AllThingsD recently shared a video from 2010 of Marc Andreeseen interviewing Michael Ovitz about the Founding of CAA.
The video offers an incredibly candid look at Michael Ovitz’s background leading up to CAA and the evolution of CAA over time.
I would recommend watching the whole interview – for me, these were the most important takeaways:
1. Success is often born in disarray.
Ovitz and the Founding Partners were all fired from William Morris when word of their plan leaked out. They had no office (and then an office with a card table) Had a plan they devised the night before being fired but had a strong team and figured it out.
2. Flat organization, team model
William Morris pushed for individual contributors; At CAA, they focused on the team – over compensated for group performance. Everyone was a partner at CAA. Met 5 days per week for more information sharing (instead of 1 that other firms)
3. Take advantage of the “way” other places work
Had their team meetings at 7:30 AM 5 days a week. Total open information sharing across the group. Other groups would meet once per week starting at 9:30 AM. When CAA’s meeting would end at 10 AM, the other group had just started – so they would call their clients and tell them
4. Do business different ways
Went to NYC to talk to all the author agents and asked to partner with them. Told them they would give them all the commissions and never represent authors. The traditional agencies would compete directly and take away their clients. Created opportunity. Benchmark did a similar thing with angel investors when they launched. (Find partners who like you more than others)
“We were told point blank it would not work on TV … and it would be a disaster … when we hear that kind of thing we get really excited”
5. Writers are the creative lifeblood of the industry
6. Early on, they turned down relatively large clients to make them seem more exclusive
8. Be involved in the community and broader ecosystem; be able to make anything happen for clients / friends of the firm