7 Entrepreneurship Lessons from "The Hobbit"

I really hate it when posts have pop-culture, timely linkbait titles like "8 1/2 Startup Tips I Learned from Justin Bieber" and "5 Things Every Entrepreneur Needs to Know about PSY's Gangnam Style Video". But I honestly could not get startup equivalences out of my head when watching "The Hobbit".

Bilbo Baggins

1. It's Going to Be a Long, Tough Journey

If you would rather stay home with your warm hearth and comfortable chair, then stay at home. The adventurer takes risks, and strays far from the comfort zone. Seriously, it's really hard.

2. There Will be Competition

Even for the craziest of startup ideas, there is competition. If you're not finding any, it's still there. {"When Bilbo and the Dwarves set out to recapture their ancestral home of Khazad-dûm, they knew there would be competition for the treasure within, even though it was unseen."} The unfolding of the prophecies were being watched by more than the Longbeards. And sharing the market (the treasure/home) is not an option. You must want it all.

3. You'll Need Help

Trying to go it alone as a solo founder is a mess. For one, you're not as smart as you think you are, and two, you can't do it all or you'll burn yourself out. As your business grows and you approach new opportunities, you'll need someone to help you make decisions and bounce ideas off of. Those who work alone and only listen to their own thoughts end up like Gollum.

4. Each Needs to Have Skills that Fill Gaps

When the group ventured out, they sought Bilbo because they needed a thief. Every venture will require the recruitment of one or more additional founders in order to fill gaps in business, marketing, engineering, branding, strategy, connections, and more.

5. You'll Need to Learn as You Go

There is no perfect team. Every (ad)venture is different. Each will need to learn from the others and improve their own skills as they go. Bilbo wasn't a thief when they set out for the Lonely Mountain. But he learned as he went along and took risks to get better. Bilbo and some of the group had either no weapons or weak weapons, but they picked better ones up as they went along. Your weapons will be mainly books such as The Lean Startup, The Startup Owners Manual, and other great books like The Purple Cow. For engineering types, your weapons will also be websites, tutorials, research, and books by O'Reilly (I've always been partial to them).

6. You'll Need a Good Lawyer, and Contracts

Bilbo signed a contract before setting off. The risks were outlined and he signed off. If he hadn't, it would have been a very short film. Make sure you get all agreements in writing. It protects all parties. Your lawyer is there to protect your business, and as a by-product, you. Make sure you're doing things the right and legal way. Don't lose your business down the road because you took a shortcut.

7. The Vision Will Keep the Group from Quitting

Near the end of the film, Bilbo tells Thorin, son of Thráin, that the reason he didn't give up was because he wanted to help the Dwarves on their quest to get their home back. It wasn't the money. So when you're recruiting for your startup and potential hires are more interested in the pay and the perks instead of equity, it's because they just aren't into your vision. Of course, as recruits get older they end up with more financial responsibility, so living off ramen is not an option. But the vision you share with co-founders and employees is what will keep them from leaving should the outcome look bleak or other job prospects come along. The vision gets us through the tough times and keeps us together.

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