The Founder Institute Has Got A Friend In Me

I’ve done it; I’m one of the twelve graduates of the Spring 2016 New York Founder Institute. I’ve hit the next big milestone in a lifelong journey as an entrepreneur, in the preprocess becoming one of 1,944 people in the entire world who have graduated from an FI Program. To put that into perspective, a total of 2,947 Oscars have been awarded since the inception of the Academy Awards. In other words, there are fewer FI Graduates then there are academy award winners.

The difference between being an FI Grad and an Academy Award winner is actually quite significant; many entertainment industry professionals say that winning an Oscar is the crowning moment of their careers. As a professional in the entertainment industry, winning an Oscar is the moment when everyone in the community recognizes your success. Many people in the community call it the peak of their careers. However, as an FI Grad, you are far from your peak, the community is not recognizing your success, but merely recognizing your potential for success.

That is the difference between my quest for an Oscar as a film producer, and my quest for a successful career in entrepreneurship as an FI Grad.

So how do I feel now that I’ve graduated FI? Excited, but not 100% satisfied. I find myself engulfed in a feeling of joy, exhilaration and accomplishment, but also the same time, a feeling of emptiness. Because, I know that the work is only just beginning. I have a long way to go if I want to be a successful entrepreneur and FI Grad. However, I’m graduating FI knowing that it has provided me with a skillset and mindset that will help me reach that success. I once spoke about this lack of satisfaction regarding FI and how it was a good thing. I invite everyone to read the post where I liken FI to my time on a Film Production.

The Founder Institute was absolutely a marathon, not a sprint. A marathon where once I cross its finish line, a second marathon starts immediately after. From the moment I finished graduation, a starting gun has gone off marking the next step in my monumental undertaking to be a successful entrepreneur. Going forward, I will be using the techniques FI taught me to finish the development of Clapper and launch the product successfully. However, the skills and techniques I’ve gotten from FI will be skills I take with me the rest of my life, long after my time with Clapper has come to an end.

The Founder Institute changes you, no matter who you are when you go in, you are going to be different when you come out the other side. It is not surprising that so many graduates like to pass on what they have learned and tell you about their experiences. The FI curriculum has you writing blog posts, the second blog post I wrote on my Clapper blog was about how FI changes you. I welcome everyone who is reading this to read that blog post as well. The fact is, when you graduate FI, your fellow graduating class will quickly become your close friends, your brothers and sisters in arms. You’ve gone through something with them that few could imagine and because of that, you will have lifelong friends. So long as you remember to stay in contact!


Pass On What You Have Learned

When you first go to your family and your friends and tell them you are starting up a new business. Often, they will wish you good luck; say they believe in you (even if they don’t.). Strange enough, when I told my friends and family that I’m starting a business, they did believe in me, when I told them that I would be building that business in the infamous Founder Institute and explained what type of trials the Institute would probably put me through, even my own father cautioned me against it. Starting a business, successful or otherwise, is a daunting task, but doing it the Founder Institute way? That is nightmarish. If you make it through, you’ll be better for it. But, this program, it can break you. It tries to break you. It will break you. The real question is, can you stand up and put yourself back together so you can keep going? Even as it hammers you into the ground week after week.

I was in a room with people 40 years my senior. People who had three successful businesses under their belts or have experience as an executive at a major company or are a MD PhD. These are people who didn’t make it through this program. One big thing they teach you at FI is that you need tenacity and passion more than anything else, more than intelligence, or education, or experience. FI is beyond difficult, but the reward should you make it through, is beyond compare. I’m not talking about the partnerships, or the discounts or the networks; I’m talking about something not so easily measured. You walk out of FI with a hardened mental fortitude unlike any other. I don’t care how tough you think you are going into FI, you could have the mental fortitude of a Navy SEAL going in. FI is going to put pressure on you and because of that, your fortitude will increase. Maybe by a little, maybe by a lot, but it will increase. The most important things you learn at FI will be the things you learn about yourself. For me, I learned it is okay to submit work that is not perfect. I’m a perfectionist by nature. I’m OCD and ADHD. I think a million steps ahead and plot out every possibility.

The most difficult moments in FI for me were the times where I had to submit something that was not “the best” or “100% accurate”. I don’t like inaccuracies; I hate posting unfinished works for the world to see. However, Founder Institute taught me that sometimes you have to take the plunge and show people unfinished work. Work that you know has mistakes in it. That you need to show your progress and trust that the people who see the work you’ve done will also be able to see the potential. Am I good at doing that yet? HELL NO! I’m I doing it? Oh yes. HELL YES. I would not have graduated otherwise. My assignment fields would be blank because I was waiting to show the final product. Yet, the whole point of FI is that your final product probably won’t be ready before graduation, and that is okay. FI wants you to show the progress you’ve made. Show the journey you’ve taken. They want you to hike up the mountain and text them selfie’s every few minutes on your 3-month long climb to basecamp (not the summit, graduation is just basecamp). Not glamorous selfie’s. Cringe worthy, gritty, painful to look at selfie’s. Photoshop Touchups and Instagram Filter users need not apply. I took my selfie’s but I didn’t want to share them with everyone. FI had to pry those selfie’s out of my cold dead hands.

Now the world can see the rough, incomplete and ugly looking work of mine. I need to trust that they can see the X-Wing Fighter in the swamp submerged beneath all the grime. That they can trust me that when I pull out that disgusting filth covered starship wreck and place it before them, they can see it for the truly miraculous moment it is. It is more than just taking risks, or being comfortable with the outcome of those risks (whatever they may be). It is about being confident that the risk you are taking is worth it, despite what others may think.


…start being more impressed by the 500% ROI, not the $500 million dollar budget.

We’ve all seen the numbers; in fact, many productions tend to wear those numbers like a badge of honor. As of this writing, only one movie has ever had a production budget of over $400 million (technically only $378 Million After Tax Rebates)Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. A record that is set to be broken by the upcoming Avengers: Infinity Wars, Part 1 and 2, which will have a total $1 billion production budget between the two productions. Technically, you can try and justify these types of budgets after the fact. As Pirates made over $1 billion at the box-office, but do keep in mind, that the $410 million dollars does not include marketing costs.

We need to remember, that for every big budget success, you also have movies like John Carter, which despite making $284 million, is considered a box office flop. Largely because of the $306 million dollar production price tag (again, not including its marketing budget.) John Carter wouldn’t have been considered a box office success (not a hit, just a success) unless it made over $640 million, which would have put it on the top 100 highest grossing movies of all time. (Please note, Thor: The Dark World grossed $644 million.).

In terms of profit, on the top 100 highest grossing movies of all time, the infamous Avatar, often (incorrectly) referred to as “most profitable movie” of all time, only had a 37% return on investment. However, this is NOT the most profitable movie of all time, not even on the top 50 list. The honor of most profitable goes to Paranormal Activity with a 19,749% ROI.

Now, I know what you are thinking, Paranormal Activity was one of those one in a million indie movies, more then that, it sure isn’t one of those franchise Hollywood big budget movies like the marvel superhero movies. Wait; hold your horses boys and girls, because by far the largest ROI of a superhero movie anywhere goes to the relatively low budget ($48 million) of the Deadpool movie. Deadpool has a whopping ROI of 500%.

I can easily be accused of cherry-picking numbers here. Perhaps I am, but let’s remember so does every other PR stunt dealing with Hollywood movies talking about box office numbers and production costs (note Avatar above). Why? Because big numbers impress people. It’s just often the case that the wrong big number impresses them. We need to start being more impressed by the 500% ROI, not the $500 million dollar budget. When someone comes to me and says, my film just got a $100 million budget approved! I give them a good high five, a “that’s awesome man!” because it is awesome and they do deserve that high five. Then my analytical mind kicks in, and I think to myself, “it’s entirely possible he will only get a quarter of that, his poor investors ROI’s are going to take such a huge hit.”

We need to stop looking at $ signs and start looking at percentages when judging success. This is the film business, the entertainment industry; it does not matter if you’re a producer or a director, if you call yourself a filmmaker or a content creator. As a professional you need to remember that judging your financial success goes beyond that surface number of views, or likes, or subscribes or gross ticket sales.