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'Silicon Valley,' Season 2, Episode 7: 'Pen Down, Dumbledorf.'

Like it or not, porn leads tech.


Welcome to the newest installment of our "Silicon Valley" Re/cap, where we connect HBO’s satire to the real world. Or, at least, Silicon Valley.

The last episode of HBO’s "Silicon Valley" ended on such a stinkin’ down note — with Pied Piper realizing that Endframe had fully stolen their algorithm — that I was worried sick about the boys all week. I should have had more faith. Richard is really coming into his own as a leader, and he met this challenge head-on.

Trouble is, he had to allow his ethics to slip a little to do so, and that’s a different kind of peril. Richard is a nice fella — the kind who uses "whom" appropriately — and it pained him to enter the world of porn, to accept information gained via questionable methods, to return the double-crossing that had been double-crossed upon him.

But in the end, it was his only option, and it gave him the opportunity to prove Pied Piper’s worth, which was the most satisfying outcome possible. He didn’t steal Endframe’s contract. He challenged them to prove their tech’s worth. And we know they can’t.

In the end, the looks on the faces of Endframe’s leadership were the real money shot.

So what insider views can we bring to the table this week?

First of all, the idea of porn leading tech: We’ve discussed that in Re/code edit meetings, yet none of us really wants to take this on as a beat. Porn tech is like that one weird uncle you invite to the wedding because you know he brings the fat envelopes, but nobody really wants to sit next to him.

But it’s true: Porn is the thing that pays for advances in tech, even if Steve Jobs didn’t like it.

The porn references in this episode were hilarious. I don’t want to reprint the names of the companies, because that will permanently damage my SEO, so here they are, in seekrit form:


Do porn CEOs look as studious and grave as the ones in this episode? Ladies and gentlemen, the CEO of Adult FriendFinder.

Something that’s easily as compelling as porn, though — at least to hardcore Silicon Valley strivers — is this idea of failure as success. Here is a nice quote from the playwright Samuel Beckett:

"Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better."

Oh, that’s so nice! Very encouraging. Except now it’s an unbearable meme that crappy startups use to justify torching millions of dollars in VC money and producing nothing.

So when Gavin Belson presents his epic fail of a livestream as a "pre-success," his wildly hopeful, encouraging, self-deluded smile is familiar to "we in this valley." But what really stung was his series of examples:

"To bring us the iPhone, Steve Jobs first had to bring us … the Newton.
To bring us Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg also had to bring us … WireHog.
Before he brought us Digg, Kevin Rose had to bring us … a whole lot of useless things. And after Digg as well, for that matter."

Ouch. Was that nice? No. Was it fair? Um, well, as an entrepreneur, it kind of is: Rose is, so far, a bit of a one-hit wonder, and has been casting about a bit since he left Digg four years ago. His most recent project, for heaven’s sake, is an app for watch enthusiasts. But he’s a pretty successful investor, so he shouldn’t feel too bad about the joke. He can still cry all the way to the bank.

But the best insider joke might have been lost entirely on the general audience. When Richard meets Russ at that fancy bar, then steps outside to scold him about the direction in which his car doors open? That is clearly the Rosewood.

The what? It’s a Silicon Valley hotel notorious for its hookup culture. Russ, we can presume, is a regular.

But why did staffer Eric Johnson recognize it so readily? "I met a VC for an interview and the place was closed, so we went across the street to the Rosewood," he insists. "All totally above-board."

Sadly, we believe it. We’re a pretty right-path crew at Re/code.

Also, this:


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