How the TV Shows made about WeWork.
The popularisation of the word Startup is often traced to the book “Startup: A Silicon Valley Adventure” published by Jerry Kaplan in 1995. The Netscape IPO which made Marc Andreessen his first million was also in 1995. People flooded into the valley until the crash of 2000 brought an economic nuclear winter. It took a lot to get going again but post 2008, a lot of money was made available by central bankers and we have been on a bull run of sorts until the present day. Today we exist in a situation similar to Schrödinger’s cat. With liquidity drying up due to geopolitics, founders are converting cash and facing a slog of as much as five years to grow into their valuation. Yet at the same time, the fields of Crypto, Al, DeFi and Web3 have some investors more excited than ever. As mainly an investor but also someone who still thinks of himself as an entrepreneur, I see a lot of these Business Plans. In some respects, they are not that different, the Sequoia Capital Pitch Deck Template still reigns supreme. But where they are different is that where once the emphasis was on how to start, it is not very definitely on how to scale. Every company from Addis Ababa to Zagreb is talking big. Startups have in effect become pre-scaleups, the sort of experimentation phase necessary to identify a repeatable and scalable business model. In my own case, I´ve been championing scaling as where the real action is for at least ten years as Executive Director of the Owners Scaleup Program at IE Business School. Following my own dot story as the co-founder of a company that raised over 75 million dollars and scaled to 250 people, the word start did not seem like the right place to put the emphasis. Anyone can start a company and many did, but more startups did not mean more scaleups. It was clear to me that we needed to put more emphasis on the scaling part and less on the start. The good news is that I think this is finally starting to happen.The Oscars of scaleup do not exist but if they did, the nominations would go to Adam Neumann of WeWork, Elizabeth Holmes of Theranos and Travis Kalanick of UBER. In each case, the story of their rise from zero to billionaire is one of those rare business stories that break through. We Crashed, made by Apple TV+ told the story of both Neumann and his wife Rebekah, known for her desire to “elevate the world’s consciousness”. The Dropout, made by Disney, has as its centre the black polo necked Elizabeth Holmes and the scene stealing Walgreens executives more interested in detailed launch plans than the sayings of Yoda. Finally, we have Travis in Super Pumped, made by Showtime. The scenes with Bill Gurley of Benchmark Capital are quotable in the same way The Godfather is. There is also a podcast (or two), a book (or two) as well as documentary and even now a whistleblower. Finally there are scaleups that people beyond the narrow world of business know about. Finally people I speak to understand what I do for a living “Have you seen Super Pumped, The Dropout or WeCrashed? Well I study companies like that”