7 Startup Lessons from Leonardo DiCaprio


It’s like a national holiday all over the internet. After 6 nominations, DiCaprio got what he deserved for many years now. As I got the much anticipated push notification at 02:00 AM (well I live in Europe), I saw the breaking news: Leonardo DiCaprio has won an Oscar! An imediate connection came to my mind about the similarities that startups have with the life of Leo. Let’s go through the list to see what I’m having in mind.


1. Don’t take anything for granted

In his speech Dicaprio said: don’t take anything for granted. This was probably the most powerful message of the day. It is so powerful that I am printing it and hanging it on the wall. You can get your copy here too.

What it means for startups

As we get new users and we reach the “hockey stick” growth point, we tend to leave something behind our eyes or priorities. We tend to just “forget” one of the most important parts, our users. As the business is in the quick growth phase, you feel like you earned it and then enjoy the success.

But as soon as you do this, you are taking your customer base for granted. And in a way or another, they notice it. As soon as they have this feeling, you have lost not just a user, but the potential for this user to be an ambassador of your startup.


2. There is no such thing as an Overnight Success

The first time I saw Leo it was in the Titanic movie. He played even way before this blockbuster, but that’s pretty much the starting point for Leo, if you ask people and fans about him. From Titanic until the Oscars 2016, he always keeps doing what he does best.

What it means for startups

As a founder, I tend to read a lot of news and soon to be unicorns, and it seems like they just went famous overnight. But if you dig deeper and learn more, every founder goes through a painful/rewarding experience that spans over more sleepless years and tons of caffeine. We must fight everyday, face problems, solve them, get better. Then hope for the best.

You cannot pretend to release your product, even though it is awesome, to get famous and used overnight. You cannot pretend that whatever you do is going to get featured by Techcrunch or any other major publication. You just need to do your best, day in and day out.


3. Always get better

Let’s start with the Titanic. From there I always admired Leo’s ability to outperform himself in every new movie. He always does something new, something different. He always takes on new challenging roles and gets the best out of every character.

What it means for startups

Well, my first app was developed in 2011. If I look at the code now and the designs, I laugh nostalgically. And so do you with your first product, I am sure of it. But that didn’t stop me from always improving myself, learning new skills, learning new technologies and techniques, reading a lot and getting inspirations from the big boys in the industry. The same thing is true for every startup. As Reid Hoffman said:

If you are not ashamed of the first iteration of your product, you released too late.

You must not stop with the first or even tenth iteration of your product and call it done. There is no done in the startup life. You go to sleep and you come back tomorrow, eager to improve on what you build yesterday. This is the only road to success.


4. Do the best for your fans/users

What I like about Leonardo DiCaprio, is that he never stops thanking his fans and giving them year after year cinematography masterpieces. He never stops delivering great work, and he is always grateful.

What it means for startups

When you are a startup, you should always see the world with your user’s eyes. What do they need, how we can help them, what can we improve so they can be happy. At MoneyCoach, we have a mantra: Make every user’s life better. Motivate them and help them grow. Which means that you should always get feedback from your users, in order to understand how you can mold the product around them. In this way the users feel connected with you and appreciate you even more.


5. Explore new horizons

When a director comes to you and says that we will shoot an entire film only using natural light, what would you think? In 2015, where the CGI is way of life in Hollywood and crazy special effects are indistinguishable from reality, would you be ready to go this far, backwards? Well, Leo did it and it got him the long awaited Oscar.

Image courtesy of 20th Century Fox

Image courtesy of 20th Century Fox


What it means for startups

Don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone. The world is such a magnificent place once you set yourself to explore new ways of doing things. They don’t have to be completely groundbreaking ideas, just better. Don’t try to find solutions using old methods, rather find solutions by creating new paths. Always ask yourself: Is there another better way to do this? Only then you can fully exploit your inner genius.


6. Always be smiling

What really struck a cord on me, what last year Oscars. More specifically the point when Leo didn’t get the Oscar. Even though he should have flipped out, he smiled and leaned back instead. He didn’t lose his nerve, and that is remarkable.

What it means for startups

The startup life is extremely hard and like a rollercoaster. You never know what the next turn might be. You just get in and hope for the best. Most of the times, there will be a lot of failures and drawbacks that make you question yourself: Is this really worth it?

But you know what the answer is? Yes it is worth it. Every. Single. Day.
I always approach every failure with a smile, and so should you. You should smile, because you will not do the same error again. Now you learned it the hard way. And that is the best gift you can get from a failure. Always be smiling.


7. Never give up

6 times, 6 nominations, a lot of tireless years and blockbuster movies. That is what it took DiCaprio to get recognised for his outstanding work. What I really admire about him, is that he never gave up. And consider that every time it gets harder to get rejected and to fail. But somehow, Leo managed to go through all as he never gave up, even though when the whole world was telling him to.

Image courtesy of 20th Century Fox

What it means for startups

Relentless work in an everlasting quest to reach as many people as possible and make their lives better. That should be always your North Star. There will be a lot of problems, there will be a lot of setbacks, but that doesn’t mean we should get carried away by negative thoughts. We should get stronger and pursue our vision. Even when people cannot don’t understand your vision, you should proceed. Never give up as success might just be around the corner.


The author of the article is Perjan Duro, an app developer, founder, content creator and guest contributor for digjitale.com. He’s currently working on changing the world of personal finance and since 2010 has been helping people create things and make customers happy.