Looking for (Movie) Suggestions: Your Favorite Founder Scenes?

On Friday in class, we showed — and discussed — a documentary about life inside a start-up. The movie, “Startup.com,” focuses on the birth and evolution of govWorks.com. In class, we showed scenes that focused on:

I found these scenes a nice complement to our usual written-case discussions about the issues faced by founders and founding teams. For future classes, I would love to find other movie (or TV) scenes relevant to founders, whether or not the movies/shows themselves focus on new ventures (or even companies in general).

So: What are your favorites of such scenes? What are the core founder-related lessons you learned from watching them?

9 Comments
  1. I have to say that Startup.com is the most topical. Pirates of Silicon Valley and Sultan of Software are not bad, but not as focused on the business as opposed to the personalites.I also stumbled across a database of movies put together by professors who teach entrepreneurship (http://whitman.syr.edu/eee/Falcone/film/emcdb.htm) which you might want to check out.

  2. Thanks for the great suggestions, Furqan! I actually ordered “Pirates” earlier this week (along with “E-Dreams,” “Hackers: Wizards of the Electronic Age,” and “Dot”) but will add “Sultan” to the list. (Even if the full movie is “personality” focused, I have no problem with pulling out relevant scenes that also capture the most important business or business+personality issues.)Whitman’s E-MCDB had a competition last year and the top 3 finishers were “Tucker,” “Big Night,” and “Waldo’s Cabaret.” Guess I’ll be adding those to the list, too.Thanks again for the input!

  3. I have found just about every aspect of my two startups to be frustrating.I did enjoy “The Pirates of Silicon Valley” very much. My story is slightly different.Raising funding seems to actuallybe harder then doing the engineering. It shouldn’t be that way.http://siliconvalleystartupjournal.blogspot.com/Blake SouthwoodFounder of Big Bear and Brontosaurus Software

  4. In terms of startup scenes what hits home most to me are the scenes where there is absolutely uncertainty, arguing, and yet there’s still a positive attitude between the co-founders. In startup.com I thought that when they are arguing about the name of their company was good becuase there are always “debates” and arguments. My co-founder eventually left because his wife wouldn’t him let get too involved with the company and he attended meetings only occassionally.In the movie “Pirates of Silicon Valley” and Jobs sold his VW Bus and was waiting in his garage and Wozniak returned with the Apple 1 prototype what that scene depicted the most for me was actually how strong the “bond” was between the two founders becuase it was their friendship that held them together during the most difficult and trying times. iWoz is a good read by the way.Founders have different personalities. I liked it when Bill Gates was in Albuquerque and he was talking to Paul Allen about Apple computer. My point is that there was a lot of communication and they worked together closely. When they were writing code in the motel that is what a startup feels like. You are in total poverty but it is the companionship, friendship, and zeel to succed that holds the company together. It’s the invisible thread that holds the startup together. I’ve seen the “Pirates” movie at least 100 times and whenever I get down, depressed, and feel like giving up I watch that movie. It continues to inspire me to this day. My favorite part is the beginning when Bill Gates and Paul Allen are in Bill Gate’s dorm writing code and they are dead tired and writing code late into the night. That’s the reality. The other reality is being an instant “can-do” salesman when Paul Allen shows up in Albuquerque to meet with the founder of the Altair computer and he shows up in a pickup truck. Paul Allen had one chance to show their BASIC programming language working. It’s total pressure. That’s what a startup is, it’s fun mixed with insane pressure and stress and you never know what will happen next and it’s the thought of succeeding that motivates you to endure every obstacle that is front of your path to success. It’s about dealing with failure on a daily basis.Blake SouthwoodFounder of Big Bear Technologyand Brontosaurus Softwarehttp://siliconvalleystartupjournal.blogspot.com/

  5. Hello,Just came across your site. As a four time founder and five time CEO of a VC backed company, I believe the all time “classic” movie scene per se is from last years Academy Award nominee, “Little Miss Sunshine”While not exactly portraying a Venture Capital / Entrepreneur encounter, the scene of Richard (Gregg Kinnear) at the gas station on the phone with the potential investor / partner, followed by the scene in the hotel in Scottsdale and the Pool side scene where he faces the ultimate rejection is just a classic. Having raised 8 rounds of funding in my career over 4 firms, meeting with nothing short of 200 venture capital funds, the emotions and dynamics portrayed in these two scenes are just way too close to home!In addition, it’s a great movie, and should serve as a true inspiration to the “dreamer and believer” in those of us that choose the life of a Founder!

  6. Steve, I definitely agree about the Little Miss Sunshine scene!Great list so far. I think you pretty much covered the field in terms of the IT-related entrepreneurship. I would maybe simply add Revolution OS about Linus Torvalds (more about open-source movement than entrepreneurship).More importantly, I’d also add two classic movies to the general list.1) The Aviator : The story of serial entrepreneur and self-made man Howard Hughes, starring Leo Dicaprio. The film shows an interesting portrayal of his risk/commitment to the venture, when he puts his life on the line to experiment and test the new Hercules flying boat plane. Also, my personal favourite sequence is when Hughes, upon inspection of the innovative new plane design (which workers had been relentlessly slaving on for several months), focuses immediately on how the small bolts on the outside of the plane should not be visible. I can’t remember the exact context because I haven’t seen the movie in a while, but I though that was a great tribute to the entrepreneur’s level of almost “obsessive” involvement in every little detail of the venture, especially concerning the product.2) Citizen Kane : The 1941 movie about the ultimate bootstrapping story of rags to riches and creation of a publishing and media conglomerate, supposedly based on the life of newspaper magnate William Hearst.A&E also offers, through its Biography program, many profiles of entrepreneurs.Finally, I know it’s not a movie (!), but I would also suggest the recent book “Founders at Work” by Jessica Livingston, a founding partner at Y Combinator seed VC fund.< HREF="http://www.amazon.com/Founders-Work-Stories-Startups-Early/dp/1590597141
    ” REL=”nofollow”>http://www.amazon.com/Founders-Work-Stories-Startups-Early/dp/1590597141<> It’s got great founder stories from the early days of more well-known stories like Apple, Lotus, Yahoo and Paypal, but also more recent stories like Craigslist, Flickr and Firefox.

  7. I would add a few scenes from Glengarry Glen Ross which is based on the David Mamet play of the same name. Specifically, the scene where Alec Baldwin gives his famous sales speech to the sales team. The context is that the founders of the company have sent him (an “expert” salesguy/corporate mouthpiece) to shake things up on the sales team. His tone and demeanor beg the question as to what effect founder heavy-handedness can have on teams. Indeed, the reactions from the various members of the sales team are revealing.Although the movie dealt with a real-estate office, I often think of this scene when founders or VCs come to give “pep” talks to various employee groups within tech startups. The human dynamics translate just the same in my opinion.

  8. One i keep watching over and finding new lessons each time is “Alexander”. I find the evolution of his decision making style interesting, his approach to managing the interests of multiple stakeholders, his approach to taking on a market leader etc.Also, “Meet Joe Black” i found great for reflections on founder values.

  9. I suppose that the film was shot in digital video. The filmmakers shot for over two years, and were editing the more than 400 hours of video and film right up to their Sundance Film Festival premiere in early 2001.

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