Monday, September 14, 2009

Caren Explains Ringo, Entrepreneurs and the Unluckiest Man in the World

Unless you're a Beatlemaniac, like me, you probably don't know much about Pete Best, the original drummer for The Beatles, who is often referred to as the "unluckiest man in the world."

Pete joined The Beatles (then called The Quarrymen) in 1960, nearly four years before the band appeared on The Ed Sullivan show. But in 1962, Pete was replaced by drummer Richard Starkey, aka Ringo Starr.

From my entrepreneurship classes I've come to realize that there are a lot of Pete Bests in the world: namely, entrepreneurs who are ousted from their companies right before pay day, or those who find their equity so diluted that they walk away with very little* to show for their innovation and endeavors [of course, "very little" could mean a fraction of multimillion or billion-dollar deals].

To draw out this thought a little more, let's consider why Pete Best may have been asked to leave The Beatles: poor fit? poor performance? didn't look or act the part? politics of the record industry? [According to The Beatles Anthology, it was the later -- at the suggestion of Parlophone Records]

Now let's think about an unlucky founder/CEO and why, after funding is secured, he is asked to leave the company: poor fit? poor performance? didn't look or act the part? politics? ... could be any or all of the above.

The young Beatles franchise, like any entrepreneurship, was a business. The record producers wanted to get the most out of their investment, and therefore wanted the "right" team in place. I highlight the word "right" because it's possible that the band would have earned such acclaim even with Pete Best behind the drum kit... but I'd sure rather be Ringo than the guy who didn't see it coming.

With the release of Rock Band: The Beatles and The Beatles Stereo Box Set this week, Pete must either be curled up in the fetal position, or laughing it off. I suppose that depends on how he measures success. According to Wikipedia, Pete and his wife have been married for 40+ years, whereas three of four Beatles divorced their first spouses. Maybe that success is more important to him than money ("money can't buy me love").


@teisenmann said...

Cool idea, but analogy to a fired founder seems flawed. Best joined The Quarrymen in 1960, but Lennon & McCartney had been together in that group since 1957 (Harrison joined in '58). So, Best isn't really a co-founder -- he's more like a senior member of the startup team, say, VP-Operations. His firing does raise some interesting questions about how startup teams cohere, and how much they should rely on VCs (George Martin and Brian Epstein?) when making key hiring/firing decisions. You should get the views of @noamwass on this story!

Caren (CK) said...

The shame! that I don't know the 1950s foundations of The Beatles.

Re: role of Martin and Epstein I'll be interested to see what comes of this -- -- a new venture between Radiohead's manager and Nettwerk Music Group. From what I've read and heard, it seems as though it will act much more like a private equity firm than label -- @adaludwin might have more to add on this.