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From Film Fan to Movie Mogul: The CEO of IMDb Shares His Journey Founding World's Largest Online Movie Database For Col Needham, founding IMDb meant combining a passion for movies and knowledge of what the industry was missing.

By Robert Tuchman Edited by Jessica Thomas

Key Takeaways

  • Never underestimate the potential of modern technology.
  • Identify your audience and pinpoint the value your product provides.
  • At the heart of entrepreneurship is love for what you do.

On a recent episode of How Success Happens, I spoke with Col Needham, the founder and CEO of IMDb, the world's most popular and authoritative source for information on movies, TV shows and celebrities. Together we talked about founding IMDb, the ever-changing landscape of the industry and being a self-proclaimed "movie buff" — with more than 15,000 films viewed under his belt! You can listen to our full conversation below, and I've also pulled out three key takeaways.

Never underestimate the potential of modern technology

Using technology to its fullest potential is undeniably important in launching and nurturing a modern-day business venture, and this has stayed true for Needham since his days as a child. Growing up during the home computer and video revolutions in the 1980s, Needham was fueled by an intrinsic passion for digital media, spending time with friends at the Manchester Computer Club and eventually teaching himself to write software as a teenager. For the IMDb founder, the proliferation of the Internet came with endless potential — representing, most of all, an entirely new way to connect different communities. With this in mind, Needham created and published the very first version of IMDb software available to download online on October 17, 1990.

Timestamp — 18:07-24:46

Related: This Leader Is Transforming the Radio Industry. Here Are His Biggest Success Tips.

Identify your audience and pinpoint the value your product provides

Part of becoming a successful entrepreneur is learning to properly identify and cater to your constantly evolving audience. Needham recognized this at the onset of the 2000s, a time when he and his team identified the emergence of two distinct IMDb audiences: movie-lovers and professionals in the film industry. Needham and his team quickly opted to appeal to these industry professionals, who had begun using IMDb as a free service to make casting decisions, stay updated with industry news and aid in the production of a film at every stage. At the Sundance Film Festival in 2002, Needham launched and promoted a subscription-based version of IMDb Pro that offered an even more comprehensive look at all stages of a film's production —during a time when online subscriptions were still rare and generally relegated to print publications. Being able to key in on IMDb's value to film industry professionals worldwide ultimately catapulted IMDb to its status as an industry asset today.

Timestamp — 28:05-31:43

Related: How This Online Butcher Shop, Which Raised $3.7 Million, Hopes to Change the Meat Industry (Podcast)

At the heart of entrepreneurship is love for what you do

Entrepreneurship is no easy feat and comes with many ups and downs and unexpected turns, making passion for what you do so very crucial. For Needham, IMDb was born out of his childhood love for watching movies and knowing the ins and outs of the production for his favorite films (something he learned that others, too, wanted to know about). In a reflection on his IMDb journey and his lifelong love for movies, Needham shares with listeners, "You're always a product, yourself, of every movie you've seen already, but you're also a product of every movie that you've not seen."

Timestamp — 1:04:21-1:05:18

Related: This Longtime Exec Launched Brands for Snoop Dogg and Erin Andrews. Here Are Her 3 Biggest Success Tips.

Robert Tuchman

Entrepreneur Staff

Host of How Success Happens

Robert Tuchman is the host of Entrepreneur's How Success Happens podcast and founder of Amaze Media Labs the largest business creating podcasts for companies and brands. He built and sold two Inc. 500 companies: TSE Sports and Entertainment and Goviva acquired by Creative Artists Agency (CAA).

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