Pied Piper literally needs to get its house in order. As Jared—the startup’s business manager—realizes, he gave up a great job and stock options at Hooli for a chaotic incubator house full of coders who don’t resemble anything close to an organized business.
The fifth episode of “Silicon Valley,” titled “Signaling Risk,” puts the spotlight on Jared as he tries to put out three fires at once, finally graduating from meek advisor to a full-fledged businessman who’s making some changes.
Peter Gregory’s seed money, which was supposed to last five months, is on track to run out in four. Erlich just promised US$10,000 to a graffiti artist to spray-paint a new Pied Piper logo on the garage door of the incubator house, and Richard inadvertently gambled Pied Piper’s livelihood by placing the startup in the crosshairs of Gregory’s and Hooli CEO Gavin Belson’s professional rivalry.
Richard forgot he submitted an application a few months back to the startup competition at TechCrunch Disrupt, lighting a fire under Pied Piper, which already has its seed money from Gregory. When he tries to withdraw, Gregory’s assistant Monica (Amanda Crew) clues Richard into the fact that neither Gregory nor Belson care about him or Pied Piper. It’s all about bragging rights.
“Peter would spend millions just to mildly annoy Gavin,” Monica says. “These are billionaires, Richard. Humiliating each other is worth more to them than we’ll make in a lifetime.”
Upon hearing about Pied Piper’s entrance into Disrupt, Belson sets up what will most likely serve as the show’s finale. He volunteers as a keynote speaker for the conference while announcing that Nucleus, Hooli’s competing compression platform, will make its big debut there. Instead of five months, Richard and the Pied Piper now have eight weeks to get his platform ready for a live demo.
Luckily, Jared is turning Pied Piper into a business that actually functions. To get the two of them to stop arguing and actually work (they spend a good portion of the episode fighting over whether Gilfoyle has a dog’s sense of smell), Jared implements a Scrum methodology to streamline workflows.
(Related: Why Scrum means being incremental)
Even thought Dinesh refers to the Scrum organizational chart as “a wall of Psych 101 MBA mind-control BS,” Jared’s blatant manipulation does its job and Dinesh and Gilfoyle start competitively coding through tasks. Instead of both of them working on the same DRM module because they didn’t communicate, Jared takes smug satisfaction in watching them move each task through a workflow on the board.
As the most pitifully depressing character on the show, that’s a big win for Jared.
In the lightest storyline of the episode, Erlich went about getting an Oakland graffiti artist named Chuy Ramirez to design a new Pied Piper logo. In trying to negotiate with Chuy over “the stock options the Facebook mural guy got,” Erlich lies about Dinesh being Latino to get Chuy to agree to cash.
That was a poor decision, but it does lead to the best running joke of the episode: Erlich’s bewilderment over inadvertent racism toward pretty much every person of color. On top of that, when Chuy finds out Dinesh is actually Pakistani, he paints the aforementioned crude masterpiece that leaves a cartoonish depiction of Erlich in a very compromising position.
In the end, Chuy does spray-paint a Pied Piper logo that lowercase Silicon Valley branding designers everywhere would be proud of. Plus, looking at the newly finished logo, it gives Richard and Gregory’s assistant Monica a halfway romantic moment leading up to the bumbling kiss scene we all know is coming.
We’re beginning to see a picture of the endgame for “Silicon Valley” season one. Pied Piper and Nucleus will face off at TechCrunch Disrupt as Silicon Valley slowly shapes this chaotic little startup and its stammering, tongue-tied CEO into the tech hub’s chief export: another sleek million-dollar company. Nucleus and Pied Piper will go head-to-head as pawns in Belson’s and Gregory’s billion-dollar chess game, and one will fail spectacularly. Or maybe, knowing the black comedic realism coming from the sardonic mind of Mike Judge, both platforms will crash and burn.
Odds & Ends
—Best line of the episode: Peter Gregory, at a restaurant, in response to the waiter asking whether he’s enjoying his asparagus: “I was never enjoying it. I only eat it for the nutrients.”
—The first Pied Piper graffiti logo, which Belson buys for half a million dollars and mounts on the Hooli campus, is a thing of beauty. The artwork, depicting Dinesh and Erlich in positions I cannot describe here, was a thing of raunchy brilliance.