Rumors about a new movie starring Ashton Kutcher as Steve Jobs have circulated around the Web for weeks. Based on the biography by Walter Isaacson, the film will supposedly feature some scenes in the real-life garage where the Apple founder started the company with Steve Wozniak. Will it be the best film ever made about a start-up? Doubtful. It will have to contend with some serious competition, like the six movies below:
1. Pirates of Silicon Valley
Poor acting and a paper-thin plot make this Made-for-TV movie almost unwatchable, but there are few lessons for making a real company out of nothing. The movie portrays Steve Jobs and Bill Gates as brilliant geeks, even though we now know they were both marketing masterminds. Yet, the most tense moments in the film show how starting a company requires an extraordinary amount of emotional energy, something that can take its toll on friendships and family relationships.
A tense documentary about trying to start the GovWorks.com site in 1999-2000, the movie has an interesting plotline for those going into business with a friend--especially one who's blessed with skills, like marketing or finance, that you lack. The two central characters parted ways after the site failed to launch, but eventually started another company called JumpTV.
3. Tucker: A Man and His Dream
Another movie about the machinations of big business, Tucker does provide some interesting details about the early years of the Tucker Sedan from the 1940s. Preston Tucker funded the company on his own after selling plans for an armored car to the U.S. government. The lesson: If at all possible, fund your new venture yourself.
Here's one that might seem like a stretch at first, but it is perhaps the most entertaining movie of the bunch--at least for someone starting a company. All the basics of entrepreneurship are here: creating a compelling product (e.g., the ability to capture ghosts), holding a funding round, finding your first office space, challenging marketing snafus, and a very public victory (this one involving the marshmallow man).
5. The Social Network
An awkwardly inspiring movie about the most famous tech entrepreneur in recent memory, The Social Network follows the formation of Facebook. Interestingly, the film is a good lesson in pitfalls to avoid: deceiving your initial cohorts, coding everything yourself, sleepless nights that can kill innovation. Yet, the movie also shows how networking is the best way to seek initial capital investments. Almost every successful start-up has at least one energetic go-getter who "friends" a venture capitalist.
6. The Aviator
Focused more on the personal life of Howard Hughes with a decided enterprise bias, The Aviator is still a good lesson in how to build a company - thinking big, building consensus with employees, and diversifying quickly. Hughes was an eccentric but he found a way to build an empire by looking for ways to leverage one business line against another--say, filmmaking with his love for aviation, when then led to buying an airline.