Richard Hendricks (Thomas Middleditch) is a shy, reclusive programmer who works at a large internet company called Hooli. He is also developing a music app called Pied Piper in a live-in startup business incubator run by entrepreneur Erlich Bachman (T. J. Miller). After a rocky post-TED elevator pitch of Pied Piper to venture capitalist Peter Gregory (Christopher Evan Welch), Hendricks also shows his work to a pair of programmers at Hooli who mock him. Within hours, however, Hooli executive Donald “Jared” Dunn (Zach Woods) and Gregory’s assistant Monica (Amanda Crew) discover that the app contains a revolutionary data compression algorithm. Hooli CEO Gavin Belson (Matt Ross) proposes a US$4 million buy-out of Pied Piper, while Peter Gregory offers a $200,000 investment for 5% ownership in the company, an offer that would result in an equivalent valuation for the company. This leads Belson to increase his offer to $10 million. With encouragement from Monica and the support of Bachman, Hendricks chooses Gregory’s offer. He hires the residents of the incubator, except for his friend Nelson “Big Head” Bighetti (Josh Brener), to become the Pied Piper team, along with Dunn, who defects from Hooli.
In the immediate aftermath of their TechCrunch Disrupt victory, multiple venture capital firms offer to finance Pied Piper’s Series A round. However, while expressing interest, several venture capitalists criticize Hendricks’ lack of perceived direction and to come back with a more coherent “vision”. Bachman insists that this is a strategy to lower Pied Piper’s valuation. He responds to each offer by insulting each venture capital firm. One offer from the company End Frame in particular is revealed to be a scam to steal trade secrets from Pied Piper developers. Peter Gregory dies while on vacation and is replaced by Laurie Bream (Suzanne Cryer) to run Raviga Capital. Bream gives Richard the highest offer of all the VC firms: 20% equity at a $100 million valuation. Monica privately visits Richard to urge them to decline the offer, calling it a “runaway valuation that they could never live up to”, which would result in diluting Series A investors in future financing rounds. Richard offers Bream the same 20% equity but at a $50 million valuation.
Before he can collect the $10 million, Richard finds out at Peter Gregory’s funeral that Hooli is suing Pied Piper for copyright infringement, claiming that Richard developed Pied Piper’s compression algorithm on Hooli time using company equipment. The Pied Piper team knows the lawsuit is frivolous.
After failing to convince the board of directors to keep him on as Pied Piper CEO instead of demoting him to Chief Technology Officer, Richard threatens to quit and sue to regain his intellectual property. Richard meets with a company called Flutterbeam that wants to hire him as CTO. However, after being disappointed by their work, he rejects the offer and decides to stay with Pied Piper. Afterwards, Richard meets with Jack Barker, Raviga’s choice for the CEO of Pied Piper. Richard struggles under Barker’s leadership, which includes spending money on extravagant offices, completely changing the business model to one that goes against the company ethos, and later forcing Richard to work on an idea that he himself came up with as a demonstration of his frustration. Eventually, when the time comes to pitch the idea to the board, Monica sides with Richard and votes against it. Subsequently, Laurie fires Jack in response to his mocking that she could do nothing to stop him, and she permits the team to commence work on the platform. The CEO position is left empty by Laurie
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