What We Learned From Billions TV Series This Week

23 March 2017
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Billions promotional image

Billions with Paul Giamatti and Damien Lewis

Don’t you love Billions? If you don’t know the US TV series from Showtime, you should give it a try. The basic story is about the battle between a ruthless billionaire hedge fund manager and the equally ruthless US Attorney for the Southern District of New York.

The cunning plans of both are fascinating like grandmaster games of chess but, for anyone in business, it is the machinations of Axe, played by the brilliant Damien Lewis, that mesmerise. He is prepared to bribe and play dirty. He has a deep understanding of people and markets. He gains and uses information. But what makes him a truly great character is that he is to all intents and purposes a sociopath who simply does’t care who he uses or hurts in his lust for power.  It is only when he- and for that matter his antagonist- lets emotion get in the way that he makes mistakes.

“What is it that you do that you’re the best in the world at?”

This is a rarified world that most of us have neither the callousness nor the desire to be part of. Even so, there are many insights into how the investment business can work. For example, this week Axe explained to his wife why she wasn’t ready to launch her small business. It would hit a nerve for anybody who has tried and failed to get angel investment, venture capital or crowdfunding.

“What is it that you do that you’re the best in the world at? You offer a service you didn’t invent, a formula you didn’t invent, a delivery method you didn’t invent. Nothing that you do is patentable or a unique user experience. You haven’t identified an isolated market segment, haven’t truly branded your concept. Do you need me to go on?”

This is very similar to one of the criteria set by Angels 5K for investment: “Clear sustainable competitive advantage, scalability and high barriers to entry, for example through intellectual property or patent protection, or exclusive commercial arrangements.” See the full criteria on the Angels 5K website.

As I said, you can learn a lot from Billions but, unless you want to end up in jail, best to avoid the bribery and corruption.

Billions can be seen on Sky Atlantic on Tuesdays or on Sky Catchup

This article is written by Paul Lewis, marketing consultant to Hampshire Workspace and owner of Seven Experience. The views expressed are his own.

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