We have expended a lot of words in this space and others about Silicon Valley, enough so that you could rightly be tired of hearing about it. If you will indulge me once more, I would like to wax rhapsodic about the brilliance of not just that show, but the entirety HBO's stellar Sunday night scripted lineup. While the two-hour block of Game of Thrones, Silicon Valley, and Veep may not seem to have much in common, if you look closely, you can see how poor decisions and lack of planning haunt the protagonists of each of these series. In trying to make decisions for the short term good, the respective administrations of Hendricks, Meyer, and the multitude trying to stake claim to the Iron Throne have weakened their long-term prospects of achieve the goals they have sacrificed for. In trying to reach the top of the mountain (or trying to stay there), each of these groups has likely taken one too many unsafe footholds to maintain that position for long. Small, seemingly innocuous decisions can come back to have tremendous consequences. And the same can be said of businesses that take on unnecessary risks in the interest of expedience in trying to obtain clients, revenue or funding, or that make planning mistakes at the outset that could end up sinking their business. And while your business' obstacles are less terrifying than white walkers, vindictive billionaires, or, God forbid, Jonah, that doesn't mean they should be taken any less seriously.
Take the recent setbacks (of many) encountered by the team at Pied Piper. Richard and company found out that a similar software platform swooped in to do the livestream of the Homicide monster truck jump after Pied Piper managed to alienate most of the Homicide staff. Even worse, they found out that the new platform, Endframe, is the product of one of the venture capital groups that they had previously pitched to. During that episode, we saw the potential investors take a particular interest in the technical aspects of Pied Piper's compression algorithm, and the developers were all-too-willing to offer up those details. By the time Erlich was able to pull them out of the meeting, enough details have been disclosed that they could start working on what was to be Endframe.
And in last night's penultimate episode (which, if you haven't watched it yet, now is the time to stop reading), the Pied Piper team were finally able to bring the Hooli lawsuit to a conclusion, whether good or bad, by getting them to agree to binding arbitration, albeit through less-than-ethical means. Just as it seemed that they might make it through without stepping on the legal landmine they'd discovered, Erlich's frenzied testimony let it slip; Richard's laptop had broken, and he had used his Hooli computer to do work on his algorithm for three days. So despite the fact that all the time and effort that went into making the app was solely the hard work of Richard and his team, Hooli now has a legal claim to ownership of the work. And while it might not be the end for our intrepid programmers (OK, it definitely isn't; the show has been renewed for a third season), the Pied Piper venture may be dead in the water.
All this to say that when it comes to your business, proceed with great care. Make a conscious effort to take care in what you mention in any meetings. It's a common practice to pitch to accredited investors without a non-disclosure agreement, as they aren't going to throw away their professional reputation just to steal an idea, so don't risk insult and ask them to sign an NDA. Nevertheless, it's best to show discretion when discussing specifics regarding the technical aspects of your product in any forum. And if you're thinking of starting your own project while working for another company, make sure you understand what you're allowed to do under your employment agreement. Some companies own anything you create while under their employ; others allow you to work on your own ideas, provided that you do so on your own time and with your own resources. A little caution can save you from a potentially painful legal decision.