Tag Archives: entrepreneurship

Other People’s Money (1991)

 “What is a business worth?” For Larry the liquidator (played by Danny DeVito) a business is worth the price of its stock, for Jorgy, the entrepreneur who inherited the New England Wire and Cable Company from his father, a business is about the people associated with it. The tension between these two perspectives- The shareholder view of financial economics and the stakeholder view of management- provides the basic story for the movie Other People’s Money (1991). Larry the liquidator is always on the lookout for good companies that he can buy and sell to make a profit. One day he comes across a small firm New England Wire and Cable Company that was ably managed by the second-generation of the founding family and was completely debt-free. When Larry’s offer to buy the company is refused by the owners, he pursues a hostile take-over. Larry’s attempts for the hostile takeover are repeatedly stalled by Kate, the step-daughter of Jorgy. Finally, the shareholders are asked to vote on whether they want to keep the company private and retain the existing management, or are willing to let Larry acquire the company so he could sell it and make a good profit for the shareholders. (You can check out a more detailed summary of the movie here.)

The movie is a romantic-comedy. It does a good job of presenting hostile takeovers and corporate acquisitions in a fun way. Companies, big and small, can be attractive targets for takeover and acquisition for a variety of reasons. The movie effectively portrays how a company which is apparently being run well (i.e. the management is honest and caring and the company is completely debt free) may be attractive to corporate raiders who can help shareholders get a better return for their money. The management of the company, like Jorgy in the movie, try their best to defend against these attacks using a number of tactics. The recent Microsoft-Yahoo story relates well to the movie. Microsoft made an offer to acquire Yahoo, but Jerry Yang the founder CEO of yahoo did not want to sell his company. He was able to stall the offer for a while, force Microsoft to make a better offer, and convince his board to finally reject the offer. However, as is well known, Yahoo’s problems are far from over. If the management of Yahoo is not able to come up with a plan to strategically redefine and reposition Yahoo soon (as Jorgy’s step-daughter was able to do in the movie), the days of Yahoo as an independent company may very well be numbered.

The movie is certainly worth watching, especially for students and instructors interested in topics related to corporate strategy, acquisition, diversification, takeovers, and entrepreneurship.

Pirates of Silicon Valley

Most entrepreneurial activity is context-specific. But if there is one entrepreneurship movie that students from all across the world can find interesting it is Pirates of Silicon Valley (1999). This movie is a fictionalized account of the early professional lives of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, two men who made the technology world what it is today. The movie presents their struggles during college, the humble beginnings of their companies (Microsoft and Apple respectively) and the ingenuity that took them from where they were to where they are now. 

Both Gates and Jobs started their companies with very little investment, but tons of passion for what they were interested in- Computers. The movie is a good watch for many different types of audience- entrepreneurship, information technology, innovation, engineering, computers, new product development etc. What is even more remarkable is that because of the global stature of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, this movie can be used in classrooms around the world. I used it when I taught at Institute of Management Technology (India), and the students loved it. I regularly use it in my teaching in the U.S. where, of course, students know these two men, their businesses, and the context in which the movie is set in much more than people in other parts of the world.  

Guru

dbamb.jpg Guru (2007) is a movie from the Indian film industry. It describes the life and success of a young man Gurukant Desai from a little Indian village who starts a small business against everyone’s advice, succeeds against all odds, and goes on to establish India’s largest company. Like all ambitious entrepreneurs, Guru was driven and passionately believed in his dreams. (In fact, the movie begins and ends with Guru recalling his pragmatic father’s advice: “Don’t dream”). The drama in the movie comes from Guru’s interesting relationship with an idealist and committed newspaper editor who makes it his life’s mission to stop the young entrepreneur from manipulating the system. The battle between the dreamy-eyed entrepreneur and the idealist editor was inconclusive, though the stress causes Guru to have a stroke and lose the use of a hard, but does not diminish his passion.

Most international viewers may not realize that the movie Guru is based on the true story of Dhirubhai Ambani, the founder of Reliance Industries and one of the world’s richest people. Though the movie fictionalizes many aspects of Ambani’s life, it does a good job of staying true to the basic story- the rags-to-riches success, the ability to identify and exploit opportunities, building relationships, and his dream to bring Indian business to a world stage. 

I recommend the movie to any audience with interest in entrepreneurship, especially with an interest in entrepreneurship outside of the U.S. (Hollywood movies are generally about US entrepreneur) 

  

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.

   

  

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.