4 Lessons for Setting Up a Business as Taught by HBO's 'Silicon Valley'

"Silicon Valley" is a completely fictional show on HBO that details the adventures of an enterprising programmer as he wades through the trials of setting up a business. As outlandish as the plot may be at times, the exploits of Richard Hendricks and his team can teach us valuable lessons about life as an entrepreneur.

A small business leader making a presentation for his team, in front of a dry-erase board.
Are you setting up a business? Follow these tips from HBO's "Silicon Valley."

1. Time Can Be a Fluid Concept

Procrastination often comes with some negative stigmas. Truth be told, waiting until the last minute to finish a project may not be the best strategy to sustain a successful business, but sometimes, you simply don't have a choice. In the first season, Richard is forced to mold Pied Piper into a show-ready state more than three months sooner than he was initially planning. This is a reality entrepreneurs see all too often when setting up a business, as deadlines are sometimes out of our control.

The lesson to be learned here is that you need to be prepared to keep your nose to the grindstone, even when the odds are stacked against you. Richard and his team did exactly that and gave new meaning to Scrum sprints. Though unpleasant at times, Pied Piper became a complete cloud storage platform that showcased the strengths of its compression algorithm, all thanks to the team putting in a tireless effort outside the comfort of a 40-hour workweek.

2. Why Reinvent the Wheel?

As Pied Piper evolves from an algorithm in a simple music app to more complex cloud storage and video chat platforms, it serves as a stellar example of just how wonderful APIs are. Richard and his team could have saved themselves plenty of headaches by leveraging the work of others, rather than constantly reinventing the wheel.

When it comes to setting up your own business, APIs let you grow your platform — internal or otherwise — by plugging in third-party features. Do you need some video chat capability for your own communication platform? Tie in the API from an already proven chat product, and you're off the ground in a fraction of the time. This is also a great way to cut down on that whole "nose to the grindstone" dilemma.

3. Communicate Often and Clearly

It's been said that in the business world, you simply can't communicate enough. While there's surely an upper limit there somewhere, the general sentiment holds true. Remember the episode where Richard invites his friends to share their thoughts on the Pied Piper chat app? You know, the one where Monica attempts to communicate her fears that the app is a bit too complicated?

While Richard did hear Monica's thoughts, you can't say he truly listened. The result was a launch that couldn't keep users interested due to an overengineered platform. When setting up a business, it's important to note that communication goes both ways. You have to be prepared to genuinely listen to those you trust, even if it's not necessarily fun to hear. Dr. Phil would be proud of that one.

4. Look For the Diamond in the Rough

Sometimes, the greatest innovation reveals itself in places you weren't even looking. That's really how Pied Piper got off the ground to begin with. While Richard was hyperfocused on developing a music app even Apple would envy, his greatest innovation was hidden deep within — so deep, in fact, it took the prying eyes of a venture capitalist to uncover it.

This is a valuable lesson to learn. When setting up a business, you'll likely have your resources spread all over the place, making it easy to miss important opportunities. A good way to combat this is to find more efficient ways to tackle big projects. For example, if your hands are tied trying to set up a call center, deploying a turnkey, enterprise cloud solution could ease your burden while freeing you from unnecessary distraction. The key is to avoid getting so bogged down in the daily grind that you completely miss genuine innovation as it goes streaking by.

Setting up a business is hard work. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. That being said, there's plenty to learn from those entrepreneurs who have walked the path before you. Even TV shows like Silicon Valley offer up a few gems every once in a while. With intelligent use of APIs, unwavering commitment to communication, and a little help from the cloud, you can make life a bit easier on yourself. Just be sure to watch out for the Gavin Belsons of the world.

Contact Vonage Business for more information on cloud-based communication solutions for your company.

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