Over the holidays, I got an opportunity to watch a series recommended earlier to me: STARTUP! – (starring Kenyan-born Edi Gathegi). The show has quite an interesting plot of this startup trying to secure investor funding. It starts as the story of one girl named Izzy; who has this brilliant idea to change the world by launching a digital currency known as GenCoin. In quite a dramatic turn of events, Izzy is joined in her quest by two very different young men, but who buy into her idea; and the trio set out to build the world’s next big thing!
STARTUP is basically a reflection of our current world – there are those with ideas, and those with the money – and the challenge has been to match the two: on the one hand, those with the money are asking,
“Where do I invest this money for a good return? How am I sure it is a worthwhile venture?…”
On the other hand, there are those with ideas and they are asking,
“Where do I get the money to make this idea a reality? Where do I get the seed money to make this idea grow into a huge tree and even to a forest?”
So this is a very modern series, set in the current 21st century circumstances of matching money with ideas. I should note here the striking coincidence that as I watched this, Strive Masiyiwa had just started on a series of Facebook posts about financing for your business: very good practical stuff.
The Good, 1: Entrepreneurial Character
Set in our present day, many businessmen will identify with the STARTUP. It is easy to identify with the entrepreneurial character exhibited by the team. The first thing an entrepreneur may encounter when they start out is ridicule from close friends and family, who wonder why the crazy idea to start a business – especially if you are young and just from school. This is not to say that we should not be employed after leaving school: in fact, the work environment may be very important to equip you with the skills and attitudes necessary to run your own business. Nevertheless, that ridicule is expected: whether due to the timing, the perception others have about you or even just how much “out of this world” your idea seems.
Taking us through the important values of resilience, tenacity, creativity, ingenuity, teamwork and genuine partnership, STARTUP shows us how possible it is to overcome the challenges that a startup will face.
The Good, 2: Business Language
Another very good takeaway from this movie is language. Great minds in the world of business will tell you of the importance of language. You have to learn the language of the world you want to operate in. Robert Kiyosaki for example says that to run a business, you have to learn the language of money. You have to be able to interpret financial statements. In the same way, STARTUP does a very good job in teaching the language of looking for financing: both literally and figuratively.
Startup. Angel Investor. Proof of concept. Hostile takeover. Valuation. Buyout. Bootstrapping. Problem. Solution. Why You?
All those are words that a startup in the 21
st century would want to be familiar with. It is the language of that world.
The Good, 3: Disruption
STARTUP, set as it is in our day, captures very well the times we are living in: times of great disruptions in almost every sector. This is a day of countless innovations. Technological advancements are coming at us at dizzying speeds. Indeed, there is no time for one to ever rest on their laurels. STARTUP exemplifies this very well. Even when their original idea is stolen from them, they go back to the drawing board and come up with another brilliant idea that brings their competitors back to the negotiating table.
STARTUP explores possibilities within new technologies particularly for digital currencies and Darknet markets.
Speaking of disruption. STARTUP is in itself a product of Crackle. Now, Crackle is a video streaming distributor of movies and TV shows, owned by Sony Entertainment. The Internet brought about significant disruption in the movie industry; from purchases and rentals to online streaming. Sony could not afford to remain in the past, hence Crackle. # DisruptionGalore!
Why is it that today’s TV is so full of casual sex? I think STARTUP would still have been a very good show without all that “sexing up”. I believe it is still possible to do a good show without all the sex.
Gencoin is stolen! The great idea that the three entrepreneurs sought to place on the world platform is snatched from them. In scenes characterized of tears, the entrepreneurs’ baby is taken from them. They are conned out of their idea and basically kicked out of the company. In a heart rending discussion with her uncle, Izzy puts it thus:
“The lawyers called it a hostile takeover…”
I think this is a sad affair but it happens the world over. Investors come in and as they bring money, it is in exchange of control. The million dollar question is, how much control to give up, in return for how much funding? Also, what kind of funding – is it debt or equity?
A powerful illustration of this reality is Steve Jobs, kicked out of Apple, the company he had founded. Luckily for him, he was able to come back to Apple and at the helm. Not all edged out entrepreneurs are as lucky as Steve Jobs. This is neither to give investors a bad name, nor to discourage entrepreneurs from seeking investor funding. It is just a word of caution: it is important to find the accurate balance between how much you get in funding (without which the business may not grow); and how much control you cede. This calls for wisdom.