Dwight Crow’s life is unreal on Bravo’s ‘Silicon Valley’ and off
Bravo’s reality television series “Silicon Valley: Start-ups” has been getting a bad rap for how unreal it is.
There may be nothing more unreal than the real life of cast member Dwight Crow.
Crow -- who made quite the impression in the first episode, which aired Monday night, by ripping sheets off someone’s bed for a toga and drunkenly debating obscure algorithms -- is a brainy 26-year-old “brogrammer” with a degrees in chemical biology and computer science who lets Bravo’s cameras follow him around as he tries to rev up his startup.
It’s not just his wardrobe (he owns one pair of jeans) or his apartment (he sleeps on an old mattress under a comforter held together with duct-tape) that are authentic. So is his entire journey, from promising new startup to aching failure (and a lifeline via a job at Facebook).
During that journey, he dropped 11 pounds until his ribs poked out of his already slender 5-foot-11 frame because he often forgot to eat, fueled only by strong coffee and Red Bull, while putting in 16-hour days on Carsabi, a service to help consumers search and shop for used cars.
Crow, who auditioned for the Bravo show after seven friends independently sent him the Craigslist ad, said he did worry that being filmed for 12 weeks would steal his attention from the all-consuming task of building a company. (He said his friends put it a bit more bluntly: They warned him it would “nuke” his startup).
“It just seemed like the funniest thing I could possibly do,” Crow said.
He added: “I tried to always act myself.”
And, as it turns out, that can be pretty entertaining.
“I have done a few things besides lonely and boring programming by myself,” Crow said.
Crow hails from San Diego. He went to school at UC Berkeley, where he lived in a hippie co-op. He dropped out twice to travel in South America and Asia.
Some of his Indiana Jones-worthy adventures (which he swears really happened): He wrestled a five-foot Caiman lizard and contracted a flesh-eating disease in Bolivia. He worked until his hands bled on an Ecuadorean farm that found itself under siege from hired thugs with guns and machetes. He stormed parliament during a revolution in Nepal, dodging smoke grenades. And he even landed a bit role in a Bollywood film.
He returned to a somewhat less eventful life to finish up his degree at UC Berkeley, where he was president of the computer science club. He heard Sun Microsystems co-founder Andy Bechtolsheim speak and talked his way into a job at Bechtolsheim’s startup, Arista Networks.
Eighteen months later, he and his pal Christopher Berner took a flier on their own company and got into Y Combinator, the Silicon Valley startup incubator. Carsabi crawls all online car sale listings on the Web to help consumers find the lowest price.
The wild ride came to a crashing halt when Craisglist blocked Carsabi from indexing its car listings and threatened legal action.
“It was the worst. I sat on the floor and stared at the wall like I had died for two hours,” Crow recalled.
Crow and Berner fielded a couple of offers from big companies that were more interested in their talents as engineers than their company. They friended Facebook.
Now Crow owns a real bed and a new comforter. He lives in San Francisco, and he’s working at Facebook in Menlo Park. All of which makes him pretty typical for Silicon Valley -- minus the reality show.
Would he sign on for Season 2 if there is one?
“I generally cannot make forward-looking statements beyond a two-week window,” he said. “It depends on where my life is at that point.”