I love heist movies. What I love about them is that seemingly impossible missions are accomplished by a group of misfits. Interestingly, startups are in many ways similar to heist movies. As I go through my own startup journey building Wonolo, the resemblance is quite striking. Let’s pick an example, Ocean’s Eleven, one of the greatest heist movies, and compare it to Wonolo.
First of all, both have a very ambitious goal that is so big that you wonder how it’s even possible. In Ocean’s Eleven, it’s about stealing not only $160MM, but also the girlfriend (Julia Roberts) from the man who has it all: Terry Benedict (Andy García). For Wonolo, it’s creating millions of jobs while solving the unpredictable staffing problem for companies. Well, Wonolo doesn’t intend to steal anything from “the man” who has it all, but it’s a huge market opportunity: $100BN+ (I will leave it up to the reader to figure out who I am referring to as “the man”).
Secondly, both have crazy co-founders who are different, but complementary in terms of skill sets and personality. In Ocean’s Eleven, there is Danny Ocean (George Clooney) with military background. He is composed, rational and charismatic. On the other hand, Rusty Ryan (Brad Pitt) is the master planner and the disguiser. At Wonolo, we have AJ who is the cool guy and yours sincerely, the dry one. AJ is in charge of product, marketing, community development and day-to-day accounting and administration, while I lead sales, business development, legal and recruiting.
Thirdly, both need financiers that can help support the operation. In Ocean’s Eleven, Reuben Tishkoff (Elliott Gould) is the angel investor who also serves as their Advisor for the team. For Wonolo, it’s Coca-Cola which has provided us with everything we need to get this ship off of the ground.
Finally, the team. This is where I find the resemblance most fascinating. In Ocean’s Eleven, Danny and Rusty put together a team that consists of an amateur pickpocketer, a munitions expert, a driver, an acrobat, a conman, etc. From the outset, this seems like a highly dysfunctional group, but they share key things in common to make it successful; they are accountable and highly proud of their work.
This is true for Wonolo as well. We are a diverse group of carefully chosen misfits who are very passionate about what we are building and believe in our mission. Aside from AJ and yours sincerely, we have a lawyer turned CTO, a doctor turned Engineer, a management consultant turned salesman, a musician who speaks 6 languages and a loan officer turned community developer. All of us dropped very comfortable and lucrative opportunities to follow our hearts in building something amazing. We are the underdogs, and underdogs are good at one thing – we do not give up. When it comes to building the right team for Wonolo, it’s all about the potential and heart. For us, these values absolutely outweigh prior experience and what’s on the resume.
So, we got the ambitious goal, crazy co-founders, investor and the team. We just have to figure out how to execute it right so we get to make our sequel.