Silicon Valley: Beam Me Up Bono

The Beam store in Palo Alto

When the TV show Silicon Valley debuted on HBO I knew that I had to watch it. It wasn’t that I wanted to watch it, I just had to. I often see the bizarre in this place that I now call home, and it felt like medicine to watch what others saw. The show is fun enough to enjoy, even if I also find it quite painful.

Knowing that there is a tv show about this neck of the woods flipped a bit in my brain. Now I can’t witness a crazy valley moment without thinking “this should be in the show!” It felt good to know that I wasn’t the only one, when I saw Blake Ross put an epic screen play out there, “Adult Supervision”. I know that Dick Costello hangs out with the writers, but they need to get Blake in there stat.

As I see my share of crazy, I am now taking notes for concepts, and why not publish them? Let’s start small:

Episode 332: “Beam Me Up Bono”

University Avenue is the main drag in Palo Alto. If you haven’t been here you may imagine a cute college town (Stanford) area with a view of the hills. That isn’t University Avenue. You need to go to Los Altos or Los Gatos for that. Strangely, Palo Alto is in the valley with no decent views from downtown. In fact, I have to admit that it is pretty ugly, but you wouldn’t get that from the housing prices!

The stores that open, die, and thrive on a main street can tell you about a place can’t they? University Ave has some stories. There are way too many persian rug stores to make sense. At first I assumed that they were fronts for money laundering of some kind, and then went on to learn about their role as VCs 🙂

There are many fancy restaurants and coffee shops. I am a fan of Philz Coffee, and not just because Snoop is an investor, but if you are visiting Palo Alto you have to go to Coupa Cafe. Here you will find pitch decks being shown all day long, and startups try to get their restaurant tech ideas in play here. For example, you can order with Downtown, and pay with bitcoin.

But the most quintessential shop front to open as of late is Beams. You may have seen some of these robotic skype-like stations, if not in person then on Modern Family, or as the body of Edward Snowden. They allow you to remotely control a video communications device on wheels so you can interact from afar. Do you have remote workers or multiple offices? Now folks can feel more connected.

But having a retail store is just kinda weird. I have walked passed this spot since it has opened and I have a bet with myself every time: will ANYBODY be in the store? My devil tends to win (rarely). Since no one is in the store, the robots on display have to come outside. This means that as you are walking past you have someone from St. Louis trying to engage you in a conversation in similar fashion to the Greenpeace activists across the street at the Apple Store.

What happens when that isn’t working? I have seen two things:

  • I have seen 4 of the robots in a circle looking inward talking to each other. Picture that for a moment. Imagine the four people sitting in cubes in St. Louis, communicating through this device that is sitting in Palo Alto!
  • They sometimes put candy on their heads. Yup, resorting to the same trick that an scary old man uses to persuade a minor to join him for his candy!

So, how could this be used in an episode of the show? Some ideas:

  • Have one of the characters at a startup event via the device (since they can’t make it in person due to breaking a leg or something), and have them run into Dean Kamen on a Segway.
  • Have a virtual bouncer at the startup event, to only let people in who are on the list, and then have the crew realize that they can just walk right past the thing
  • I was actually at an event where they used these as the bouncers!
  • Erlich notices that Tinder is doing well and wants to get into the dating business. He also notices that dating in silicon valley is tough, even for women when Monica notes that “the odds are good, but the goods are odd!” He puts this together and opens a virtual night club that mixes people in real life and beam robots from anywhere around the world. It is an awful experience but shockingly two robots do end up hooking up
  • At various times the device ends up in situations that don’t work, such as waiting for an elevator or having to deal with stairs. “HELP!”
  • Bono is walking around University Avenue and the Kansas City based greater starts to chat him up
  • I saw Bono walking up and down University Avenue two weeks ago. He was stopping in front of various stores, with a buddy. They were both wearing the same t-shirt that said: “I want to die on Mars!”.

Don’t you think this would fit in well with the show? Life in Silicon Valley, it sure is ….. unique!

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