Lessons from HBO's Silicon Valley

April 20, 2015

Yesterday, I watched the season premiere of HBO’s show Silicon Valley, which I highly recommend to those who have either HBO accounts or friends with HBO accounts. (I also highly recommend making friends who have HBO accounts.) The comedy show does a reasonably good job of bringing some of the absurdities of startup life to the small screen. Navigating venture capitalists, dealing with technological issues, participating in startup competitions, it all comes with the territory.

Silicon Valley raises a number of important issues. Building winning teams takes a tremendous amount of time and effort. Driverless cars are vaguely terrifying. Inspiration comes from strange places sometimes.

It also makes a subtler point, too, as the main characters work on data compression software: business-oriented projects typically don’t get much attention. Part of this phenomenon, of course, stems from the fact that we’re all consumers, but only a small handful of us run enterprises that need technical solutions of any real scope. Another part of it may just be that enterprise tech isn’t as sexy as customer-facing options. After all, when people think of big tech companies, they name Facebook long before they think of Cisco. You don’t get to 500 million friends by founding Cisco.

But that may be changing. Just as tablets and laptops are slowly, awkwardly, meeting somewhere in the middle, software and online solutions for individuals and corporations may be blending together. Now I’m not the first person to have this thought; a ReadWrite article written two years ago by Brian Proffitt (I am not making that name up) boldly predicted that 2014 would be the year that the enterprise vs. consumer distinction would die.

I think it’s fair to say that Proffitt jumped the gun.

But the more that Supply Clinic progresses, the more I see his point. As a marketplace for healthcare supplies, our primary customers are healthcare practitioners: doctors, dentists, office managers. But home care services is a booming industry as demographics change and more and more Americans take care of elderly loved ones at home.  So we’re focused on making the best product possible, a simple, easy-to-use site that lets customers of any type find and purchase what they need. In fact, small outpatient offices are in many ways more similar to ordinary consumers than they are to large office chains and hospitals.

Larger companies may need more targeted delivery options, and bulk discounts. Smaller customers may rely on peers’ ratings and reviews to guide purchasing decisions. But everyone needs a good product. Everyone needs an intuitive user interface. Everyone needs affordable prices for quality products.

 Of course, this makes marketing that much more interesting. We’re not only consumer-facing (B2C), and we’re not only business-facing (B2B). We’re B2B&C. But marketing is a topic for another day.


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