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Real life lessons from Silicon Valley (the TV series)

By Sonia Sharma

• 05 October 2016 • 3 min read

There are key lessons for budding entrepreneurs getting into tech

We hope you had a great long weekend. Maybe like us you indulged in a bit (OK, maybe a lot) of 'binge watching' of your favourite TV show. If you are remotely interested in the IT sector then we highly recommend HBO’s Silicon Valley ­– a TV show which captures the journey of the painfully awkward Richard and his start-up tech business Pied Piper.

In between the laughs and cringe worthy moments, there are some key lessons to be learnt. Without giving away the plot, here are the top lessons for budding entrepreneurs.

Make sure you own your IP

For many budding entrepreneurs, their intellectually property is their most valuable asset. In the case of Richard from Silicon Valley it’s the copyright in the source code for his new and powerful compression application (Application).

Issues arise when it is discovered that Richard may have written some code for the Application while still working for his former employer, big tech company Hooli (think Google, Apple or Facebook) and using his work laptop. A question arises, who owns the IP in the Application, Hooli or Piped Piper?

Budding entrepreneurs are often employed full time working on their idea as a ‘side project’ before deciding to commit fulltime to their start-up. The lesson here, is to always ensure that your ‘side project’ is kept completely separate from your employment, done in your own time using your own resources.

Subsequently when Richard is running his own company, Piped Piper, he engages a string of hilarious contractors to help build the code for his Application. Richard should be sure that he has clear agreements in place which assign all IP from the work done by the contractors on the Application to Piped Piper.

In our work at Maddocks, when we work on IT transactions where a company is acquiring a start-up, it quickly becomes apparent during the due diligence process if the start-up has thought about IP issues. Start-ups that have, can demonstrate ownership of title by producing records which clearly evidence when the product was created, when the product was modified or enhanced and who worked on the creation and modification of the product (including all necessary employment agreements, IP assignments and third party licences).

Then make sure you protect your IP (and your confidential information)

There is a truly excruciating scene where Richard and his team demonstrate the Application to a third party firm. As they present the Application enthusiastically, those in the board room frantically take notes and pictures of the white board (complete with illustrations of how the Application works).

No surprises for what happens next. Suffice to say, the key lesson from this plot twist is that you should always ensure that you have robust confidentiality and non-disclosure agreements in place before talking to any potential customers, investors or third parties.

Choose the right people to work with (do your due diligence)

This is a continuing theme throughout Silicon Valley. Richard has to constantly make choices about who to work with. Does he keep his best mate on the team, even if he is a bad coder, does he take the big money from an investor or go with an investor offering less money but a chance to grow the business. The lesson here is that, at the end of the day, start-up companies should have a clear idea of their vision, values and exit strategy and align themselves with those third parties which can best meet those needs.

Silicon Valley is available via on demand services such as Apple TV Australia, the Comedy Channel (a subscription TV service available on Foxtel, Optus TV and other services) or you can buy the hard copy DVD at retailers.

By Sonia Sharma

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