I just watched Something Ventured and I loved it. Loved it so much I plan to have it shown to as many EPFL students as possible in the spring! It is a movie about passion, enthusiasm, energy, changing the world and yes… about money. When asked about their hope about the movie, producers Molly Davis Paul Holland said: Our high hope for this film is that every student that wants to be an entrepreneur—at every level, high school, business school, on corporate campuses—sees it. We want to see more young people fall in love with entrepreneurship… And if we have a quieter, more serious goal, it’s that I want policymakers to look at this and say ‘What can we do to make it easier, not harder, for people in this country to start those kinds of businesses?’
I would have said I hope that every student — at every level — sees it. And the producers added we were trying to explain our vision for the movie and said, ‘What we are envisioning is a movie like Reds [Warren Beatty’s 1981 film about the original Bolsheviks], where you go back in time to talk about an exciting period — in that case 1917 Russia — and ask people in the present day what it was like back then. Dan said ‘Ok, so you want to make Reds but without the Communists.’ That is ultimately what came about: A really beautiful dialogue with really interesting men and the people they financed.
“A Film About Capitalism, and (Surprise) It’s a Love Story.”
This is the title of another article about the movie, where the journalist says “moviegoers can see what might be the rarest bird in the documentary world: a genuine love story about capitalism.” Somewhere else, the moviemaker, Dayna Goldfine explains: “I think what compelled us to take this one on, even though it is a positive view of business, was, one, it’s a chance to do this kind of alternative view. But also, what these guys were doing – both the entrepreneurs and the venture capitalists – was creating real products. So much of what has come down in terms of the financial tragedy of the last few years has been caused by the investment bankers –people who were really just creating financial instruments, as opposed to changing the world with technology by creating or funding an Apple Computer, or a Cisco Systems, or a Genentech”. Co-moviemaker Dan Geller adds: “I wouldn’t say that money was incidental – money was important – but the overwhelming enthusiasm was for taking these brilliant ideas and these inchoate technologies and making something earth-shattering with them. That’s the energy, I think, that comes through in these stories.”
Yes it is a movie about capitalism, about business. But it is also a movie about enthusiasm, happiness, failure also. It begins in 1957 with Fairchild and Arthur Rock. It could have begun with French expatriate Georges Doriot. A professor at Harvard who supposedly taught manufacturing (in fact it was about how many glasses to drink at a cocktail party and how to read newspapers – go to obituaries), Doriot did not create venture capital with ARD (even if he funded Digital Equipment – DEC) – Rock created the term later, but Doriot inspired most of the heroes of the movie: Tom Perkins, Bill Draper, Pitch Johnson, Dick Kramlich. And these guys funded Intel, Atari, Apple, Tandem, Genentech, Cisco. (The movie tells stories from the 60s to the 80s, but Google, Yahoo, Amazon, Facebook could have been added). Indeed with the movie, the Social Network, it’s the best movie I have seen about high-tech entrepreneurship. What I had nearly forgotten in The Social Network is the closed Boston society (Zuckerberg desperate efforts to enter high-end social clubs). Here also, the Wild West explains its success through openness and risk taking.
And the authors did not cheat. It is also about painful memories, how Powerpoint ended up in Microsoft hands, maybe because the entrepreneur had found it too tough before or how one of the rare women in this world, Sandy Lerner, the co-founder of Cisco, may have not forgiven her firing from the company she had created: “you gotta understand the game that you’re in. […] Look, there wasn’t a box for me.” So yes, it is also about failures, “living deads”, but there is a “feel good” attitude, funny moments, such as when Valentine visiting the Atari factory does not recognize the cigarette brands he smokes!! Or when Gordon Moore (the famous Moore law) remembers that Intel went public the same day as PlayBoy.
So if you do not know much (or even if you do know a lot) about Fairchild, Intel, Atari, Tandem, Genentech, Apple, Cisco, and even if you do not care about entrepreneurship, run and watch Something Ventured. Hopefully you will care!