Showtime! 5 Things Broadway might teach Entrepreneurs

Showtime! 5 Things Broadway might teach Entrepreneurs

I’ve spent a lot of time with a legendary Broadway producer, working on an epic project that has been documented before: A Line in the Sand. We’re still workin’ on it.

The development process has been a pretty interesting study for me in how an entirely different species functions. In my travels for ALITS, we often were impressed not by the differences (between Islam and Christianity, between Americans and Arabs, between people with oil and people who buy oil) but by the similarities between.Well, taking a moment to think about it, I realized that based on what Nelle has taught me, Broadway and Silicon Alley have a lot to teach each other as well. Here are just a few of my favorites:

  • It’s hard to make a living, it’s easier to make a killing. This is perhaps the most true of the Broadway maxims. Bad shows flop, and quickly. Good shows go on and on, recoup and payout like mad. There isn’t much in the middle. Much is true in Silicon Alley. Startups are such a tricky game, and usually require so much more capital than founders can muster, it is a rare bird indeed that escape from that jungle with all his feathers. Conversely, it’s actually hard just to develop a product and plod along these days, making a decent wage or earnings to feed a family and put them through school. It’s damn near impossible, in terms of the odds. Ironically, only the winners (and the good shows) are picked up in the media, and it seems like it was so easy. 
  • Do you want it Tuesday, or do you want it good? I can’t tell you how many times I have heard this from writers, who remind me you could have 100 people work on Gone with the Wind and it would be finished sooner. But perhaps not better. Likewise, mobile apps, websites and all manner of digital media solution are never masterpieces: they are works in process, at best. My advice, don’t expect to get it perfect, get it out and start talking to customers about it.
  • Stars attract rock stars, and the opposite. If you think it’s brutally hard to recruit star talent in Silicon Alley, try Broadway. The best way, the only way to get it is to start with… a star. A great script begets a great Producer, who attracts a great Director, who has stars that love to work with him/her etc. No different with co-founders and first hires in start ups.
  • Good to be tough, better to be nice too. Oh god the things I have heard come out of the mouths of seemingly otherwise charming and polite people in theatre. Spicy! But I’ve always heard it delivered in the kindest, gentlest ways possible. No one actually gets visibly upset, even though they are bleeding buckets. So, I would chalk that up to being superb at your craft and willing to defend your interests, but doing it in a well thought out, perhaps classy manner actually gets better results.
  • Leverage a good review. Know when you’re rollin’. Theatre folks are good at this, entrepreneurs perhaps less so. They know when they have the leverage of some momentum, and they move accordingly. I think too many entrepreneurs are to busy executing to recognize this.

Anyways, that’s what I’ve learned up to now about Broadway. Anyways, maybe it helps somewhere.

I mentor two kids and several entrepreneurs. Similarities are coincidental.