In startups, daily active users are the latest of all important vanity metrics. And while they’re more important than typical vanity, such as page views or total sign ups (excluding closed or dormant users), they still don’t tell the whole usage story, or why a product is booming or failing.

In last week’s penultimate episode, “Daily Active Users”, Richard and the team realised that usage of the new Pied Piper platform was far lower than they were expecting. And low enough to scare off potential investors in a forthcoming round.

So what did they do? Fake the traffic.

We all know that whenever you want to attract something to your business, whether it’s clients, investors, or potential acquirers, you do all sorts to get them to notice you. Increased marketing efforts and investor comms let them know your KPIs are better than ever, and those extra scaling dollars will help you go further towards mass profitability. So yes, that’s gaming the traffic, or juking the stats.

The team ultimately, and without cross consensus, bought traffic from a less than reputable offshore company, who simply put people in front of machines, creating accounts, logging in, and doing a few tasks. The irony is, not too dissimilar to buying users from Facebook that aren’t quite the right demographic.

But what should they have done instead?

Hire a design team

While the show is painfully realistic at times, despite the very obvious comedy, on this occasion, they missed the ball without even attempting to catch it.

Pied Piper is a tech team turned into a company. Niavely, they created their platform product, before testing it on friendlies, without truly understanding the human needs.

This isn’t uncommon. Even with an army of designers, sometimes products make it into the world without the necessary insight to justify their position. It’s easy to do, I worked for one once, and launched a product that literally wasn’t based on a grain of understanding, and therefore became an ego release rather than solution to a bigger problem.

When this happens, and caught in enough time, the course can be corrected. PP could have hired a UX and UI designer to work out what the platform should actually do to establish a foothold, and create usefulness that leads to an increase in the ever important KPI, Daily Active Users.

Unfortunately, this wasn’t explored in the storyline, and in the concluding episode, Erlich takes the VC’s stake of the business, while it would appear the company could veer off into the world of video chat. I know it’s a fictional show, but for one that gets it so right most of the time, it’s a shame it took the direction it did.

Still, compelling viewing whichever way you look at it. And enough of an excuse to include the below clip which, while horrendously NSFW, stands up as one of the funniest things I’ve seen in years.