OK, so it’s about four years late, but Microsoft founder Bill Gates has finally weighed in on the comedy “Silicon Valley.” On his blog “GatesNotes,” he has written a piece called “If you want to understand Silicon Valley, watch ‘Silicon Valley,’” in which he showers the HBO show with praise. He has seen the first four seasons, and he is currently working his way through season five, which ended in May.
“The show is a parody, so it exaggerates things,” Gates says, “but like all great parodies it captures a lot of truths.” He says the show captures “the different personality types” he has come across during his career. “The programmers are smart, super-competitive even with their friends, and a bit clueless when it comes to social cues.”
In which character does he see his own reflection? “Personally, I identify most with Richard, the founder of Pied Piper, who is a great programmer but has to learn some hard lessons about managing people,” he says. Richard, played by Thomas Middleditch, is an awkward guy who is definitely not a natural born leader. “Silicon Valley” has milked a lot of humor out of Richard’s inability to take charge of the company he started, Pied Piper. In the blog entry, Gates included what appears to be a picture of himself as a young man with his elbows on an old computer — but with Richard’s face pasted over his and Pied Piper pasted over Microsoft on the computer screen.
Gates says he has friends in the industry who refuse to watch the show because it turns them into a joke. I always tell them: “You really should watch it, because they don’t make any more fun of us than we deserve.”
As the man behind a huge company, he does have one complaint, though. The show implies that small companies like Pied Piper tend to be capable while big companies like Hooli tend to be inept. “Although I’m obviously biased,” he says, “my experience is that small companies can be just as inept, and the big ones have the resources to invest in deep research and take a long-term point of view that smaller ones can’t afford. But I also understand why the show focuses so much on Pied Piper and makes Hooli look so goofy. It’s more fun to root for the underdog.”Matthew Gilbert can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @MatthewGilbert.