Spoiler Alert! If you haven’t watched last night’s episode of HBO’s Silicon Valley, “Daily Active Users,” read no further. With only one episode left in Season 3, this episode resolves one important loose end-the fate of the Pied Piper Box. Gavin and Jack Barker’s chance meeting on the way to “J-Hole” proved to be fortuitous. Besides playing online chess and hanging out on Hooli Chat en route, Gavin negotiates a deal to purchase the intellectual property of the Pied Piper Box and bring Jack Barker on to run Hooli End Frame Products. A shocking twist!!
Along with revealing the fate of the Pied Piper Box, the show shares some important lessons around how not to design a UI or market high-tech products.
Lesson 1: Design your user interface (UI) to meet the needs of your customers
Although the Pied Piper application built on the new platform gets off to a great start from a download perspective, quickly reaching 500K downloads, the number of daily active users is abysmal. One of the main reasons is that Richard, the CEO of Pied Piper, designs an app that all of his engineering friends love but average users cannot understand. Instead of recognizing that they might need to go back to the drawing board and rethink the UI, Richard embarks on a campaign to educate his “uneducated” target users.
At SimpliVity, we sought to avoid this problem altogether—we didn’t design a UI at all! Our approach is to work with interfaces that customers already know how to use from native hypervisor management tools like VMware’s vSphere, orchestration and automation tools like UCS Director, and programmatic interfaces like REST APIs.
Lesson 2: Keep your UI Simple
This lesson is closely tied to lesson #1. The Pied Piper team designs a UI that is so complex that it requires an virtual assistant, Pipey, to explain how to navigate the interface. (And for those of you who remember, Pipey actually appears to be a throw-back to Clippy, Microsoft Office’s animated, and widely despised, cartoon assistant). Pipey asks, “Looks like you want to compress a movie file? Can I help? It is just six clicks away. Follow me!”
Not only is Pipey a bad idea, what is an even worse idea is designing a product that requires so many clicks to perform core functions. Along with integrating with management tools that our customers already know how to use, the engineers at SimpliVity, unlike the engineers at Piped Piper, sought to keep things simple. A good example of this is our approach to integrating data protection into the core of our hyperconverged infrastructure platform. Right from vCenter, only three clicks are needed to back up, restore, move or clone a VM. And we guarantee it!
Lesson 3: Articulate the value of your product in terms that your customers can understand
Throughout the episode, the Pied Piper team has a hard time clearly articulating the value of their product. With the Table ad, their messaging is so abstract that viewers of the ad walk away still not understanding what Pied Piper has to offer. Richard then aims to explain the product using a “What did you have for breakfast?” and electron example. Pipey describes the platform as a “revolutionary neural network with an optimized sharded data distribution system.” What that actually means in terms of benefit to the end-user is left to the imagination!
Like many in our industry, we often suffer from the over-use of jargon (HCI and SDDC anyone?) but in general, at SimpliVity, we’ve aimed to keep our message simple. What do we do you may ask? Unlike alternative solutions that only converge compute and storage, we offer all infrastructure and data services below the hypervisor for virtualized workloads. And what is the benefit? Pretty simple! We deliver enterprise performance, protection, and resiliency at 3x total cost of ownership savings compared to legacy infrastructure and public cloud alternatives.
With only one more episode left in Season 3, the HBO comedy has, again and again, proved to be a hilariously authentic representation of Silicon Valley and the high tech scene in general with many comical lessons for real-life tech startups.