Recently I watched Moneyball – a non-fiction movie about how Billy Beane at Oakland A’s used statistics to get most under-valued players and create the most valued (least amount spent per game) team in MLB. If you haven’t watched it, I strongly recommend it. I don’t usually shed tears watching a movie, and as a proud male (not that I am a sexist), I wouldn’t admit it even if I did, but I did watching Moneyball. Moneyball! It wasn’t a Oscar-worth drama. Nor was it gut-wrenching tear jerker. But why did I cry watching the movie?
Because it was about one man’s lonely, uncertain fight against status quo under heavy pressure and criticism. Once a promising baseball player, Billy turned down a full scholarship to Stanford to join New York Mets as first-round draft for $125K. But he never became a top baseball player his scouts had predicted. He went through a number of minor leagues and other major league teams with not much to show for. He ended up at Oakland A’s, and he asked to become a scout. Later he became an assistant GM and a GM.
His push to use statistical analysis to pick players was controversial to say the least. He picked players against professional scouts’ advice. The scene where he and another coach visiting Scott Hatteberg was touching, since you could tell from his house and his reaction afterwards, he probably thought he could never play baseball again, but he was so grateful for having been given another chance. First 40 or so games, Oakland A was dead last in its division. Pressure and criticism were directed to him from all directions. It looked like he was divorced and had a daughter who was staying with his ex-wife. He tried to hide the pain he was going through, but the daughter could still see everything was not quite alright.
Then, the team started winning and became the first in its division. It had 19-game winning streak. On the game where they could have 20-game winning streak, they blew 11-0 lead at 11-11 tie. Then, Scott Hatteberg, the guy all baseball teams had written off as too injured to play, stepped up and hit a walk-off home run. They achieved 20-game winning streak.
What’s more touching is when Billy turned down Red Sox’s $12.5M offer to stay with Oakland A’s because his decision to go with New York Mets was his last decision made based on money.
Also, another notable thing he said is “How can you not get romantic about baseball?” after some dramatic finish.
It may have to do with my personality – always rooting for underdogs, preferring hole-in-the-wall or local places to established places, etc., but the whole movie was touching to me because of its resemblance to startups. Not all startups are made up of under-valued coders/marketers, but I believe some are. Somewhere in a corporate world, there would be some who think their skills and opinions aren’t properly appreciated (not financially). I wouldn’t call entrepreneurs misfits, but they are definitely different. They know the odds of success is low (1 out of 10 or less), but they keep going against all odds, criticism, roller coaster emotions, and tremendous pressure. Most of them are in it to challenge status-quo and traditional way of doing things, and to disrupt the market. Often times, they are going against huge corporations with lots of cash. When one makes it, it’s a home run (but not always). Sometimes they will turn down a big offer to keep moving ahead because they believe in the products, company and the team. Many startups, whether they make it or not, have dramatic stories behind them.
Seriously, How can you not get romantic about startups?