Do you have a market hero?

Do you have a market hero?
Photo by Daniel K Cheung / Unsplash

According to IMDb, Moneyball (2011) is a movie about "Oakland A's general manager Billy Beane's successful attempt to assemble a baseball team on a lean budget by employing computer-generated analysis to acquire new players."

Yeah, sure. I love Brad Pitt's character, Billy Beane; but I don't love the exclusion of Peter Brand (played by Jonah Hill) in this synopsis because, as a founder-inventor, Peter Brand, and Billy's interrogation of Peter Brand, is at the crossroads of everything:

Billy: "Who are you?"​  
Peter: "I'm Peter Brand." ​
Billy: "So what do you do?"​
Peter: "Mostly player analysis, right now."​
Billy: "Why does Mark listen to you?"​
Peter: "I don't think ... I don't think he does, very often."​
​Billy: "Who are you?"​
Peter, confused: "I'm ... Peter Brand."​
Billy: "I don't give a rat's ass what your name is. What happened in there?"

Peter and Billy look around and exit the busy office space; in the privacy of the parking garage, Peter spills the beans on he what thinks is wrong with the multi-billion dollar industry of baseball.

Billy buys it, and becomes a hero.

Market Heroes

When we bring a new technology to market — in Peter's case, the data science that would soon consume much of sports, we should expect resistance 🐙. The world doesn't know how to benefit from what we're bringing; it's not optimized to receive it; we may even make things worse 🐙. Peter was mostly ignored: "Baseball thinking is medieval ... and if I say so to anybody, I'm ostracized. I'm a leper."

But survival creates its own luck; so if you survive for long enough, you may get visited by a market hero, someone who:

  1. Wants to see a transformational change in their industry.
  2. Believes what you've created has the potential to expedite or precipitate that change.
  3. Has the authority to plug you in to the grid — the value chains, that power their industry.

Billy Beane's scorecard here is 3 for 3. (1) His team, the impoverished Oakland A's, can't compete against the well-funded league leaders, and (2) he's now met someone that's created something that can give him a fighting chance; and (3) as the general manager of the A's he has the ability to hire Peter and plug his tech directly in to the industry. The rest of the movie records the spasms of the industry in response to the injection of this unwanted agent into their system.

Are market heroes the same as influencers? No. Not all influencers are market heroes, as they often lack the passion (1), genuine belief (2), or direct authority (3) to apply your invention to the market in the face of the market's misgivings. And not all market heroes are industry influencers; in fact, they may only have influence over their sphere. But that is enough.

Equipping Your Hero, Then Saying Goodbye

The relationship of founder to market hero is dynamic. At first, the hero pulls (and plugs) you into the market in exchange for the power of your tech. While it's natural at this moment to feel like you are the hero, you must remember that you win by equipping others to be the heroes of their own careers and stories.

As a technology founder, you are not Link, you are the mage:

Once you realize you are not the hero, the next temptation is to become the hero's sidekick — to assist them on their quest. You may even feel indebted to do so. After all, when no one else noticed you toiling away, they cared enough to notice your creation, wield it to its full potential, and make it legendary.

But this would be a mistake. Though bittersweet, your relationship with the hero must evolve such that it's clear to them that you have your own quest: to build a company. And that company is a distinct story that will necessarily involve more passers-by. Some of them will want to follow in the footsteps of the one that put you on the map.

Others may even want to challenge that hero.

To really win, you'll have to learn to equip them all.