What Screenplay Writers and Startups Have in Common

In one of the best scenes of the 2001 documentary Startup.com (one of my favorite docus – watch it!), you watch as the founders of the staring startup govWorks pitch potential names for their company to random strangers in a döner kebap shop in NYC. It is a brilliant example of some of the best and most valuable things anyone who is building something new can do: Get out there and road test your stuff.

When I was at Mozilla, our office was on the second floor of a building which housed a Starbucks on the ground floor. One day it dawned on me that the average Firefox user looks an awful lot like the average Starbucks customer. From that moment onward we spent a ton of time not on the second floor of our building but inside of the Starbucks, pitching product ideas, showing prototypes and getting feedback from random coffee-seeking strangers.

Last night I finished a wonderful little book about writing screenplays (Save the Catby Blake Snyder). In it, Blake talks about “all-weather pitching” – taking your logline (the one sentence description of your movie) and pitching it over and over again to random people. He makes a passionate argument for getting out there from behind your screen and testing your ideas.

When was the last time you asked a complete stranger to give you some feedback on your idea, prototype or company?

Do yourself a favor and spend much more time out in the real world.


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