What does it take to build a business in America?

That's the question Generation Startup tries to answer, a film documenting the real-life stories of six young entrepreneurs who put everything on the line to build companies in Detroit. Directed by Academy Award winner Cynthia Wade and award-winning filmmaker Cheryl Miller Houser, the film aims to celebrate risk-taking, urban revitalization, and diversity--while encouraging entrepreneurship as a stimulus to the U.S. economy.

What Famous Entrepreneurs Are Saying

So far, the film has gotten powerful endorsements from some of the most well-known entrepreneurs of recent times.

For example, Shark Tank star Daymond John said the movie"will light your imagination, stir your soul and inspire you to take a shot just like its fearless characters do." And Arianna Huffington, founder of The Huffington Post, called the film "an exhilarating, uplifting, and honest look at what it really takes to launch a startup."

The film receives further glowing reviews from a number of entrepreneurs, including Reid Hoffman (co-founder of LinkedIn), Steve Case (who co-founded AOL), and Tyra Banks (actress and founder of Tyra Beauty and Model), among others.

Although I haven't seen the film, the trailer does a nice job of capturing some of the highs and lows of modern entrepreneurship.

The Subjects

Upon learning more about the film, I was naturally drawn to the subjects documented.

They include:

Brian Rudolph: Unable to find a nutritious pasta he liked, Rudolph set out to make his own--using chickpea flour. Along with his brother Scott, he launched Banza in 2014.

The company quickly gained popularity and even appeared on national television...but the brothers suddenly lost $100,000 when an attempt to scale turned much of their pasta to mush. Brian spent months trying to find a solution. Last year TIME Magazine named Banza one of the Top 25 Inventions of 2015, and they won the $500,000 first prize in Accelerate Michigan's pitch competition. In 2016 Brian was named to Forbes' list of 30 Under 30 in Food.

Dextina Booker: After graduating from MIT in 2015 with a degree in Mechanical Engineering and Product Development, Dextina moved to Detroit to join the growing startup community. Along with her brother, she was raised by a single mom from Guyana who worked multiple jobs to make ends meet. Dextina attributes her resourcefulness to her mom.

"You have to play the game to change it," Dextina says. "As soon as I get to a place where I can bring other people who are different, then I'm going to do that so that we can have a more authentic and representative culture."

Labib Rahman: In August 2014, Labib became the first employee for Mason, an early stage startup that builds android smart phones and tablets. The film showcases the conflicting views between Labib and his parents, immigrants from Bangladesh who went into debt to send him to school.

Labib eventually takes a well-paying job at an established company, but he's unable to shake the entrepreneurship bug--leading him to work nights and weekends to launch a startup that connects clothing manufacturers in the US with factories in Bangladesh that use fair labor practices.

I Can Relate

I know what it's like to put everything on the line to follow my passion--although I was already much older than the subjects of this film when I started building a business.

As much as I appreciate the hustle and determination needed to start a company, I also know how easy it is to get swallowed into that life--to the point where you lose sight of what's really important.

I'm looking forward to watching the film, and it appears that these young people have achieved some remarkable things. But if I could share one piece of advice with them, it would be this:

In your efforts to build something great for the world, make sure not to push everything else out of yours.

Generation Startup opens to limited release on September 23.

Published on: Aug 31, 2016
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