SFIFF – Something Ventured

The world’s economic climate has done many things. Most notable in the film world is a slew of expository documentaries that both infuriate and embarrass the American way of life, and the way money is wasted and controlled. Something Ventured, refreshingly, is nothing like that. It’s a completely unashamed love-letter to capitalism and it’s virtues. Something to be celebrated with a bit of caution. After all, one step and the filmmakers behind movies like Capitalism: A Love Story, or Inside Job will never let you forget it.

Something Ventured takes a look a the very first venture capitalists, those working in the industry before it even had a name.  These are the people responsible for launching companies like Apple, Atari, and Genentech.  The film itself is even executive produced by Paul Holland, a partner at the venture firm Foundation Capital.  It is directed by Daniel Gellar and Dayna Goldfine.

The story is told by a group of inovative men who turned investing into an art form the scope of which was far beyond their wildest dreams.  They almost singlehandedly created silicon valley into the technological capitol of the world.  There are lots of tales among these men, who are now clearly enjoying the huge profits of their lifetimes.  Some are harrowing, like those that foresaw what Apple might be, or those that got in on Amazon early.  But there are also tales of gargantuan loses.  One of these men talk about the decision to buy part of Microsoft when it was up and coming.  Microsoft wanted to do the exchange with stocks, but the investors insisted on money.  A loss now worth probably billions.

There’s also the candid stories of Steve Jobs, who apparently had no manners or professional decorum early in the companies history.  He was described as unkempt, smelly, and at one point, joined an investor meeting where he took his shoes off and placed them on the boardroom table.  These stories keep a humorous, and human note to what could otherwise be an impressive financial report.

In support of the ideas of capitalism though, Tom Perkins (of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers who helped start Genentech) said it best when he said “It’s great if you can make money and change the world for the better at the same time.” It’s a refreshing reminder at a time when the economy is ready for a little inspirational reminder of what’s capable of. Yes, this is a film of some old, white, rich men telling you how they got rich. But it’s also wildly rousing in it’s faith of capitalism.

★★★½

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