In the pilot of the hit show Silicon Valley, low-level programmer Richard Hendricks (portrayed by Thomas Middleditch) accidentally creates a file-compression algorithm that could revolutionize the digital landscape. Over the course of the first season, Hendricks is offered a $10 million buyout, fires his best friend, gets in a trademark dispute, competes directly with the world’s biggest tech company, wins a major business plan competition, and must recode his algorithm from scratch—twice.

The dramatic ups, downs, and loop-the-loops of Hendricks’ startup journey, embellished with a quirky cast of socially awkward characters, seem perfectly orchestrated for the HBO comedy—outlandish and laugh-out-loud hilarious. But this is a case where reality actually lives up to fiction: the show depicts the obstacles, dilemmas, and baffling questions faced by Silicon Valley entrepreneurs with remarkable accuracy.

Through the several startups my husband has founded, he and I have met some version of nearly every character on the show, from eccentric venture capitalists and smarmy consultants to bright-eyed MBAs and pagan engineers. His companies have flirted as much with wild success as with bankruptcy and collapse. We know intimately the highs of landing an investor or a big customer and the lows of product failures, personnel crises, and threatened lawsuits.

Throughout its three seasons, Silicon Valley’s producers have clearly researched the tech startup ecosystem in detail. The young, male-dominated cast closely resembles the ethnic and gender demographics of the Valley, where white men continue to control the money and the decision-making. Fictional investor Peter Gregory (in a brilliant turn by Christopher ...

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