some 400 companies have duked it out in demos that raised over $2.4 billion in funding.
Nota bene: teensy spoilers follow.
So. Back to Steve-the-showman versus Steve-the-programmer. Richard is the earnest aspie accidental entrepreneur who doesn’t see the big possibilities of his lamely named Pied Piper until some brogrammers nearly steal it from him. A delicate soul, he has panic attacks that explode from either extremity when under stress. Richard’s right to get the projectile butterflies about TCD, where companies like Fitbit and Mint have taken down a thousand half-baked ideas.
Early on in the series, hot-air fueled Erlich Bachman, who houses the guys in his incubator, says he wants to be “just like Steve.” Richard wants to know – Wozniak or Jobs? Because Jobs “didn’t even code” Richard says dismissively, echoing the real-life Woz.
He tries to toughen up Richard by telling him: “If you’re not an a**hole it creates this kind of a**hole vacuum, and that void is filled by other a**holes.” To wit, Erlich saves the entire startup from sinking by giving a hail-Mary talk to VC funder Peter Gregory when Richard is tongue-tied. They seem destined for the same uneasy push me-pull you partnership of the two Apple co-founders.
But after Erlich, channeling Steve Jobs in a turtleneck and rock show lights, goes down (literally) on the TCD stage, Richard must step up. Will “Steve Wozniak”— the programmer who grasped Ruby on Rails in a weekend but doesn’t get grandstanding — be able to take the place of Steve Jobs has the cojones and stomach of steel to hold the room?
The fate of the entreprenerds turns out to hinge on, well, mental masturbation. But I’ll let you get there on your own.
Cameos: one of the Valley’s top journos Kara Swisher, TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington, Andy Buckley of The Office, more Red Bull. And the Mac spinning pinwheel provides a true moment of drama.