So if you’re thinking, “What the hell is a movie review doing on a site about entrepeneurship and startups?”, just hold your horses. Gives this a minute or two to play out…
I was flipping through Netflix, trying to find a halfway decent movie to wind down to, and after starting 4 movies and stopping them after less than 5 minutes because they were so bad (that’s Netflix streaming for ya), I came across this movie. It held my attention past the crucial first 5 minutes, then another 5 minutes, and another, until I said to myself, “Hey, this movie has Jeremy Renner in it, and it’s pretty good so far, how come I’ve never heard of this before?”
The Plot in 3 Sentences
This movie follows two guys as they try to turn ideas into million dollar businesses. One guy is the inventor of this entrepreneurial duo, the guy who comes up with crazy product ideas (a handbag in the shape of a hand, a mini-tv that clips onto the front of your baseball hat so you can jog and watch tv, theme watches – like a “Lotto Watch” that generates 6 random numbers for playing the lotto). The other guy is the salesman of the group, he’s got the gift of gab and a total lack of self-awareness (perfect!).
At The 30-Minute Mark I Almost Turned It Off
I don’t like movies about losers, and after 30 minutes the two main characters were sure starting to fit the bill. They were entrepreneurs who came up with crazy inventions. Nothing wrong with crazy ideas, nothing at all. But here’s the problem – the inventor “Matt”, played by Dallas Roberts, kept making loser decisions. He’d have inventions that showed promise with solid sales (i.e. his “dreaming dog” themed watch). But he needed money to expand his product line – potential customers were all telling him they wanted a variety of dog breeds, not just the one breed they currently offered.
So Matt, the inventor, gets several thousand dollars from his wife to expand the product line from one dog breed to 4 breeds. 20 breeds would be better, but they simply can’t come up with that kind of money.
What does Matt do with that seed money? Does he do the prudent thing and expand his product line to 4 breeds, then take the profits from those watches to expand his produce line one-by-one? Of course not – Matt’s business partner (the salesman, played by Jeremy Renner) convinces Matt to go to the casino and play blackjack, and turn the few thousand dollars his wife gave him into the $36,000 they’d need to expand the product line to 20 dog breeds.
And of course this doesn’t work out. All the money is lost. No new dog-watch product lines. Just broken dreams, and a husband who is terrified to go home to his wife. This is apparently a pattern in Matt’s life. He only knows how to go for the home-run or strike-out. And he’s no home-run hitter.
I Thought the Movie Was About 2 Guys Who Would Never Make It
These two guys, the inventor and the salesman, made bone-headed decision after bone-headed decision. They didn’t take good deals offered to them. They gambled away seed capital. They did every stupid, foolish, and ridiculous thing you could imagine.
But they kept plugging along. Sure, they shot themselves in the foot every chance they got. But they wrapped those wounds in the proverbial duct tape and kept doing what they did as if nothing happened, oblivious to their horrible decision-making.
They were always just a few degrees off from amazing success. I was convinced there was no way two guys with gambling problems and such horrible decision-making skills could ever start a successful business. And this is crux of this article
Entrepreneurs Are Reckless. No Avoiding That. Here’s How They Turn The Corner
What’s really interesting is what turned their success from mediocrity to lightning in a bottle.
The movie misses the point here. The movie implies the great success came because of their final idea, a talking beer bottle opener (see it here).
That’s just silly. The product was almost inconsequential, this could have been any one of their earlier ideas. Sure, they had a very good idea with good execution. But the talking beer bottle opener was far from genius.
The reason for their great success was they finally had some discipline to go along with their (reckless) entrepreneurism. See the inventor’s wife started showing a prototype of the talking bottle opener around to friends and co-workers. Everyone loved it. It also just happened they were separated at the time (you can only gamble away your spouse’s hard-earned savings so many times).
So instead of the wife just giving her husband the money to manufacture these bottle openers, she approached this invention as a business partnership. She gives her husband the money needed to manufacture the bottle openers, and she gets a percentage of the profits (it was implied they were on the verge of divorce at this point, so this makes sense).
And lo and behold, this was the discipline the inventor and the salesman needed to get to that next level. They were presented an offer, and instead of going for the home-run like they always had, they went for the single. And it turned into a grand-slam: They sold millions, and made tens of millions.