Books and movies/documentaries about founders/makers/rebels?
June 29, 2013 5:42 PM   Subscribe

What are some great (and accessible) books/movies about people who are founders of companies, people who build things, people who purposefully or inadvertently change the status quo? (Examples after the break)

Seeking suggestions that are both entertaining and well-written/well-done. Here are some examples off the top of my head:

Examples of books:
Masters of Doom (About the guys who created Doom)
Launch Pad (Follows Y Combinator startups)
Fools Rush In (The rise and fall of AOL/Time Warner)
Grinding It Out (Ray Kroc and McDonalds)
The PayPal Wars (Exactly how it sounds)
Delivering Happiness (Zappos)
Made in America (Sam Walton and Wal-Mart)
Founders at Work (interviews with founders of a number of tech-based companies)
Hard Drive (Bill Gates and MSFT)
Steve Jobs and iCon
Pour Your Heart Into It (Howard Schultz and Starbucks)
The Facebook Effect (Zuck and Facebook)

Examples of movies:
Minecraft (The story of Mojang and Notch)
Pirates of Silicon Valley (Movie about Jobs & Gates)
Indie Game (Documentary about the guys who made Super Meat Boy, Fez, and Braid)
Something Ventured (Documentary about the birth of venture capital)
Jiro Dreams of Sushi (Follows Jiro Ono of Sukiyabashi Jiro, a prestigious sushi restaurant in Tokyo)
Dogtown and Z-Boys (Skateboarding documentary)
We Are Legion (Documentary about Anonymous)

Now obviously there's a huge bias towards tech and startups, but feel free to think out of the box. It's mostly because startups are trendy these days and more prevalent, but if you've got a great suggestion for a fascinating read about meth dealers who took over New Mexico or an enthralling documentary about families who ran Florence during the Renaissance, I'm all ears, as long as the books are accessible and don't read like a drawn out tome about ye olde history. And of course suggestions about startups are welcome as well.

tl;dr: what are fascinating books and movies about people who, for lack of a better term, are "disrupters of society?" (I know it sounds lame, using this term as an attempt to broaden the scope beyond startup founders)

Thanks guys, excited to expand my summer reading list.
posted by walka to Media & Arts (14 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
Book: Mavericks at Work
Movie: American Masters: Andy Warhol (he was an incredible entrepreneur)
posted by davebush at 6:35 PM on June 29, 2013

The Game Makers is about Parker Brothers.

Candyfreak is perhaps different, but about independent chocolate companies on the US.
posted by papayaninja at 6:48 PM on June 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

Alan Turing: The Enigma is likely somewhat denser than your examples and does discuss some math, but I read it in high school, so it's hardly inaccessible.

(There's another Turing biography out there by David Leavitt, which is much less scholarly, but it's also pretty terrible.)
posted by hoyland at 7:46 PM on June 29, 2013

There was a documentary series called "The Day the Universe Changed" which is about that.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 10:11 PM on June 29, 2013 [2 favorites]

The newish book "The Swerve" is the story of a Renaissance book hunter who uncovered an ancient roman text which, the book suggests, is responsible for spurring the creation of the modern world as we know it.
posted by Sunburnt at 11:47 PM on June 29, 2013

TPB AFK is about the genesis and trial of The Pirate Bay, the bittorrent search engine/tracker which is most commonly identified with movie and software piracy via bittorrent. You can watch it on that site, and optionally pay for the privilege, but you can, of course, download it for free.

I don't know which book, but no doubt there is such a book on Nicola Tesla.

New documentary film "Muscle Shoals" is about the Fame Studio in Muscle Shoals (NW Alabama) and its famously talented rhythm section, and the R&B/Southern Rock that was recorded there, essentially defining the sound of those genres through the 1960s and 70s, and giving birth to the latter. The 5 men of the rhythm section split off at one point to establish a second studio across town, Muscle Shoals Sound. The two studios, both in a very small southern town, made a very big mark on American music.
posted by Sunburnt at 11:55 PM on June 29, 2013

I would suggest The Parking Lot Movie, which is available on netflix. This may seem somewhat orthogonal to your request because it doesn't involve people changing the world, but it profiles a businessman and his highly educated employees who developed an nonconventional approach to the management of a small parking lot in Charlottesville, VA.
posted by itstheclamsname at 4:24 AM on June 30, 2013

Tucker: The Man and His Dream
posted by radwolf76 at 8:59 AM on June 30, 2013

Tim Berners-Lee, Tim; Mark Fischetti (1999). Weaving the Web

There's a great series of videos by Tim Hunkin about how machines work. The Secret Life of Machines.
posted by theora55 at 10:11 AM on June 30, 2013

Something Ventured - the story of venture capitalism (discusses PowerPoint, Apple, Atari, etc)
posted by Unangenehm at 12:31 PM on June 30, 2013

You already mentioned this! I apologize.
posted by Unangenehm at 12:31 PM on June 30, 2013

Dee Hock - Birth of the Chaordic Age. He created Visa.

From Amazon:

"In Birth of the Chaordic Age, Dee Hock argues that traditional organizational forms can no longer work because organizations have become too complex. Hock advocates a new organizational form that he calls "chaordic, " or simultaneously chaotic and orderly. He credits the worldwide success of VISA with its chaordic structure -- it is owned by its member banks which both compete with each other for customers and must cooperate by honoring one another's transactions across borders and currencies. The book shows how these same chaordic concepts are now being put into practice in a broad range of business, social, community, and government organizations."

(note: Visa no longer has this structure, it is a public company now, but it did from his creation of until a few years ago).
posted by el io at 11:28 PM on June 30, 2013

Steven Levy's book Hackers fits the bill.

Also, the video series Triumph of the Nerds and the follow-up Nerds 2.0.
posted by Otis at 8:43 AM on July 1, 2013

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