When folks ask me for a book that could serve as an accessible introduction to startups, venturing, or entrepreneurship, I tell them it's not a book.
It's the movie Ghostbusters.
Ivan Reitman's 1984 classic might as well have been a documentary. Consider the evidence:
1. Nothing to lose
Startup founders typically feel like they have literally or figuratively "nothing to lose". When Dr's Venkman, Stantz, and Spengler are kicked out of their university, they shed their curse of comfort and find themselves forced to hustle.
2. Identify an emerging market with huge growth potential
The Ghostbusters' technical co-founders, Ray & Egon, discover what venture capitalist Peter Thiel calls a "contrarian secret": Ghosts are real, and they can be captured. Moreover, market research suggests that ghosts are a *growing* demographic. Bam.
3. Balanced team
Bill Murray's character didn't necessarily understand the paranormal domain as well as Ray, or the engineering as well as Egon, but as the dedicated BD/Sales guy, he saw the path to market and owned the commercialization strategy. It takes all kinds.
4. Secure funding, and stretch it to meet your needs
Capital is hard to come by when you have an idea, but no product, service, or revenue to speak of. Before you're ready for VC money, you typically look to angel investors, or even friends and family. Ray's dearly departed mom and dad left him an asset in the form of his family home, which he bravely/naively mortgaged to fund the venture.
With their sub-prime 19% interest rate, the team had to stay lean. Niceties like safety tests and licensing for the nuclear accelerators on their backs would have to wait until they were cash-flow positive. No in-office massages for these guys.
5. Grind it out until you land that critical first client
The first customer is almost always the hardest to acquire, and the moment that a startup manages to acquire its first paying customer is downright magical. Champagne-popping stuff. I get chills during the scene where secretary Janine Melnitz memorably transitions from disgruntled, to hopeful, to euphoric at the realization that, finally, "They Got One!" The period prior to customers and revenue can be harrowing. You're high on hope and potential, but both, kind of like caffeine, only get you so far. Eventually, you need to eat.
6. Scale your operation with tireless execution and hire loyal staff
Once you're rolling, you have better problems to solve than the fight against insolvency. Instead, you're fighting the good fight to scale. You're burdened as always, but by too much work, not too little. You'll probably need to acquire talent. Make sure it's the right kind. Who's *your* first employee? Who's your Winston Zeddemore?
Quick detour: I'd love to see the Ghostbusters' cap table. Equal founders' shares? And did Winston have stock options on top of his $11.5k salary? Hmm...
7. Navigate regulatory waters
Even as a kid, I always thought that innovation-killer Walter Peck was the real baddie of the movie. Sure, Gozer the Gozerian wanted to destroy humankind and all, but she never would have had the chance if an overzealous bureaucrat with a nit to pick hadn't forcibly sabotaged their... storage platform.
8. Win a signature deal and establish yourself as the market leader
When "Lenny", the mayor of New York awards the Ghostbusters their signature contract, the Ghostbusters rise to the challenge, defeat the Marshmallow Man, and establish themselves as the dominant services provider in their industry: The only business you're gonna call.