Do you enjoy watching movies and TV shows about businesses as much as we do? Well, gather around and get your popcorn because today, we will explore the fascinating world of startup entrepreneurship through the lens of some of our favourite TV shows and movies.
If you’ve not already watched these shows, you’ll want to click ‘Add to my list’ right away! Caution: There may be a few spoilers ahead!
1. Dragon’s Den: Preparing for Investor Success
Dragon’s Den is an iconic window into the Canadian startup ecosystem, a reality show where aspiring entrepreneurs pitch their business ideas to a panel of successful investors known as “dragons.” FYI, Dragon’s Den as a franchise is older than its American counterpart, Shark Tank!
If you’re entering the Canadian market, then look no further than this TV show that’s been running since 2006! Canadian biggies Manjit Minhas, Wes Hall, Arlene Dickinson, Michelle Romanow, Vincenzo Guzzo, and Robert Herjavac (of Shark Tank fame!) are the series regulars.
We recommend you watch this with a notepad and pen; who knows, you could be there next. So, observe, soak in, and marinate in the heaps you can learn from this show.
Dragon’s Den Takeaways
- The dynamics from the second you enter the room to the wide range of strategies involved in pitching and negotiating with investors
- The compelling elevator pitches clearly communicate the value proposition in a manner that is both entertaining and credible
- The need for thorough preparation in knowing the financials, market research, and anticipating tough questions
- Significance of showcasing confidence, passion, and the ability to handle rejection gracefully
2. Silicon Valley: Navigating IP, the Art of Choosing Allies, and Entrepreneur’s Ethical Dilemmas
Silicon Valley is a TV series that is a hilarious satirical take on the cutthroat world of, you guessed it, Silicon Valley. Of course, the show is funny, only because we’re not in Richard’s shoes as the founder of Pied Piper. Through the 6 seasons of Silicon Valley, we get front-row seats to Richard, a programmer’s chase to set up his own tech company, practically against all odds. Backed by his motley crew of programmers and/or friends, Richard’s journey makes us sit up and think about many things we would do differently (or not!).
Silicon Valley Takeaways
- Richard’s constant battle with his ex-employer tech giant Hooli emphasizes the many nuances of IP protection.
- Richard is repeatedly faced with difficult choices of who to work with, be it partners, investors, or employees. We get to watch a variety of Silicon Valley caricatures walk in and out of his life, each bringing in a different challenge. Being a good judge of character is a trait that’s tough for most, but this show highlights how for an entrepreneur, the consequences of trusting the wrong person can lead to dire consequences.
- The theme of entrepreneurs and their moral compass is also one that is touched upon quite a bit in this series. There’s always an ethical consideration that we see Richard struggle with – the impact of business decisions on his own life, his employees, or society in general, forcing us to draw parallels between ethical dilemmas most entrepreneurs face daily.
3. The Dropout: Realism Over Fantasies, Balancing Vision and Evidence for Startup Success
An infamous startup story that’s been televised into a documentary and a mini-series. A must-watch, the rise and fall of convicted con-woman Elizabeth Holmes and her company, Theranos – is now a cautionary tale about the consequences of unethical behaviour and misguided leadership.
Elizabeth Holmes’ story will leave you in awe of how far she could go (basically, making her a billionaire!) with her fraud med-tech company but also leaves you with a knot in your chest as a fellow entrepreneur. Her lack of integrity not only piped millions of dollars that could have been used for better down the drain but also deeply impacted real people who were sick by providing wrong diagnoses.
A lot changed after Theranos’ $700M fraud.
The Dropout Key Takeaways
- Investors learnt not to believe fantastical promises laid out by starry-eyed startup founders. It demonstrated the need for rigorous due diligence, skepticism, and critical thinking when evaluating new technologies or disruptive claims. It also heightened the burden on startup founders to provide real evidence and proof to back all claims, with good reason.
- The show raises awareness about the dangers of overpromising and misleading stakeholders. It teaches us how to show investors a vision that isn’t just tied to the nearsighted goal of closing a deal.
- It also reminds founders to prioritize building a viable and sustainable product/service rather than prioritizing hype or potential valuations.
4. The Playlist: Unveiling different perspectives to deliver true industry disruption
A Swedish series about Swedish music behemoth Spotify, The Playlist, explores European startup culture and the origin story of how the world’s most beloved music app overthrew piracy overnight. But with its unique narrative, the series ensures it shows the viewer that a product like Spotify is certainly not created overnight, nor can it be done by one man alone.
Although this is a fictionalized account of the true story, it’s an eye-opening, engaging watch for all startup founders.
The Playlist Key Takeaways:
- The Playlist switches perspectives with every episode, from the founder Daniel Ek, to the Investor, and producer Sony Music, the Engineers, and Legal. It helps us understand all the sides to a startup story, a rare perspective that puts us in the shoes of our employees, investors, and partners.
- It captures the real challenge of building a breakthrough product in an era where people cannot even fathom that a product like Spotify could exist, especially the technology. Daniel, in the series and real life, has been known to champion his coders as the real stars. A powerful lesson for founders is not to be afraid to push the envelope in tailoring company dynamics that work for you.
- On multiple occasions, we also get to witness Daniel faced with choices that could potentially compromise his vision. But time after time, Daniel Ek’s obstinate behaviour stands strong. It does make us question how far is too far to get stuck with your original vision. Having said that, his stubborn pursuit of the streaming speed was responsible for the Spotify ‘wow’ factor.
5. Inside Bill’s Brain: Decoding Bill Gates: Lessons in lifelong learning
This 3 part docu-series will leave you more enchanted by Bill Gates than you may already be, if possible! We get an intimate view of Bill’s childhood, his mind, his marriage, his habits, his philanthropic work, and more. Watching him talk about how his favourite thing to do as a child was read encyclopedias, his tradition of ‘think weeks’, and his perspective on building an equal partnership with his (then) wife leaves you completely unsurprised by everything he’s achieved.
Inside Bill’s Brain Key Takeaways
- His relentless optimism shines through in everything he talks about. From dealing with his classmate’s death as a teenager to solving the world’s biggest problems. This a nudge for all startup founders to keep the fire and positivity burning within, no matter how hard things get. If he can, you can!
- His thirst for knowledge is astounding. Bill is a voracious reader; apart from reading almost 50 books a year, he also schedules ‘think weeks’ where he switches off and only catches up on research papers and books. This not only highlights his almost innate growth mindset but also reminds us to be curious constantly. Never stop learning. Even minds like Bill Gates are learning from others every day.
- Bill’s sincere respect for his wife and their partnership is also inspiring. Even though they are no longer together, Bill and Melinda still work together. With it becoming increasingly common for couples to start businesses together, the episode about Bill and Melinda’s relationship is a masterclass in managing working with your spouse.
- Bill’s admission of guilt about not prioritizing his mental health, physical health, and family in the past is also a very important caveat – even the brightest mind can make mistakes!
6. Chef: Embracing Discomfort, Focusing on Product and Passion
Chef, a heart-warming movie about a father and son building their bond, is actually also a fantastic stimulant for any startup founder. This movie can inspire you to start up or successfully resuscitate the lost spark. Watching Jon Favreau’s character, Carl, leave his job as a top Chef and find his way to entrepreneurship is an inspiring roller coaster, a journey full of passion and pure love for his art.
Chef Key Takeaways
- As an employee for years, Carl’s learning curve to run his own business is a steep one. Relatable and reminiscent of most startup founders as we watch him struggle with limited funds and resources setting up his small business. Entrepreneurship means being in a constant state of discomfort. You have to push yourself every day to get out of your comfort zone and keep moving forward, even if it’s baby steps.
- His lean, product-first business model is a massive lesson for all entrepreneurs to focus on their first ‘P’ of Marketing – Product – first. Instead of chasing investors for a large restaurant space or taking on heavy capital commitments too early, Carl chose to start small, validating just his product. He engaged in guerilla marketing tactics, low on budget but high on impact. This led him to perfect his product, get real customer feedback, and design a pathway to a future restaurant space where his brand can command leverage.
- Carl is the epitome of doing what you love. Watching his love for food emanate out of every pore keeps us energized and rooting for him. It forces us to check in with ourselves and motivates us to keep the light within us raging too!
Starting up in Canada?
We are BHive, a startup incubator located in Brampton, Ontario. We offer international startups the tools, resources, and space to establish – and quickly scale – their businesses in Canada and North America. To apply to our Global Entrepreneur Incubation Program, click here!