Diary of a Social Venture Start-up: Learning from Oscar

Last week, I joined more than 3 million other Americans in an annual ritual of pomp, excess, and overwhelming boredom. It...

Last week, I joined more than 3 million other Americans in an annual ritual of pomp, excess, and overwhelming boredom. It wasn't 20 minutes into the Oscars before I wanted out. However, as I sat there, it occurred to me that maybe somewhere buried in between the ridiculous dresses and the stifling self-importance there were some lessons to be learned for the aspiring entrepreneur.

The Uselessness of Yes Men

Did you watch the Red Carpet Oscars Preview? If so, I'm sorry. We were treated to the interview stylings of Kathy Ireland. And while I certainly wasn't expecting gotcha journalism in that setting, the utter fawniness of the whole thing was absurd. All this is to say: When you're choosing your team, forget the people who tell you how great you are. They won't help you find flaws in your ideas, they won't bring anything to the table, and, like the "reporters" on the red carpet, they'll leave you with a sub-par production.

Putting The Right Face Forward

What's the most memorable element of an awards show? The host. Think about it. You might remember that Chris Rock was funny when he hosted, but you probably can't recall who won Best Actress that year. People loved Billy Crystal, so those Oscars were "good." Many thought Jon Stewart struggled, so those were less of a hit. The lesson? Every organization needs a face. You might have the world's best idea. But if you're not good with press, you're not a good presenter, or you're not a strong writer, you will need to find someone who is or it's going to be awfully hard to get others on board.

Reputation Matters

Even though Avatar didn't win, it's still the highest-grossing movie of all time, and the only reason it got made is because James Cameron is James Cameron. Imagine trying to pitch that movie: "Okay, guys, check this out: It's gonna be full of blue people, the acting is going to suck, and the plot is totally clichéd. And oh yeah.... It's gonna cost $300 million. When can we start?"

Businesses are a lot like movies in the sense that pedigree can have a profound affect. If you or someone on your team has a track record of success, it will be easier to find investors, partners, service providers, etc. With this in mind, it's not a shock that many founders are serial entrepreneurs who bounce from one idea to another.

That Said, It's Not Everything

Having a reputation helps, but it's not the only way to succeed. The biggest "lock" for the awards was that Christoph Waltz was going to win Best Supporting Actor. A year ago, nobody knew this guy. He's not particularly famous. Heck, I just had to spell-check his name. But he put forth such a captivating performance that everyone had to take note.

So what if you don't have a seasoned entrepreneur on board. That's no reason not to pursue an idea. It doesn't matter if no one's ever heard of you. If an idea's good enough, you've got a chance. You just need to get people to believe in it-and in you. As with Waltz, all you need is one good showing to rocket you into the big time.

The Takeaway: No matter what situation you're in, there are always lessons to be gleaned. Success is success, no matter the industry. By paying attention to what makes certain people thrive (and others fall short), you might be able to pick up a trick or two.


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