PODCAST: MEET DR. VINITH MISRA, TECHNICAL CONSULTANT FOR HBO’s SILICON VALLEY

Vinit Misra

Vinit Misra

 

Ever wondered who created the compression algorithms and all the technical stuff  in the startup world that you see in HBO’s Silicon ValleyWe talk to the character behind the technology. Meet Dr. Vinith Misra, the technical consultant, who worked with Mike Judge and his team on the series.

He was working on his PhD with Prof. Tsachy Weissman at Stanford, when they were contacted by the creators of Silicon Valley to help them with the technical aspects of the TV series. And that is how Dr. Misra got involved in the show, which he describes as a dark comedy set in the world of startup, unicorns and Tres Comma Club.

Dr. Misra is very familiar with Silicon Valley’s startup and tech culture since this is where he grew up and went to school except for a brief foray to the East Coast to study at MIT. He now works in Silicon Valley.

Judge and his team’s requirement for the show were deeply authentic points out Dr. Misra. They just did not want authentic technology, but also one that bordered on being provocative and that was an interesting challenge for him. He helped create the technical world and all the deep compression technology that is at the heart of the show.

We talk to Dr. Misra on how he landed up working on Silicon Valley, and how he balanced his research work at Stanford and working on the project.  Tune in to find out Dr. Misra has to say on HBO’s Silicon Valley.

LISTEN: DR. VINITH MISRA, TECHNICAL CONSULTANT FOR HBO’s SILICON VALLEY

Judge was a test engineer and spent time working in Silicon Valley before he migrated south to Los Angeles to work on films and television.

This interview was originally aired on TV in San Francisco Bay area. You can watch the TV interview on our YouTube channel.

 

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Raising Money and Valuations in Silicon Valley

April is certainly been a busy month for startups and investors. As you know investments are no longer in the $10-15 million category, they appear to be in the $70-100 million category with valuations pegged in billions of dollars. Here is a sample of companies that raised fund in the last few days.

Docker, an open source platform company announced it raised $95 million. Illumio, a security company raised $100 million, while Sprig, a delivery company raised $45 million. LendingHome, a mortgage lending startup raised $70 million. It is not just hardware and software companies raising money, but also companies like Eaze, an online medical  marijuana delivery startup. Eaze raised $10 million in its series A. What is interesting is that SnoopDog, the rap singer was part of this investment fund through his company Casa Verde Capital

It is not just startups and companies raising money, but also venture capital firms. NEA is raising the largest VC fund $2.4 billion  and $350 million side fund for investing in later-stage  portfolio companies according to Dan Primack, who broke the news. Menlo Ventures raised $400 million to invest in tech startups.

Naturally when you read about the amount of money raised and the valuation of these companies, especially those in the Unicorn category you begin to wonder if we are in the middle of a bubble and if that bubble is about to burst?  The murmur about when this bubble will burst appears to have grown louder. Many of these companies may turn out to be dead unicorns says Bill Gurley of Benchmark Capital. Here is how he described it in his blog post in February 2015.

We are in a risk bubble. Companies are taking on huge burn rates to justify spending the capital they are raising in these enormous financings, putting their long-term viability in jeopardy.

Setback is the term Sir Michael Moritz of Sequoia Capital used to describe the current state of affairs in an interview with the The Times (subscription link). ““Several years ago the atmosphere wasn’t as euphoric as it is today. Even the zaniest ideas can attract money,” Moritz says.

Not everybody is on this tech bubble boat. Take Dave McClure of 500 Startups, a seed fund and an accelerator based in Mountain View. In his recent article with an irreverent and saucy title “Bubble, My Ass: Some Unicorns Might Be Overvalued, But All Dinosaurs Gonna Die,” McClure points out public companies are over valued and fail to innovate and writes:

 almost every Dinosaur Company is extremely vulnerable to a Startup Unicorn eating their lunch (stated so eloquently this past week by none other than JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon).

So, who is to blame for the current state of valuations? Is Marc Andreessen of Andreessen Horowitz to blame ? That was the question Primack of Fortune asked Andressen last week in San Francisco. Here is what Andreessen responded:

I can only quote the great thinkers, James Franco and Seth Rogen in The Interview: I believe they were simply peanut butter and jealous. So — in all seriousness, I actually think we weren’t overpaying. 

You can read rest of the interview with Andreessen here.

Did HBO’s Silicon Valley nail the current mood and trend in Silicon Valley in Episode One from season two that aired this past Sunday? It certainly looked like it. Mike Judge and his team brilliantly capture all those unanswered questions in your mind about how does this whole thing work? Yes, I know it is a TV show, but you do get an idea of this whole cycle of raising money and valuations.

 

 

HBO’s Silicon Valley Season Two Premieres Today


They are back. You know the  nerd pack from “Silicon Valley’s Pied Piper consisting of Richard Hendriks, Bertram Gilfoyle,  Dinesh Chugtai Ehrlich Bachman and others. After a successful first season, HBO’s “Silicon Valley premiers its second season today. Sadly, Christopher Evan, who plays the socially awkward Venture Capitalist Peter Gregory in the series passed away. He will be missed.

Ever wonder how they get the tech part right in the TV series? They have a technical consultant who helps them get all the technical details right, including all those scribblings on the board. Meet Dr. Vinith Misra, who was a doctoral student at Stanford University, when he got an opportunity to work with the creators of “Silicon Valley.”  In a way this is Dr. Misra’s dream come true since it marries his love for technology with drama and films. A few months ago  I interviewed him about his technical consultant role in “Silicon Valley.” Check out the interview.

 

 

Video: Meet Dr. Vinith Misra, Technical Consultant for HBO’s Silicon Valley

In a few weeks time we will get to see the second season of HBO’s “Silicon Valley.” When the show debuted last year I was a bit skeptical and unsure if I wanted to watch it. But, this was a Mike Judge show and I thoroughly enjoyed his film “Office Space.”  I  tuned into the first show of “Silicon Valley,” and not sure what to make of it.Anyway, I watched the second, third and by the fourth episode I started to enjoy the show and was amazed by the attention to technical details in the show.

Judge had spent sometime working for a tech company in Silicon Valley and that explains that attention to technical details. But, who was the technical consultant that helped Judge and his team with the algorithms and all the geeky details for Pied Piper? Turns out it was Dr. Vinith Misra, who is the technical consultant for the show. He was a student at Stanford University when he first started working with the show and is working with them for the show’s second season. Here is a trailer of the second season of “Silicon Valley,” that we can watch in a few weeks time.

Here is our interview with Dr. Vinith Misra, who shares how he got to work with the team at “Silicon Valley.”

 

HBO’s Silicon Valley

HBO’s new show “Silicon Valley,” is at the end of its first season and has found a strong fan base.  I was skeptical and unconvinced when I saw the first episode called “Minimum Viable Product.” It had lots of of hype and did paint a very flattering  picture of this “cradle of innovation” and startup culture. The show appeared a tad cliched in terms of the characters. You see they had a token desi (South Asian) in that startup team. You gotta have a desi, right? So, there is Dinesh played by Kumail Nanjiani. And then they had a not-s-nice character, who likes to get everyone riled up. Meet plays Erlich Bachman played by TJ Miler, who  needs a special mention for adding that interestingness angle to the show.

By the time the  fourth episode “Fiduciary Duties” rolled by I was mildly hooked and by their seventh episode “Proof of Concept,” I was hooked to the show. And by their final episode I was exhibiting those classic withdrawal symptoms. When will the  new season start? What will happen to Piped Piper, the fictional startup in the show? Will they cross the chasm and make it to the other side? Will they be able to build, test and ship their produce successfully? Or, will they drown in a bug-infested digital wasteland?

Mike Judge the creator of this series takes a tongue-in-cheek approach to the startup culture and the cut-throat competition that exists behind the scenes in Silicon Valley.  I believe “skewers” was the word Wired used in their article about Judge and “Silicon Valley.” Judge is a former software developer and the creator “Office Space” that has a cult following among developers and geeks.    Judge definitely has a good feel for the startup and geek culture that permeates Silicon Valley and does a brilliant job of capturing that ambiance in his new show.

And yes, the show has a second season coming up.