6-minute read (1,200 words)
As a startup founder, you are constantly looking for new strategies to grow your business. There are a number of ways to stay inspired, from traveling and reading books to listening to podcasts and watching movies.
Check out these eight documentaries that offer glimpses into the lives of some of the most famous founders and notable investors, and the ups and downs they encountered in their entrepreneurial journeys.
1. Jiro Dreams of Sushi
Jiro Dreams of Sushi follows Jiro Ono, the now nonagenarian owner of a 10-seat, three-Michelin-starred, sushi-only restaurant located in the basement of a high-rise building in Tokyo — and the $300 per plate dinners that he serves in his restaurant. The documentary takes us inside the life of the sushi chef as he works closely with his vendors to source the finest ingredients, mentors his staff and prepares his son to succeed him on his retirement.
Jiro has spent almost every day doing just one thing — making sushi — since before the outbreak of World War II. He has done this in pretty much the same way for decades and his obsessive dedication has led him to almost perfecting it. Jiro’s unwavering commitment to quality reminds us that perfection requires blood and sweat, constant practice and the pursuit of improvement.
Why you should watch it: Jiro proves that there is no substitute for passion. He shows that perfection can only be achieved through hard work, dedication and mastering your skills.
2. Steve Jobs: One Last Thing
Released shortly after the death of the Apple founder, Steve Jobs: One Last Thing reveals the complex life of Steve Jobs. The documentary features interviews with Walt Mossberg of the Wall Street Journal, Ross Perot and Dean Hovey (designer of Apple’s first mouse), among others, in addition to an interview with Jobs himself.
A tribute to the longtime innovator, Steve Jobs: One Last Thing takes a look at the philosophy that drove Apple’s innovations under him. It studies his style, talent and imagination, and how it all molded the man himself. The film takes the audience through Jobs' career trajectory and the development of his many memorable product presentations.
Why you should watch it: Steve Jobs shows that presentation, imagination and unlimited drive can shape the lives of millions of people — and that marketing a product is just as essential as the product itself.
3. Becoming Warren Buffett
With a net worth of over $70 billion as of press time, Warren Buffett is one of the wealthiest people in the world. Becoming Warren Buffett offers an invaluable amount of information from which important life lessons can be learned.
Known as the “Oracle of Omaha,” the acclaimed investor still lives in a modest house in his hometown and drives himself to work every morning to manage Berkshire Hathaway. The film chronicles Buffett's evolution from a small-town, numbers-obsessed boy into one of the wealthiest and most respected men in the world.
The film includes interviews with Buffett's family members, friends and colleagues. It also features such tech giants as Intel and Apple, and explores how they may not be where they are today if it weren’t for the investors who believed in their potential.
Why you should watch it: The film shows how a billionaire should be: kind, humble, thoughtful and generous.
4. Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room
Based on the bestseller of the same name, Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room looks at the collapse of one of the most scandal-ridden corporations in America, where executives mismanaged money, lied to investors and ruined the life savings of thousands of employees. While they got away with these crimes for almost a decade, everything eventually came crashing down in a spectacular fashion.
Enron, which filed for bankruptcy in 2001, has become one of the most well-known cases of financial and accounting fraud in American history. This documentary explores the psychology behind the collapse of an empire.
Why you should watch it: This remarkable cautionary tale of Enron and the executives that ran the company reinforces the importance of honesty and integrity in business.
5. Capital C
Capital C explores the phenomenon of crowdfunding, and examines how entrepreneurs are increasingly moving away from traditional methods of raising money.
The documentary discusses the secret to raising large sums of capital from strangers via the internet — if you have a message that resonates with others, people will want to be a part of something that matters to them, by helping and supporting the company's growth. Funded through a Kickstarter campaign, the film profiles three entrepreneurs who turned their ideas into reality through crowdfunding.
Why you should watch it: The documentary showcases the power of crowdfunding in helping get ideas and businesses off the ground. It also includes tips on how to run a successful crowdfunding campaign.
6. Something Ventured
Something Ventured examines the role of venture capital in building America’s tech giants. It showcases some of the world’s most prolific venture capitalists — including George Doriot, Mike Markkula, Tom Perkins, Don Valentine and Arthur Rock — who made big, early-stage winning bets on such tech companies as Google, Apple, Intel and Atari.
This exposé chronicles the origins of venture capitalism. It demonstrates how early venture capitalists struggled with convincing companies to work with them, and eventually laid the groundwork for the startup economy, providing not just the capital but the guidance to allow small companies to reach their full potential.
Why you should watch it: The 2011 documentary works as a crash course in venture capital. It provides invaluable lessons that can help you when courting investors.
7. She Did That
She Did That profiles the zealous pursuits of black women and traces their entrepreneurial journeys. The documentary addresses such topics as the implicit bias and outright racism black women face in corporate life, obstacles they overcame while working high-profile jobs and funding gaps for women of color.
The film features conversations with four female entrepreneurs: Lisa Price, founder of Carol’s Daughter; Luvvie Ajayi, New York Times bestselling author, speaker and digital strategist; Tonya Rapley, founder of My Fab Finance; and Melissa Butler, founder of The Lip Bar.
Why you should watch it: The documentary teaches us how grit and perseverance set the stage for success.
Documentary filmmakers Jehane Noujaim and Chris Hegedus give us an inside look into the rise and fall of the internet startup govWorks, created by Harvard University classmates Kaleil Isaza Tuzman and Tom Herman.
GovWorks was designed to remove bureaucratic roadblocks by allowing citizens to go online to register their vehicles, pay parking tickets and other such government transactions. At one point, govWorks went from two people to more than 200 as the company moved from seed funding to raising around $50 million of venture capital money.
Startup.com is a powerful cautionary tale that teaches valuable lessons from mistakes made in the areas of strategy, finance, human resources, operations, marketing and IT.
Why you should watch it: A potential lesson in what not to do, Startup.com demonstrates that even millions in funding don’t guarantee success if you don’t have a solid product.