Watching HBO’s funny new series ‘Silicon Valley’ I occasionally kick myself for what could have been. It was in 2000-2001 that I proposed and even partially wrote the pilot for a TV series along similar lines as part of my now defunct media company Literate World’s slate.
I had called it ‘Silicone Valley’ because the founder nerd of a fictional startup by the same name had a fascination for women with enhanced boobs. The proposed series was set up as part of an incubating venture where nerds come to make their pitch to cut-throat venture capitalists. The premise was very funny and I was fairly certain it would be a highly watchable series.
The pilot episode made a reference to Silicon Valley entrepreneur Sabeer Bhatia because he was very high profile among the Indian techie community then in the aftermath of the 1999 acquisition of his creation Hotmail along with Jack Smith. I remember one of the lines in the pilot episode spoken by the protagonist of ‘Silicone Valley’, Sriram Venkatraghavan, truncated to Ven and fondly called Ven diagram by his fellow nerds. The line was a crack at Sabeer Bhatia.
“This is the only time when people would mention Sabeer Bhatia and hot male in the same sentence,” Ven was made to say by me. Ven would then irritate his fellow nerds by asking, “Get it? Hotmail and hot male…”
Written and directed by Mike Judge ‘Silicon Valley’ is an engaging watch because it gets the mood, jargon and humor of a startup fairly well. Having lived in Silicon Valley at the height of the tech boom and reported on it, not to mention having been a beneficiary of its culture of easy cash sloshing about, I identify with the series.
The two episodes that I have watched so far concern Richard (Thomas Middleditch), founder of a start-up called ‘Pied Piper’. The theme of the episodes centers on what has long been considered—even from the time I lived there—the holy grail of Silicon Valley, compression algorithms. Put it simply compression algorithms are about compressing massive data without the result becoming lossy or losing its original quality. Efficiently compressed data is crucial because it allows for easier storage and faster transmission.
‘Silicon Valley’ is not laugh out loud funny but it has its moments. Humor is woven into a world that does not easily lend itself to it. After all, what jokes can you possibly write about compression algorithms? That is why my abortive idea had some cheap shots such as Sabeer Bhatia and hot male or the name itself ‘Silicone Valley.’ The only satisfaction I can draw from my failure to execute the idea is to tell myself lamely that I was ahead of my time. In reality, ideas are dime a dozen. It is carrying them out that matters.