What Nightcrawler Teaches You About Starting A Business

I’m not sure if you’ve seen Jake Gyllenhaal in the gritty thriller Nightcrawler, but you need to see this movie. Shot almost entirely at night on the streets of LA, the film features Gyllenhaal as Louis Bloom, a guy desperate to make it in any industry he can get into. He stumbles into a new career as a cameraman and begins filming increasingly shocking accidents throughout the City of Angels. But what I found really interesting is the way that Nightcrawler is a parallel for entrepreneurship. Here’s how, and a quick “Spoiler Alert” warning in case you haven’t seen it yet:

1). Lou observes the scene of an accident and learns about film crews who use police scanners to get to the location before the LAPD.
Startup parallel: You observe the business landscape and look for opportunities. This is the research phase where you hear about tools that your eventual competitors are using that can give you the edge.

2). Lou invests in a basic camera to film on location and drives there in his beat up car.
Startup parallel: this is the bootstrapping phase. No frills. Just using what you have and making minimal investments to make things happen.

3). Lou gets his first footage and blags his way into a TV network studio. He eventually meets Nina (played by Rene Russo) who agrees to air his film in the evening news.
Startup parallel: An enterprising approach together with a lot of luck gets you in positions you need to be in. Don’t take no for an answer.

4). Nina pays him a small amount for his film as the quality is low.
Startup parallel: Believe what you have is worth something then sell it hard to your target market. Remember that early on, you might not be able to command a premium for your product or service but work to increase the value after getting feedback from your customer or client.

5). Lou upgrades his camera and car.
Startup parallel: Initially you have to ride the break even line and invest back into the business to get it off the ground.

6). Lou negotiates with Nina for his subsequent footage and gets a higher payout. Startup parallel: Get a reputation in your industry and then command the price you deserve using the leverage you have earned.

7). Lou hires an assistant allowing him to cover two angles at the scenes and invests in a laptop to quickly edit and submit his footage to the network.
Startup parallel: in order to grow and beat your competitors, you have to bring people in and delegate responsibilities.

8). Lou negotiates with Nina to make him the exclusive cameraman for the network for a top fee.
Startup parallel: Make yourself indispensable to your clients and partners. If you can become the best in your industry, you can command the highest fees.

9). Lou shoots a groundbreaking pieces of footage that is aired. He agrees that the film can be used on this condition that his company name (his personal brand) can be mentioned as the source.
Startup parallel: Whether you are building a company or personal brand, there comes a moment when the hard work pays off and your name will be seen. This may be in the local newspaper or on the national TV news but make sure you capture this and use it on your Press page on your site. It will add credibility which will attract future clients.

10). Lou eventually hires a team, buys two vans and dominates his field.
Startup parallel: you build a team that can work in the business and give them the tools to succeed so you can work on the business.

Listen to the podcast here.
Jake Gyllenhaal Nightcrawler video camera

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