Odd Money Lessons We Can Learn from Silicon Valley’s Erlich

By Sarah Li Cain
August 12, 2017

Sorry diehard Silicon Valley fans: Tech incubator leader and resident oddball Erlich Bachman has left the show. However, we can still learn a thing or two from the TV character who says whatever he wants. In fact, Erlich has been teaching us important money lessons from the very first episode of Silicon Valley.

Not convinced? Read on as we point out odd money lessons straight from one of the strangest characters on the popular HBO series.

Take Advantage Of Opportunities

When Erlich accompanies Jian-Yang to an investor meeting, he turns Jian-Yang’s original idea for an app for octopus recipes into one that recognizes food based on images.The resultant app, called SeeFood, got offered $200,000 in seed funding.

When Jian-Yang wanted to turn down the financial backing, Erlich delivers an honest opinion of the situation: “You know who walks away from that kind of money, Jian-Yang? Richard, a crazy person. He walked away from $10 million. Now look at him: wet pants, stealing towels, babbling about technical issues that he can’t solve. Is this how you want to end up?”

Erlich’s unfiltered advice is pretty spot on here: Don’t turn down a good opportunity when you see one. Yes, this may not have been part of Jian-Yang’s original plan, but $200,000 is nothing to sneeze at, particularly when you want to build a company and position yourself for better career opportunities.

Although you may not be able to count on funding like this for your business idea, you can still learn a valuable lesson here. Namely, always be on the lookout for opportunities to augment your earnings, like starting a side hustlenegotiating your salary, or finding a higher paying job.

Negotiate Like a Pro to Increase Your Income

When Pied Piper, the company started by the main character Richard Hendricks, starts bleeding money, Richard and part-owner Erlich end up pitching the company to venture capitalists. As negotiations continue, they both realize that their rude behavior is actually leading to more interest in their startup. Erlich then decides to then take over the negotiations and tells Richard, “If they want to negotiate using hostility and rudeness, well, they picked the wrong guy.”

What follows is a montage of meetings where Erlich spews out insult after insult. In the first meeting, he interrupts the potential investor and insults the firm’s decor and choice of logo. In subsequent meetings, Erlich makes rude comments about someone’s appearance and even insults his spouse. These unconventional negotiation tactics end up leading to a $100 million valuation for Pied Piper.

Although this insulting approach worked on a television series, I’m not advocating hurling insults at potential investors. But, I am saying that to make more money, you need to learn how to negotiate to get what you want. To do this, start by researching what employers want and use this to your advantage – just like Erlich did when he discovered that being rude was working in his favor.

If you’re looking to get a raise, for example, talk to your boss and point out ways in which you’ve already helped boost the company’s bottom line. You can also highlight other ways you’ve helped the firm grow. Or if you’re negotiating your salary at a new job, find out what the median salary is for comparable positions, compare this with your work experience and be prepared to ask for what you deserve.

Be Meticulous With Your Money

Erlich really loves his yogurt. So much so that he gets mad when the spoon he uses to scoop the jam out of the divided yogurt snack container isn’t clean. He then goes on to explain how he left a note to inform everyone that the “narrow spoon” is to be used for the purpose of eating his yogurt.

To further illustrate his point, he goes into a tirade about the design of the yogurt packaging and how much food is wasted if you don’t use the proper equipment. Yes, he even expounds on the ideal jam to yogurt ratio.

If there’s anything we can learn about Erlich’s yogurt obsession, it’s that you can use this mentality to be meticulous with your money. Perhaps this means learning about asset management fees and how they can eat into your retirement savings, or understanding how to minimize your taxes. It could also mean doing relevant research before making a major financial decision. After all, nobody should care more about your money than you do, just like no one cares more about how to eat yogurt than Erlich.

Next episode

Erlich may not be the most likable character on Silicon Valley, but he sure does know a thing or two about managing money wisely. If anything, laugh at his antics, glean a few money lessons, and pray that the popular series will be just as hilarious without him.

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