Richard has night sweats. Bad ones. The Pied Piper CEO is a ball of frantic nervous energy, deciding on half a dozen new hires, choosing expensive new office space, dealing with an overbearing investor and developing a working beta in time for the Consumer Electronics Show in January.
“Every moment there’s a new issue to solve and I am stressed as hell,” Richard tells his always-helpful doctor (Andy Daly), who quickly points out that he should manage his stress better, because night sweats are a precursor to bedwetting.
(Related: Last week’s episode of “Silicon Valley”)
Both the Pied Piper team and the show itself seem to be stuck in a midseason rut. Richard is forced to forego Pied Piper’s new gleaming office space—so very Silicon Valley with its exposed brick and natural light—to drop US$70,000 on servers instead of what Jared refers to as “an investment in his mental health.” Hooli CEO Gavin Belson has once again thrown up a roadblock to Pied Piper’s startup growth, calling Rackspace, Amazon Web Services, IBM SoftLayer and every other Web hosting company and making Pied Piper essentially radioactive.
From a believability standpoint, Richard’s next decision throws the show into conventional sitcom territory. After packing up the U-Haul vans to finally move the business out of Erlich’s incubator house, rather than call in Russ Hanneman and his big pile of Internet bubble money, Richard decides to use the office space cash to let Gilfoyle build the servers from scratch instead—in Erlich’s garage.
The moving vans roll right back into the driveway along with all of Pied Piper’s new hires, stuffed into Erlich’s living room once again. Richard must return the ceremonial kimono Erlich gave him for finally graduating the incubator. What wacky hijinks will the Pied Piper crew get up to next?
On the bright side of Richard’s latest managerial compromise, we get to see Gilfoyle give a crash course in DIY server farms.
Jared makes the argument that servers are “essentially a utility” like water or power in today’s tech landscape, but for a Web-based platform entirely dependent on precision, Gilfoyle wants to “dig our own well.”
“We’re about shaving yoctoseconds off latency for every layer in the stack,” he said. “If we rent from a public cloud, we’re using servers that are, by definition, generic and unpredictable.”
Gilfoyle takes over the garage—where Jared was apparently living, by the way—to build Pied Piper’s new data center with rows of GPUs on racks against the wall with power straight from the house’s washer/dryer. According to Gilfoyle, Richard’s middle-out compression algorithm will run at 5,200 gigaflops, or 800x faster on the custom-built GPUs compared to normal CPUs.
The house is even more cramped now, but Richard’s decision seems like the right one until…it turns out the house isn’t zoned for business! Cue the next hijink, when a nosy neighbor threatens to call the zoning commission and is stopped only when Richard spies his illegal ferrets in his backyard.
Contrived as the quick resolution to a real-world business problem is, confronting the neighbor does give Erlich a chance to give an inspired monologue beating the drum of Silicon Valley lore:
“Do you know why this is such a good neighborhood? Why your house is worth 20x for what you paid for it in the 1970s? Because of people like us moving in and starting illegal businesses in our garages,” he said. Apple, Google, Hewlett-Packard… They all were started in un-zoned garages. That’s why Silicon Valley is one of the hottest neighborhoods in the world, because of people like us.”
As “Silicon Valley” inches toward a CES showdown between Hooli’s Nucleus platform and Pied Piper, Richard’s unsure decision-making gets another reprieve. The show is right to present Richard and the startup with realistic obstacles like server hosting and zoning issues, but the fix shouldn’t be as simple as trotting out a few illegal ferrets.
Odds & Ends
- Meanwhile, at Hooli: In a single-minded effort to defeat Pied Piper, Belson is tanking his Hooli.xyz research division. He fired the world-renowned researcher in charge, who had just finished developing a robotic monkey arm that detects neuron firings in a severed limb—appointing Big Head the sole Head Dreamer, to shoot off potato guns and maintain the Pied Piper cofounder ruse.
- Jared sleep-talks in fluent German.
- Erlich listens to a can’t-miss new incubator pitch: Dogdammit, a dog-sharing service for Christians!
- Gilfoyle’s coder burn of the week, to Dinesh: “Go inside and write some princess code.”
- Evil corporation joke of the week: Belson, at a Hooli town hall meeting: “When our scientists did the study, they found the rate of birth defects was actually higher before we opened our battery plant there…”
- It turns out Hooli’s Nucleus platform is six weeks, wait, 15 weeks, wait, even further behind schedule as the team deals with algorithm conversion problems, drop frame issues, native system integration problems and more. Who wants to tell the boss that? Not a soul. Corporate hierarchy at its finest.