The valuable startup lessons hidden in the film Oppenheimer
I drew the uncanny parallels between the film ‘Oppenheimer’ and the journey of a startup. Let’s dive into the lessons, challenges and triumphs that both narratives offer. So, hear me out.
In the bustling world of 2023, there are three categories of movie-goers: those who’ve watched Barbie, those who’ve experienced Oppenheimer, and the select few who’ve indulged in both. As a startup founder, I couldn’t help but draw parallels between Christopher Nolan’s “Oppenheimer” and the roller-coaster ride of launching a new business. Here’s my take on it:
From Naivety to Expertise
They say that assuming makes an “ASS” out of “U” and “ME”. When I walked into Oppenheimer, I anticipated a mind-bending experience akin to Christopher Nolan’s movies. Honestly, I was expecting the sequel to Inception. Little did I know who Oppenheimer was, and halfway through, I felt a twinge of stupidity. Perhaps I should have watched Barbie on Screen 7 instead; I surely felt like a movie imposter.
Back in 2019, when I ventured into the startup world, I naively believed that networking and using the right hashtags would be enough. I had no idea what awaited me. Six months later, that naivety struck me, and imposter syndrome took hold.
But guess what? By the end of the film, I became well-versed in Oppenheimer’s life, his career, and his complex character traits. I formed opinions about him and his story, and even provided well-thought-out recommendations that people actually appreciated and considered.
Starting a business is akin to Oppenheimer’s journey. It’s like diving into a brand-new venture, not knowing much at all. Even if you come armed with prior knowledge, a business degree, or years of hands-on experience, you still won’t truly understand who Oppenheimer is. But with time and dedication, you become an expert. Just as after three hours, I knew everything about the man, after three years in the business world, you will have learned so much that people will seek your advice and carefully consider recommendations.
The Oppenheimer’s journey
I want to share a little anecdote with you that I find truly inspiring. Oppenheimer’s first lecture only had one attendee, but let me tell you, it didn’t faze him one bit. He was genuinely thrilled that someone showed interest in his work. In the film, you can see his enthusiasm radiating from him as he energetically scribbles on the blackboard, passionately presenting his groundbreaking theory to that one listener. And guess what? Spoiler alert, he ended up gracing the front cover of Time Magazine!
Now, let’s relate this to your startup journey. The early days can be tough, and it might feel lonely when your Instagram page is filled with stunning branding but only one follower. But here’s the thing, it’s all part of the process. Of course, you’re going to have a small turnout for your first lecture on quantum physics – after all, not many people know about you yet. But that’s about to change because you have something special to offer. Having unwavering belief in yourself is crucial.
Additionally, I want to emphasise the power of an MVP. Testing a simplified version of your business with a small group of people opens doors to a smooth and customer-centric result. This approach allows you to incorporate features that your clients both need and adore.
Remember, success doesn’t happen overnight, but by staying confident, believing in yourself, and embracing the value of an MVP, you’re setting yourself up for greatness. Keep pushing forward, and soon enough, your hard work will pay off.
Embrace the highs and lows
I must confess, there were moments that lacked excitement. However, there were also moments that left me in awe. Occasionally, my mind wandered, and I even crafted an entire opinion piece dedicated to the Pause Awards. Nevertheless, in order to keep this section captivating, I will simply state this: there are days that may seem uneventful and uninspiring. Perhaps you missed a sale, didn’t make the industry award shortlist, or have no new leads. However, it all comes down to having unwavering confidence in yourself and your startup. The tides can change in an instant, so please believe that the “amazing parts” are just around the corner.
There are Plenty of Cameos
The abundance of individuals who appeared in this film was truly astonishing! They were like delightful Easter Eggs that added excitement to even the most mundane moments (…just kidding, the film is actually exceptional!)
In the journey of your startup, a multitude of individuals will come and go, each playing a crucial role. Networking is an incredibly valuable commitment that can greatly contribute to the success of your business. I have yet to leave a networking event without gaining at least one new contact or connection. You will encounter individuals who invite you to speak on their podcast, provide their contact information because their sister recently discussed a similar idea, and introduce you to other influential individuals. There will also be amazing individuals who share valuable articles with you through LinkedIn. Every person is important. Each small cameo will help mould and shape both you and your start-up, building it brick-by-brick, scene-by-scene.
The Power of Consistency
Consistency is absolutely crucial, and I cannot emphasise it enough. Whether it’s maintaining consistent branding across all digital marketing touch points, ensuring a consistent brand voice in all written materials, using a consistent set of words to describe your business, or sticking to a consistent set of values, it is paramount.
In the film Oppenheimer, we witness a series of cross examinations where different characters are posed with the same set of questions. What struck me the most was how their answers not only complemented each other, but also corroborated seamlessly.
This resonated with me on a personal level, as I recently experienced a similar situation within my own business. As the Founder, it has always been my responsibility to explain the business model, describe our services, and pitch our ideas to new team members. However, during a recent informal meeting where we introduced our newest team member, I had the pleasure of witnessing our software developer, UX designer and operations guy articulating our business in the exact same way I would. Their level of passion and belief was identical to mine. While this may seem like a minor detail, trust me, it is far from it. It is a monumental achievement! Consistency is undeniably the key to our business’s success.
Promote yourself with confidence
The power of social media is undeniable. It practically booked my babysitter and paid for my cinema ticket, all thanks to the immense hype surrounding this film. As I write this, my mind is consumed with thoughts of when I will finally get to see Barbie!
The main point I want to emphasise is that as humans, we are driven by hype and the excitement of others. We all want a piece of what everyone else is doing, enjoying, and creating reels about! Even before I knew what Oppenheimer was about, I already knew that Emily Blunt, Robert Downey Jr., and Matt Damon were part of it, thanks to the hype on social media. While the marketing budget for a film may be higher than that of a startup, it doesn’t mean that the same level of hype cannot be achieved. The words we use have immense power: “Last Chance To…”, “Did You Hear the News…”, “Join People Across Australia…”, “Don’t Miss Out On…”. You get the point!
Testimonials are another powerful tool for creating the Oppenheimer hype. I strongly urge you to gather testimonials from various sources: clients, customers, business partners, and even your accountant! People read what others say, and it resonates with them. Jenny claims her life has never been easier, while Dave attests that his finances have never looked better, all because of my brand.
In summary, I encourage you to confidently promote yourself in any way possible. Big yourself up, because you deserve it!