Who are the Real-life Models of “Silicon Valley” Characters? We Have Them.

Uncanny Silicon Valley

The absolutely definitive, supremely authoritative, person-to-person mapping of “Silicon Valley” characters to real tech world personalities.

When we say that a television show is “realistic,” what do we mean? Must the drug corners on The Wire resemble the streets of Baltimore? Do the mimetic set pieces on Mad Men engender more cinéma vérité than its sexual politics? How representative must The West Wing be of the West Wing, or Empire of hip-hop, or MASH of Korea, or The Hills of hell? And does realism even equate with quality?

I cannot answer these questions. But this I can say: In the history of dramatic and comedic television, no show has more closely hewn to the real world than HBO’s Silicon Valley.

Hear me out.

Nearly anyone in west coast tech will attest to the show’s eerie verisimilitude, even when (or especially when) the fictional characters embody the worst traits of brogrammers, wantrepreneurs, and VC sociopaths. Silicon Valley is nearly a simulacrum of Sand Hill Road, or as the CEO of Snapchat described it, “basically a documentary.”

As usual, the cofounder of Box, whose quips so often resemble those of a fictional character, nails the zeitgeist:

Even the Valley’s renowned venture capitalists seem bemused by the show’s hyperrealism, to the point of melding fact and fiction:

How did a half-hour comedy on premium cable peg the Valley so precisely? Through simple syllogism: Hooli is Google, Bro is Yo, Nippler is Titstare.

The plots of Silicon Valley are certainly vivid, but the characters are where realism transcends its lifelike setting. More than mere composites of real people, the characters are often actual real people. Kara Swisher, Eric Schmidt, Sheryl Sandberg, Evan Spiegel, Walt Mossberg, and the Winklevii now have IMDB credits, as themselves. And it works in the reverse too: Fictional characters like Big Head and Erlich have real Crunchbase and LinkedIn profiles. In this slippery realm, betwixt fact and fiction, scientific papers are published about imaginary calculations and platforms like Quora are jammed with reality-bending threads, like “Is Richard Hendricks a good CEO?

Perhaps the most evocative blurring belongs to Michael Arrington, the founder of Techcrunch Disrupt, who has a cameo in an episode at Techcrunch Disrupt, but then actually interviewed the cast at the real Techcrunch Disrupt, a competition the Hooli team won back in the fictional universe depicted on the show.

This season alone, Silicon Valley has consulted with over 250 tech insiders, and the show’s creators readily acknowledge their debt to real Silicon Valley. “The writers in that room are much more like journalists,” writer Dan Lyons recently told Recode (aka Coderag). “We don’t really have to make anything up. All we have to do is present what we see.” This is bananas for many reasons, including: Lyons is also a former editor of a tech blog, Valleywag, and the creator of a satiric Silicon Valley persona, Fake Steve Jobs, which… help! the walls of reality are collapsing!

Clearly, we need a cheat sheet to decode this farrago of fact and fiction. So here it is, The Official Guide to SVCU (Silicon Valley Cinematic Universe):

Our protagonist, Richard Hendricks, is one of the few characters of SVCU whose persona is mostly derived not from a single person, but an entire cadre of people — those on-the-spectrum Valley Boys who code their way to soylent and mana. (You know the type — the humorless gelded wunderkinds who will undoubtedly smear the “accuracy” of this article on Hacker News.) Because the hoodied typology shares traits with certain renowned tech totalitarians, like Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates, they together amass a sizable slice of the personality pie.

This season’s principal storyline, which involves Hendricks’ ouster in favor of a more experienced CEO, might lead your detective prowess astray, to consider a resemblance to Steve Jobs, who was once ousted from Apple. But as Hendricks himself opines in the first episode: “Jobs was a poser. He didn’t even write code.” The Wozniak is strong in this one.

But a spate of the evidence points toward a more modern exemplar of the Triumphant Return trope: Jack Dorsey, the Twitter cofounder who relinquished his CEO throne in 2008 only to vanquish his usurpers last year. In an uncanny blurring of fact and fiction, Dorsey defiantly replaced his Tweep foe, Dick Costolo, who then found employment as a writing consultant for Silicon Valley. (Costolo’s transition from executive to scribe is so incredibly bizarre, it defies almost any comparison. It’s like if Barack Obama became a Breitbart correspondent after his presidency.)

Proving that fact is stranger than fiction, but that fanfic conquers all, the (nonfictional) founder of Firefox, Blake Ross, wrote a (fictional) spec script of Silicon Valley in which Hendricks seeks out (nonfictional?) Dorsey to take over Pied Piper.

A tedious footnote: Many Quora contributors have observed that Hendricks bears a visual resemblance to the CEO of Quora, Adam D’Angelo, but that just illustrates how daft those Quora dweebs are.

Key Quote: "I dropped out of college. Maybe I should re-enroll and drop out again. Try and get the money."

via Backchannel — Medium http://ift.tt/1tdb8Mt


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