Sometime around 5pm (448 pm, actually) today, I received an email from Bill Lichtenstein:
Hope all is well.
I just wanted to share some good news:
We just heard from the DC Independent Film Festival.
We won “2019 Best Documentary Feature.”
Not bad the first time out. Meanwhile, the premiere and screenings at Cinequest in San Jose are going very well.
All the best, and talk soon.
Onward and upward. BL
Let us go back in time.
In 2009, I met Bill, lunch time, standing in line for Indian food at Cambridge Innovation Center (CIC) in Cambridge. I had a SmartOps office there, on the 16th floor, with great views of Charles River.
Bill and I started talking.
No surprise there! I chat with pretty much anyone, anywhere, on any topic.
One thing lead to another. He told me that he was planning to make a documentary film. His first.
I told him I like movies. Documentaries included.
“So what is it about?” I asked.
He told me that in 1960s, before there was social media, there was a radio station in Boston. A special type of radio station.
Where people – students in particular — could call in to speak about injustices. Like Vietnam War. Nixon. US Government using MIT as Defense Labs. Professors getting arrested because they spoke about contraception with their students. When Rock & Roll was evil, work of the devil. When Church and State conspired and controlled the Media.
WBCN: Where people could hear what mainstream media was not talking about.
WBCN: Where Noam Chomsky was welcome.
WBCN: A station that had a woman as an MC. The first one on the East Coast. Where Andy Warhol would come. Where they played Bono for the first time in the US. Where Bruce Springsteen gave his first interview on radio.
WBCN: Where Bill had worked as a teenager.
I told him I was a software entrepreneur, Founder and CEO of SmartOps, and March 8, 2010, coming up soon, was our 10th anniversary and I wanted to do something fun and different.
So we plotted.
Location: Liberty Hotel. Take all the balconies in the main lobby. Show cool pictures, videos and sound clips from WBCN archives and have Wine & Cheese. Invite SmartOps customers and friends (from MIT and other Universities). This would double as the launch for the documentary.
It was fun!
I would become one of the first funders of the documentary, and an Executive Producer. You can see a trailer here:
Now, many years later, the documentary is ready.
I had stopped by in Boston in the summer of 2018 to see how the editing was going and I could feel that the movie was going to be well received.
Bill submitted it to the DC Independent Film Festival, its 20th Anniversary, and it played on, wait for it:
March 7, 2019.
It is his first film. It is his first film festival. It was the first film I supported.
Long shot? Hail Mary? Irresponsible?
You have to go with your gut instinct. Data-driven decision making is so boring!
It feels so good to win “2019 Best Documentary Feature”!
Well done, Bill and the team!
I feel so good because when I founded SmartOps, it was my first time as an entrepreneur. I had zero experience. But angel investors took a chance on me. Early employees joined. A venture capitalist took a chance on our team. Fortune 500 companies, highly reputable with great brand equity, bought our software for millions of dollars.
To me, this is American Exceptionalism.
SmartOps worked out great for my investors, my employees, my customers, SAP and me.
I expect “WBCN and the American Revolution” will work out great for Bill and his team.