This is supposed to be an old movie; it was released in October 1992 for the celebration of the 500th anniversary of the discovery of America. I never heard of it before last weekend though, that I randomly stopped by the video store to ask for any movies related to Columbus, and in general, the preparation of his endeavor to discover “the new world”.
The reason why I was looking for such a movie, is because I kept intrigued by one of the analogies I heard at the Silicon Valley Tour, pointing Queen Isabel of Spain as one of the first Venture Capitalists of the history, when she accepted financing Columbus on his “crazy” project of reaching Asia through a new, never tried before route.
I´m not a movie expert. Also I am aware that movies many times are not as good as books to describe history. Though, I loved the movie … and I think it´s a wonderful piece to use and display, if anyone wants to set up a workshop to explain what entrepreneurship is.
Key moments of the movie to capitalize on:
- The first time, that the project of Columbus was presented to the University of Salamanca, it was harshly rejected. The “experts” did not believe in his not proven, risky proposal, so it did not even reach the stage of being eligible to be presented to the Queen. Even if he had a crisis, he did not stop believing. Lesson: Entrepreneurs never give up. They´ll find many “NO”s on their ways, but that won´t be a reason to quit their dreams.
- He kept fighting, and fighting and despite of the previously described rejection, he reached the Queen. How? Networking … even at that time networking was a key tool for things to happen. A sailorman that knew Columbus and somehow was attracted by his project (and wanted to make part of it), approached him and introduced him to a banker, which had “contacts” with the Queen and was willing to enable a direct meeting with Columbus. Basically, the Queen owed this banker money, so she could not refuse the favor of meeting Columbus. Lesson: Networking matters.
- Columbus was a genuine seller. The movie showed a great first conversation between Columbus and the queen, where you could really see how good he could sell what he wanted to do and how Spain could benefit from that. Beyond that, he was charming enough to make the Queen feel comfortable in his presence, and well, in general, make her just love him. At the end of the day it was clear that the Queen did not necessarily believe in the project, but she believed in him. As a today´s Venture Capitalist would do, Queen Isabel bet on Columbus, she took the risk. Lesson: The entrepreneurs as individuals, their charisma, and their ability to inspire others, is the engine of the entrepreneurial activity. The business is just the platform for the entrepreneur to show its geniality.
- Columbus was a starter. He was maybe the only man of that time that could dare to find the Indies the way he did. But once the “new world” started to be conquered, he showed not to be the best man to rule this new land. The movie shows all kind of crisis he confronted managing the first colonies, even if the Queen upgraded him to Vice-king. I would even say he did not even enjoy running these islands (Columbus discovered first some islands, not the continent), he looked miserable, his heart and mind were focused on moving on, sailing further until he could reach the continent. But he couldn´t, cause the “logic” said that since he was the leader of this new world discovery, so nobody else could be the governor of this new land. Lesson: "There are 3 kinds of people: people that start companies, that grow companies and that run companies - not all entrepreneurs are ready to make this transition".
- At some point of history, nobody recognized and valued Columbus work. The movie shows an amazing scene about this. After the new colonies were “a mess”, under Columbus administration, the high administration of the Kingdom of Spain just decided to send a replacement for him, someone that really had the profile to run the colonies. They did not only decide this without even consulting or announcing Columbus, but parallel to the arrival of the new governor, they arrested Columbus, blaming him for incompetency. The bad news for Columbus were not leaving his position as governor, he textually said “it was a relief for him, because now he was free to sail away and reach the continent”. What broke his heart was hearing that while he was so busy ruling the colonies, the explorer and cartographer Amerigo Vespucci, another Italian, was the first person to reach the continent. When he came back to Spain, all the “flowers” of the new discovery, were given to Amerigo. Colombus was a random person, “the guy that could not rule the new world”, but nobody acknowledged that because of him, this entire discovery started. The movie showed though, that Columbus gained his position back in the history, thanks to his son Fernando, who years after and before his father died, started to write his biography. Lesson: "Humanity/society isn´t many times ready to recognize real entrepreneurship”
Well, Amerigo Vespucci did an amazing thing actually – he demonstrated that the New World discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1492 was not the eastern appendage of Asia, but rather a previously-unknown "fourth" continent - and that was huge. With all the right this new world was called AMERICA. Still while watching the movie, one has the feeling that Columbus should have been the one responsible for doing that … he deserved it.
Feel free to see the movie review of 1492 at IMD: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0103594/