What does Hollywood know about the startup world?

We often succumb to assumptions. We have a general belief that our world is unique, and that the rest are all outsiders looking in. This presumption is sometimes most evident when it comes to our passion and self-belief in our chosen careers and industries. So if someone came out of the Hollywood hills and landed himself in and among startup founders, you might think he’s a fish out of water. But that’s not necessarily the case…ever. A lot of ‘business’ is formed from a similar DNA; and not just that, but also follow a similar frequency in how they are formed, managed and how success is defined.

In Jakarta last week, I happened to attend the Global Venture Summit (GVS) which took place in the city. I went in with very few expectations. And not that I am one who likes to be overly critical, but the event could have been better managed with a higher production output. But that’s incidental. Apart from the VCs and Corporate VCs that were slatted to attend, the headline attraction promoted was Billy Zane, the actor who is probably best know for his role in Titanic (I remember watching The Phantom too, but then again, I was a movie buff). He is a part of Parkpine Capital, and I thought it was more a gimmick, and pretty much ignored that bit of information.

When he took to the fireside chat with the other GVS founder and a CNN anchor, I was ready enough to bounce if the conversation turned into the pandering of an actor’s ego. Throughout the chat, the anchor boomed out his name as though she was introducing him to the stage at the Oscars every time. Amusing. That being said, probably the most valuable takeaway for me from the day came from Billy himself.

The anchor addressed what many would have wanted to ask – what’s an actor know about the startup world? How is he going to know how to invest and whether a business is good or not. His response was probably the most articulate, well thought through rebuke I have ever heard, and it was worthwhile enough to be narrated in this blog.

He said, and I am paraphrasing extensively – every movie made in Hollywood is an LLC. It starts with a vision, some creative imagination. The idea is then developed, challenged, toiled over, reworked until it has some clear value. A team of like minded people come together to bring it to life. The team behind it go out and try to get funding for the venture (sometimes they even run out of money), and there’s a budget they have to stick to. The actual production of the movie when shooting starts is more akin to a military exercise. Finally, the output and the hope of financial success and profit.

He was able to elevate himself to someone with the transferable tools and appetite to add value to the startup space he aims to invest and participate in. I kind of felt like routing for him after that, and I was happy to see someone go from one industry and lend his experiences and skillsets to another, completely alien to his past. This is more common in the startup world. People from banks, consulting and old-school industry are trying their hand at developing businesses that have commercial and societal value. It’s a space for every man and woman to chase a dream and work hard to execute on their vision.

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