Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Jeremy Bout and Francois Driessen -- Media Missionaries

There are two kinds of media entrepreneur -- the media merchant and the media missionary. The media missionary is unique in entrepreneurship, according to our research, in that his or her principal motivation to start a media enterprise is to tell a story. They are passionate about their message. According to Scott Shane in The Illusion of Entrepreneurship, the reason most people start a business is because they don't like working for someone else. That may also be true with media missionaries, but it's mostly their passion for a story, a particular story. Sometimes a really specific story.

Such is the case with a media entrepreneur I recently talked to, Jeremy Bout. He and his partner Francois Driessen started underhouse studios and a new kind of video production, The Edge Factor Show. The message they want everyone to get is about the role of manufacturing in North America -- it's importance to the economy, culture and society.

You're thinking that doesn't sounds like a story anyone would be so passionate about they'd launch a company? Even kind of a snore? Take a look at their documentary about the Chilean miners' amazing rescue and CRI, the Pennsylvania drilling products company that made it possible. You'll have a new appreciation for the people who design and produce drill bits. The message I got after I watched the video -- and these are words I never dreamed I'd write: Drill bit manufacturing is all creativity, expert knowledge and gritty experience plus tenacity and compassion (really!) -- and it saved 33 miners' lives.

But even more, what you see in Jeremy and Francois is their passion for telling a story. (You see it in Jeremy -- who appears in the documentary -- when he gets excited about a 1940's drill machine.) This is what makes them media missionaries.

Why do I blog about media missionaries? Because they are evidence that our media system is healthy. I see rather a lot of criticism of the media -- that big corporations control it and limit the diversity of viewpoints or dumb it down or get it wrong or serve base tastes. Sure, it's easy to find examples. But there are about 110,000 communications companies in the U.S. alone -- and that's just the ones the U.S. Census can find to count. There are many hundreds of thousands worldwide launched by people like Jeremy and Francois. All telling stories, getting messages out to audiences.