I’ve been running businesses for over 10 years. I helped start Inkling at the end of 2005 with Y Combinator.
One of my biggest frustrations was simply how little the company spread through blogs and news sites. I echoed the wants of every other entrepreneur. How can I get more press? How can I meet more bloggers who want to write about us? Do I need to hire a PR person?
We had a blips of press when we first started. But for 9 years it was in business (was acquired last year), it’s a minuscule list.
Inkling had been able to stand despite the difficulty spreading the word the way I wanted, but I hated that feeling of being beholden to other people to spread what I was working on.
As I found myself dreaming of what I’d work on next, I was haunted with the struggle of finding people to spread my work.
In the late 1980s there was a teenage actor who was doing well finding movie roles. But as quick as his career started, it stuttered.
So he fell back to Plan B, and went to college. But he couldn’t let the acting bug go away. He kept looking for and landing parts. Then in his final year of college, he landed the best role of his life — a starring role in a movie filled with A-list actors and a great director. This was an Oscar-worthy movie.
So he quit school and moved to LA to pursue a professional acting career full-time.
Except, the movie bombed.
Critically, it did well. But it was a box office dud. And his hope that this was his stepping stone to stardom was squashed.
He was back to being a largely unknown actor, sleeping on friends floors in LA, with endless competition. He’d get an occasional minor role, but was making less than when he was a teenager.
He needed a breakout role. But no one was giving it to him.
So, he decided to do it himself.
He dusted off a script he had started in college, and with a friend put serious time into turning the half-written document into an actual screenplay. When they thought they finally had something, they started shopping it around. And, it wasn’t half bad. They got some interest from a big name studio, and made a deal.
Just one problem. The studio decided they didn’t want either of these guys to act in it. They wanted A-list celebs to star in the movie.
The whole point of writing the screenplay was to give them big parts to help launch their careers, and now the plan was falling apart.
But another friend of theirs with some clout at a movie studio, was able to step in and find a new buyer for the script. The new buyer green-lit the movie, and put the friends back in charge. They gave themselves the parts they wanted, and the rest of the story is very well known.
In 1997, on Christmas day, the movie premiered. It made over $225 million in theaters, was nominated for nine Academy Awards, including Best Picture, and won two of those awards, Best Supporting Actor, and most importantly…
The script Matt Damon had started while attending Harvard became Good Will Hunting and won Best Original Screenplay for Matt and his good friend, Ben Affleck.
Matt and Ben’s careers soared, catapulted by the success of that movie and their roles in it. All because they worked hard to become what it is they tried so hard to find — someone to put them in starring roles in a great movie.
Become that which you seek
Everyday I bump into someone struggling to find someone else to help them with their project or career. They are business people looking for technical co-founders or people like me at Inkling looking for someone else to write about me.
Now, from all these years in business, I realize that Matt Damon had it right. Instead of looking for some executive producer to give him a starring role, he was just going to become the executive producer.
If you’re a “business guy” stuck because he can’t find a technical co-founder: go become the technical co-founder. Go to some classes, conferences, meetups. Read and use the same blogs and forums. Do what you think a technical co-founder would do. You’ll be surprised that the action of trying to accomplish this actually puts you in the company of a great deal of people who would make… really great technical co-founders.
You know who Matt Damon met on the set of his movie? Steven Spielberg. Who then cast him for a role in Saving Private Ryan.
I was so sick of no one writing about me and the companies I work on, I decided I needed to become that writer. I put in years of practice and patience of publishing blog post after blog post and having three people read them (my wife, my mom and me). But, eventually, my blogging gained some traction and followers.
One of those followers turned out to be Chris Dannen, a senior editor at Fast Company, who asked me to write for them. About what? About me. And now, that’s turned into invites to write about my projects for other magazines and newspapers.
I had spent all this time looking for someone else to write about me. But, when I spent that time instead becoming the writer, better opportunities presented themselves.
Of course, this took a while. Everything worth it does.
But a funny thing happens when you do the work to become the thing you seek so much from others. You find it.