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The 007 code for startups

Vinay Kanchan
4th Dec 2015
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As the Spectre of another Bond film hangs over the global box office, the world gets ready to welcome its favorite spy yet again.

And just as Bond looks to start fires in rival camps, his legend and example does spark inspiration for those looking to embark on a startup journey that will ultimately hit the jackpot at the Casino Royale of the marketplace.

007-code

Making a memorable entry

‘You never get a second chance to make a first impression’. This is an old adage that Bond films seem to have taken to heart. In every single movie of the franchise, the film begins on a pulsating high that has viewers hooked from the very first minute. A high-tempo chase, an opening track sung by a rockstar, credits rolling by in aesthetically inventive ways, and of course that near-paradoxical introduction for a secret agent, ‘My name is Bond’. And how we lap it all up.

Taking an impressive first step becomes all the more important for startups, considering the clutter in the marketplace. In this incessant jockeying for slots in consumer minds, it is important that the benefits and edges of the new company are clearly communicated. It is also imperative that the world is made to wake up to the new idea. This going off of the alarm and shaking up from stupor is a necessary ritual. Perhaps Apple’s landmark ‘1984’ commercial, aired only once (during Super Bowl), is a great example of how the market can be made to feel that things will be different after the new company has entered. One simply has no option, much as in the case of a Bond film, but to sit up and take notice.

Leveraging state of the art technology

One of the most eagerly anticipated scenes in a Bond film, is the moment when he meets ‘Q’ and gets introduced to a whole range of new ‘toys’. Invisible cars, watch- cum-transmitters, gun-shaped pens and pen-shaped guns, and patches to overcome glitches on a script page. Even if the last one was not really true, one gets the picture. Often these wonder gadgets come in extremely handy with helping Bond emerge triumphant at the climax. It is not said for nothing that a secret agent and his silicon chip should never be parted.

Companies these days understand what technology brings to the table. But this leaning on integrated circuitry and the like becomes even more important when one is a startup. From using databases more innovatively and building relationships with customers to tracking delivery logistics and ensuring process control. From riding on the viral nature of social media to spread the word about oneself. To creating forums within the organisation so that ideas get shared, issues get resolved and morale doesn’t have a Skyfall. Technology is the greatest ally of the startup. The proverbial Dr. No, for all ills facing the business.

Unleashing the mavericks within

Virtually every Bond film has a moment where the famous spy rebels against the system. He goes under the radar, and seems to be pursuing his own agenda. The maturity and vision of ‘M’ (his boss) in letting Bond do his thing has to be lauded. For where the organisation fails in its efforts, the ambition and determination of the individual still might succeed in opening a few doors. ‘M’ inevitably knows the precise moment to pull Bond back, and get him working for the collective cause again.

In every organisation, there will always be those who think differently. Systematically ‘training’ them to think like the majority of the company, is perhaps missing an immense opportunity. Every startup needs its vibrance and vitality. And a keen mind, ever eager to explore the new and offbeat, can go a long way in keeping the innovation engine of the ship chugging along. He or she can explore ideas, which in an immediate context, might be away from the core corporate competencies, but over time and after value has been established, can offer exciting new avenues for the organisation to participate in.

Every new-age company worth its salt has had this principle at work somewhere during its history. Which means there are several wise ‘Ms’ floating around.

The power of the predictable

Eventually, there is a glorious predictability in every Bond film. But that aspect should never be knocked, because it is precisely what keeps getting audiences back, time and again.

Bond is going to save the world. He is going to get the girl (or both of them). He will surely be reinstated by MI6. He will end up using all the gadgets ‘Q’ gives him. He will defeat the villain in an initial game, and then dismiss him again at the end with a memorable punch line. The constant recurrence of this formula is almost reassuring.

Life, and market experiences as such, lean towards the cliché. It is the very thing that keeps us moving along. We expect Flipkart to provide us with a wide range of offerings at extremely competitive prices. We go to the local Udupi joint for quick service and an assured value-for-money experience. We log on to Edureka with the expectation of learning made easy to comprehend. This ‘pleasant predictability’ is the very thing that boosts the equity of these businesses. Unlike in the case of a thriller film, where an unexpected twist might be welcome, in customer experiences, this might only steer them away to others.

Preparing for a change of guard

What is remarkable about the Bond franchise is that it has never exclusively depended on any one person. When Sean Connery chose to move on, rumors of the Bond saga ending were quickly quelled by Roger Moore taking on the mantle. Pierce Brosnan was replaced superbly by Daniel Craig, who in turn will make way for someone else. Each of these actors have added their own flavor to the Bond rendition. However, the character as such has always reigned supreme. If at all, these new faces have made the legendary secret agent relatable to an entirely new generation of fans.

Herein lies the last lesson for all startups. Often, the entire image of the startup is tied to one person, usually a charismatic founder. However, from a long-term perspective, the number of these ‘image custodians’ needs to be increased. More people sharing the load is always a good thing. It even could provide protection to the corporate equity, if any one person suddenly becomes ‘bad news’. Grooming successors having a five-year window in mind, is perhaps a long-term strategic activity absolutely essential to the wellbeing of the startup. For even if internally with onus is on a Connery, the world might be saying ‘yeh dil maange Moore’.

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Ultimately, those who limit the influence of James Bond to only a Vodka Martini kind of entertainment rush are perhaps not giving the secret agent his due.

This is cinema’s longest-running franchise, and in the escapades of its chief protagonist, lie lessons for all those looking to shake and stir the world themselves.

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