Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Bootstrapping Inspiration

There are a ton of internet startup books in the world. Searching for "start up" on Amazon returned 107,315 titles. Among the choices are books that profile the rise and (sometimes) fall of companies during the dotcom bubble. Some are standard "How To" books. I am sure there is even a Start Up for Dummies out there.

While all these can be useful resources, sometimes true inspiration comes from examples outside your industry.

I recently read Rebel Without a Crew (or How a 23-Year-Old Filmmaker with $7,000 Became a Hollywood Player). Written by filmmaker Robert Rodriguez (Desperado, Spy Kids), Rebel chronicles his adventures in making his first feature film, El Mariachi for $7,000.

There are some great example of thinking outside the box to make things work. Some of my favorites:

  • He only had 1 belt for strapping blood pellets onto actors and it is a chest belt. So in the movie everyone gets shot in the chest. (SMS only allows 140 character --> create microblogging)
  • He volunteers for a month long experiment at a pharmaceutical lab. Essentially, he is signing up to be a lab rat. For Rodriguez this is a Godsend. He is able to raise $3,000 for his movie, he saves money because the lab feeds and houses him for a month, and he has a month off to focus on writing his script. (I imagine this is similar to being an entrepreuner in residence at a VC firm sans the possible drug side effects and hourly blood draws.)
  • He shot every scene in one take to save on film costs. This forced him to plan out his shots ahead of time and edit on the fly in his head. Flub and miscues were later edited out by cutting to different shots. This "quick cutting" was later deemed ingenious and stylish. (Craigslist probably started simple and basic out of necessity but is now praise for its minimalist and bare layout.)
While capital can certainly make life easier; the restriction of little to no capital can result in inspiring products.

The book is well written and is a fast read. I think you will find many parallels between low budget film making and internet entrepreneurship. At the very least it will help get your creative juices flowing while giving you a break from the tech rss feeds.

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