Success through rudeness and hostility

June 08, 2016 - by: Matt Gilley 0 COMMENTS

Silicon Valley’s third season is in full swing on HBO, which raised a question in my mind: if Michael Scott’s Dunder Mifflin warranted an entire blog from the FordHarrison crew, isn’t the Hacker Hostel’s Erlich Bachman at least due his own post?Silicon Valley

My answer: Of course he is!

For the uninitiated, Silicon Valley is a brilliant sitcom that chronicles the ups and downs of a fictional startup, Pied Piper. Erlich, expertly played by comedian T.J. Miller, is an entrepreneur of sorts who plowed the relatively modest proceeds from the sale of his prior venture into a house near Palo Alto (and, judging by the episodes, into a copious amount of marijuana). He dubbed his home the “Hacker Hostel,” where he allows select entrepreneurs to live rent-free in exchange for 10% of their companies.

At the beginning of the series, if any of the hostel’s “incubees” have paid off for Ehrlich, there’s no evidence of it. In a stroke of blind fortune, however, venture capitalists latch onto Richard Hendrick’s Pied Piper, a clunky music app that just happens to have a killer compression algorithm built into it. Suddenly, venture capitalists and tech companies set off a feeding frenzy to get their hands on the new tech. Pied Piper vaults from the object of Ehrlich’s ire to the apple of his eyeand he vaults from middling tech entrepreneur onto the board of Silicon Valley’s hottest new company.

This is where the fun begins. Ehrlich is a train wreck on a personal levelan undisciplined, crass, intemperate, ungoverned, and thoroughly hilarious lout. Pied Piper is in its earliest stages, so right now its legal spend is devoted to corporate lawyers and litigators who fend off lawsuits over the ownership of its gold-plated IT. However, if Pied Piper makes it, and if Ehrlich remains involved in the company, it is sure to make some fictional employment lawyer a ton of money.

Ehrlich spits out litigation-worthy nuggets faster than an Uzi spits bullets, so I had plenty of options to choose from. (The hard partand this was really, truly difficultwas finding quotes clean enough to use for this post.) Consider the following, however, and if you are involved with any new business, just know that you should never, never, never, never come within a million miles of anything like these excerpts in your own company if you like the idea of striking it big someday:

  • The first episode of Season Three offered a doozy. Ehrlich strutted into a meeting with Pied Piper’s seasoned new CEO and was none too pleased to find that their venture capital masters had hired an older man to fill the role. The new CEO, “Action” Jack Barker, tried to play nice and let Ehrlich know, “I’m a big fan!” Ehrlich was ready, though: “Oh really, of what? Metamucil? Polio? The phonograph? A nice piece of fish? Segregated water fountains? Senior citizen discounts …? Erectile dysfunction …? Deviled eggs as an entree? Liking Ike?” Ehrlich clearly does not appreciate the nuances of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967.
  • Thankfully, Ehrlich and the Pied Piper team were in an all-male meeting for this next one. He was convinced that the venture capitalists courting Pied Piper would offer more to invest in the Series A round depending on how intolerable his behavior was during the pitch meetings, declaring, “If they want to negotiate using hostility and rudeness, well, they picked the wrong guy.” (Incredibly, he was right.) During one such meeting, he glared across the table and growled, “One of you is one of the least attractive people I’ve ever met and I’m not going to say which one.” That, my friends, is a walking hostile work environment.
  • Finally, Ehrlich seems to keep his own counsel. When a visitor came to the hostel seeking to get in on the ground floor at Pied Piper, Ehrlich elbowed him out the door, warning, “In the State of California, you can kill a man for entering your house without permission.” I’m no California lawyer, but I’m pretty sure he’s wrong about that.
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