HBO's 'Silicon Valley' turned to this startup for maximum authenticity -- and things got weird

Marianne with TJSimplivitySimplivity CMO Marianne Budnik takes a selfie with ‘Silicon Valley’ star TJ Miller on the show’s set.

The first time the propmaster for HBO’s “Silicon Valley” talked to Simplivity CMO
Marianne Budnik, he was calling from a smoke shop, sourcing bongs and pipes for one of the show’s characters.
That’s when Budnick had second-thoughts about associating her company with the TV series.

The third season of the show sees fictional startup Pied Piper making a hard swerve into selling a data-compression hardware box to businesses.

And so the production crew approached real-life startup Simplivity, makers of an actual and very similar hardware box for businesses, for help in keeping the show as authentic as possible.

It seemed like a match made in heaven, and a great way for Simplivity to boost its profile. But after the smoke shop call, Budnik started to question her choice.

“This is going to be absolutely brilliant, or get me fired,” Budnik recalls thinking, she tells Business Insider.

Luckily, after a six-month collaboration period everything turned out ok. You can read the full account at Simplivity’s blog.

If you watched the just-aired third episode of the season, you’ve seen the debut of Pied Piper’s “beautiful box,” which takes the company’s famed data compression algorithms and squeezes it into something that can be placed in a server rack.

Simplivity pied piperSimplivityThe Pied Piper ‘beautiful box,’ left, and the Simplivity OmniCube, right.

That box is actually one of Simplivity’s OmniCube server appliances, slightly modified and done up in Pied Piper’s preferred green colour scheme, rather than Simplivity’s signature blue. The first prototype of the Pied Piper box was done with spraypaint in a car auto body shop, in fact, Simplivity shares in a press release.

Beyond just making the box, Simplivity worked closely with Richard Toyon, the Emmy-winning production designer of “Silicon Valley,” to recreate the feel of their headquarters and their hardware labs for Pied Piper.

One Sunday, Toyon and his team came in to snap pictures of the whiteboards, the contents of engineers’ desks, and even the random OmniCube parts they had sitting around in supply closets. The prop team took copious notes on each part so they could buy them later.

“It was just in the spirit of authenticity,” Budnik says.

Simplivity set of silicon valleySimplivityA Simplivity engineer (right) hangs out with ‘Silicon Valley’ stars Kumail Nanjiani (left) and Zach Woods (center)

Simplivity engineers also spent much of the last six months flying back and forth from their Masachussetts-based headquarters all the way to Hollywood, to work with the actors and producers on getting the lingo and the phrasing right. In return, those Simplivity engineers are going to be making cameos this season as Pied Piper employees. The show’s cast apparently referred to them as “the box guys.”

Even Mike Judge, the famed “Silicon Valley” showrunner, got in on the action, insisting that a Simplivity engineer stand with him and tear down an OmniCube so he could see exactly how it worked.

Overall, Budnik says that the whole experience was “hilarious,” and that the Simplivity crew loved working with the show’s cast and crew.” You can judge for yourself in tonight’s episode.

“They are genius,” Budnik says.

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