Monthly Archives: January 2008

Wall Street

wallstreet.jpg Wall Street is a movie about two men- a young, ambitious broker Bud Fox (Charlie Sheen) and a Wall Street legend Garden Gekko (Michael Douglas). Bud is an impressionable upstart who is impressed by the power and status Gekko has. Gekko, on his part, is a good judge of people- He sees the ambition in Bud’s eyes and the weakness in his character. Gekko offers to help Bud succeed on Wall Street and Bud gets pulled into Gekko’s world, even as it takes him away from his own father. A must see movie for every person interested in the business world!

When President Clinton campaigned in 1992 he promised to end the greed culture of the 1980s. Garden Gekko took the opposite stand- “Greed is Good” he declared emphatically. Most people don’t know that the “Greek is Good” speech that Gekko gave in this movie is based on an actual speech Ivan Boesky, a russian immigrant who was a major player in the 1980s Wall Street insider trading scandal, delivered at the University of California-Berkeley in 1986.

Boiler Room

boilerroom.jpg Boiler Room is the story of Seth Davis, a young college drop-out, who is ambitious and hard-working. He runs an underground casino out of his off-campus apartment, when he is offered a position at an ‘off Wall Street’ stock brokerage firm that assures him he will be making a million dollars even before he finishes his third year with them. Seth slowly learns that things at work are not what they seem to be, and that the firm was a financial `chop shop’ which was willing to rip off (or was targetting!) common people just looking for good investments. Seth finds himself working for a firm which is being investigated by the Feds for violation of Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) regulations. In the end, Seth makes some good decisions which helps him do the right thing.   

The movie has a great message for today’s young people, many of who are willing to do anything to make a quick buck. But what I admired most about the movie was its treatment of Seth’s relationship with his father, a honest federal judge who loves his son and wants him to do something good with his life. 

Young Hearts Unlimited

yhu.jpgComedy, family, drama, emotions, and action- This movie has it all. The problem is that adding many different ingredients does not necessarily give you a great biryani. Simply stated, Young Hearts Unlimited is a biryani goe bad!

This is the story of three children who take upon themselves to raise $50,000 in one month to save a service station that the city mayor wants to demolish to construct a new mall. The children identify a hitherto unrecognized opportunity- online dating (Think match.com or eharmony.com). They add their own unique element to online dating by using short videos for people to introduce themselves and see each other. Of course, in the end the business is successful, they reach their target revenue, and the ‘evil’ mayor is defeated. Despite the simplicity of the story, what could have been a sweet family movie turned out to be a wastage of time and money (for viewers I am certain, for the producer I imagine).

Nevertheless, the movie does have relevance to entrepreneurship. Specifically:

1. It discusses opportunity identification and incremental innovation to position the new business in a competitive market.

2. It shows how small business can use fliers as a marketing tool.

3. It discusses the use of franchising when a company with a unique idea wants fast expansion but lacks the resources to do it.

4. Most importantly, the movie shows the relationship between entrepreneurship and economic development. The mayor wants to demolish the family-owned service station that has been with the family for three generations to make way for new businesses that will bring much-needed development and revenue to the town. However, the owner of the service station Bryan wants to save his business because that is the only work he knows how to do. The macro-impact of entrepreneurship conflicts with its micro-consequences.

Maybe, a movie that some kids may enjoy. As for more mature audience and adults, I say unless you want to watch it to get some entrepreneurship-related video clips, you may want to pass it.

   

  

Gung Ho

gungho.jpgGung Ho (1986) stars Michael Keaton in the role of an American wheeler-dealer who hopes to save his small Pennsylvania town by getting a Japanese automobile manufacturer to buy the town’s buggest employer-a failing automobile assembly factory. Michael is sent to Japan to convince the Japanese that buying this factory is in mutual interest. The rest of the movie is about how the Japanese and American cultures try to work together to successfully run the factory. For the most part, the Japanese management and the American workers can not manage to get along because of cultural differences. However, in typical Hollywood style, the movie ends on a positive note when the Japanese and Americans are able to work together and reach their production target to avoid a lock-out.

This is a terrific, under-rated movie. It does a good job of showing cultural conflicts when companies from two different countries try to collaborate. I worked for a short time in an Indian-Korean automobile joint venture. I saw a similar dynamics play out in that joint venture, as showed in the movie. The Koreans and Indians had practically no social interaction with each other in that factory. The two groups had their seperate eating areas and lounges. Not surprisingly, the joint venture did not last long and the fcatory closed down soon after I left. I have heard a lot of other situations where such cultural differences emerge between companies from different countries. Imagine, Indian-American or Sino-American joint ventures where people from two culturally very different countries are being brought to work together, without giving them much training about the other culture. (BTW, I came across this funny posting about the American culture from a Chinese perspective. Think about working at a Chinese-managed factory in the US or a US-managed factory in China. I also found an interesting posting about the Indian culture from an American perspective. Being from India myself, I don’t agree with many of her observations, but that is what is so interesting about the whole concept of culture. Our idea about our own culture tends to be different from how other people see it).     

Great movie, must watch!  

Aviator

AviatorAviator (2004) stars Leonardo DiCaprio in the role of Howard Hughes, an American aviator, engineer, film producer and director, and an entrepreneur. The movie has three central themes- Hughes’ love for aviation and passion for building and flying airplanes, his vision and commitment to his dream, and his love for beautiful women. In a sub-plot the Father of Psychoanalysis Sigmund Freud would have loved, Hughes’ relationship with his mother is shown to be responsible for many of the problems in his later life, such as his obsession with cleanliness and hygiene, and his relationship with other women. Despite Hughes’ family business of machine tools (Hughes’ tool company), his own success came primarily in the movie business (e.g. Hell’s Angels) and aviation (the H-4 Hercules and TWA). The movie does a great job of portraying the entrepreneurial spirit and business acumen Hughes had. It is definitely a movie worth watching (Warning: It runs 170 minutes, longer than most Hollywood movies).

I have to admit that before I watched the movie I knew almost nothing about Howard Hughes. I found it fun to learn of an entrepreneur who, despite his mental illness, became one of the wealthiest people in the world through his willingness to dream big and take the kind of risks most other people would have said no to. Unlike other real-world entrepreneurs whose life stories Hollywood usually capitalizes on, Howard Hughes was not a rags-to-riches story. On the contrary, he was born with the proverbial silver spoon to a financially successful inventor and entrepreneur. One of my favorite scenes from the movie is Hughes’ testimony in the Congress about international aviation and why it is in America’s interest to allow companies other than PanAm to fly international. If one remembers that back in those days PanAm was THE 800-pound gureilla in the airlines industry, one can see what Hughes’ was up against.

All in all, a good movie, with lots of things (e.g. obsession with hygiene, beautiful women) to distract the viewer from the business aspect of Hughes’ life and work. One blogger even puts Hughes’ in a list of “7 saints” he admires most, with Steve Jobs, Bill O’Reilly, and (hold your breath!) Atilla the Hun.  Another analyzes Hughes’ relationship with women. Bryan Caplan, Associate Professor of Economics at George Mason University presents an interesting and novel analysis of Howard Hughes’ mental illness as portrayed in the movie (I have to admit I have never heard this explanation before, so I think it’s worth reading). I could give more examples, but I think the point I am trying to make is clear- Aviator is a movie worth watching because it is about a seemingly-crazy guy all sorts of people continue to talk about till today.

2B Perfectly Honest

2bph.jpg 2B Perfectly Honest (2003) is a strange movie about a young and ambitious entrepreneur Frank. The movie starts around the time Frank and his friend and junior partner Josh are losing their ad agency. The failure of his business is a financial loss to Frank, so much so that he had to move back to his parents house. However, Frank doesn’t share the news of the closure of his ad agency with his parents and continues to pretend going to work every day. During one of those days, Frank comes up with a new idea to start an internet-based business: web-boards. Web-boards are virtual cousins of billboards. Just like advertisements on billboards in the real-world, Frank’s idea is to put up advertisements on the internet by buying websites of companies that failed during the dot-com bust. Frank thinks the idea has potential and seeks external funding to finance his new venture. He meets with venture capitalists for some early-stage funding. The rest of the movie is strange- The best I can say is that an ambitious young entrepreneur ends up working as a paramedic. Life does have a funny way to twist and turn!

For some reason, watching 2B Perfectly Honest reminded me of Kevin Ham. His name may not ring any bells for most people, but Business 2.0 refers to him as “the man who owns the internet“.   Estimates of his net worth ranges anywhere from 300M to 1B US Dollars. He owns hundreds of thousands of domain names that he sells or puts advertising on them to sell to other companies. He made his money buying cheap domain names that became available after the dotcom bust and he was so good at doing what he did that today he is the biggest player in a business where there are many other millionaires who own hundreds of thousands of domain names. His latest idea, a pretty creative one, is to partner with the government of Cameroon (yes, you read correctly. It’s a small country in Africa! ) to put advertisements on websites ending in .cm so that anytime anybody clicks on these advertisements Ham and the government of Cameroon get a share of the pie. (No points for guessing why .cm websites and not others).

Why did Frank in the movie remind me of Kevin? In a way the two men couldn’t have been different- Frank was a failure while Kevin is a living legend in his line of work (There’s even a Kevin Ham fan site!). What made Frank seem similar to Kevin was that the simple brilliance of their idea. In 1999-2000 Kevin Ham was a nobody, it just the last seven years he has become a success story buying, selling, trading, and dealing in domain names.

The movie is not as good as I would have liked it to be, but it may still be worth watching for people interested in entrepreneurship. In fact, I would go as far as to say that if you are not interested in entrepreneurship or internet-based businesses then don’t watch the movie.  

Jerry McGuire

JMJerry McGuire is a 1996 movie (Tom Cruise, Cuba Gooding Jr., and Renee Zellweger) about a top-league sports agent Jerry. Late one night Jerry has a bad feeling about the work he does- lots of players to manage, no personal connection with the players, and the single-minded pursuit of money- and he writes a new mission statement which seeks to radically change the way sports agent in the company he works for manage players. His boss and almost everybody else (I say almost, because one accountant Dorothy Boyd is inspired by his new mission) in the company does not like his new ideas about reducing the number of players and making strong personal connections with the players and he is fired from his job. Jerry starts his own company with one player (Rod Tidwell who believes he is not getting the money and the attention he deserves), one part-time employee (the lovestricken Dorothy whose salary and benefits he can not pay), and major competition from his past employer. In a classic story of David beat Goliath, Jerry finally becomes successful when Rod Tidwell is instrumental in the victory of his team, his business philosophy of personal connection with the players is noticed and appreciated, and his entrepreneurial venture takes off. Of course, as with almost all Tom Cruise movie the story of his romantic relationship with Dorothy is interwoven with the strory of his entrepreneurship experience.

Jerry McGuire was a very successful movie and most people who watch it like that it’s a light-hearted movie that makes you feel good. Here is a guy, who gives up everything he has for a noble cause, works hard, competes with the big guys, and finally succeeds. It is a great discussion movie about entrepreneurship and the role of relationships with customers and clients in succeeding in a new business. It also provides good examples of some very practical and seemingly mundane issues related to starting a new business- who will pay the bills, who will take care of health care and other medical costs, how do you market yourself, and the inevitable frustration that most entrepreneurs have during the start-up phase. It is also a good movie to talk about the role of values and ethics in our lives, especially in the sports industry (in the words of one blogger, “money controls everything else in the universe, so why not sports“). In short, a feel-good movie that most people are likely to have watched already!