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Ghostbusters: The Perfect Startup Business

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A couple weekends ago I decided to go back to the 80’s and re-watch the original Ghostbusters movie (1984).  When you revisit something you knew as a kid, you pick up on things you never saw before.  With this movie, I saw the perfect startup business.

As with any startup, it begins with an idea.  Catch ghosts.  Good idea, there are lots of ghosts.  And, as luck would have it, the founders are all trained in paranormal psychology.  Motivated and qualified!

Rather than hunt down investors, they triple-leveraged the value of Ray Stantz’s parents’ house.  Spengler does some math as they’re walking down the street that says they’re going to have to pay $95,000 in interest alone in the first year.  Rates were at least 12% back in 1984, so that’s $791,000 of starting capital.  In today’s money, that’s $1.8 million seed.  Not bad, not bad at all!

Rather than test the market or bootstrap, they go full steam ahead and use their seed capital to buy a fixer-upper brownstone in New York City.  They also buy a car.  Then they hire a secretary to do nothing all day long except wait for the phone to ring.  It doesn’t ever ring.  They also take out an ad on daytime TV.  Facilities?  Check.  Transportation?  Check.  Staff?  Check.  Marketing plan?  Check.

We learn that they spend their last money on a Chinese take-out dinner.  Luckily, they get their first customer that same afternoon.  She heard about them on the TV.

About half an hour later they’re world famous.

Really, what more could you want from a startup?  They even have a gnarly corporate theme song.


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