Top shows & documentaries for entrepreneurs on Netflix, YouTube, and other streaming services

Editorial Team

12 min read
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Launching a new business isn’t easy. There’s a lot of uncertainty involved as you invest countless hours and money developing your innovative idea. It’s exhausting.

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That’s why budding entrepreneurs should take occasional breaks to recharge their batteries. Popular distractions include: 

  • Getting coffee with a friend
  • Taking a long walk 
  • Diving into an engaging novel 

Another great strategy? Watch movies, TV shows, and documentaries for entrepreneurs and startups. With this approach, you’re technically off the clock. However, you can still glean a lot of useful insights to help make your business journey easier and more successful.

Consuming entrepreneurial entertainment allows you to: 

  • Watch the challenges of others 
  • Empathize with their struggles 
  • Observe how they overcome hardships 

Streaming services, like Netflix or Amazon Prime, offer a huge catalog of on-demand TV shows and documentaries that is seemingly tailor-made for new businesses.  Below are some of our top picks in no particular order.

1. The Bear (2022)

Praised for its highly accurate portrayal of restaurant life, The Bear is a tense drama about a successful fine dining chef who is placed in charge of his late brother’s sandwich shop in Chicago. In addition to showcasing the chaotic energy of a working kitchen, the show deals with all aspects of small business life. From inventory issues, to uniform disagreements, to plumbing — it’s a dramatized deep dive into the nitty gritty of entrepreneurship.

Learn more here.

2. Inside Bill’s Brain: Decoding Bill Gates (2019)

This three-part docuseries takes you into the life of one of the wealthiest people in the world and Microsoft co-founder – Bill Gates. From his childhood and education to his Microsoft stewardship and his charitable foundation, you’ll learn about what formed him, what kept him going while juggling multiple complex projects, and what motivated him to succeed.

Interviews, biographical material, and candid footage showcase Gates’ intelligence, optimism, and determination. This is currently available on Netflix.

Learn more here.

3. American Factory (2019)

Factory closings are relatively common as more manufacturing jobs transfer overseas or are replaced due to automation. In this 2019 documentary from Netflix, a Chinese firm reopens a shuttered plant in Ohio.

Heartwarming, yes. However, due to culture clashes, political disagreements, and geography, things don’t go according to plan.

If you’re also struggling with hiring, training, or managing workers, give this documentary a try. It’s currently available on Netflix.

Learn more here.

4. Succession (2018 – Current)

They say you shouldn’t mix business with pleasure. Yet, sometimes you don’t really have a choice when your entire family is driven by money, power, and greed. This is the plot line of HBO’s wildly successful “Succession” drama series.

As an entrepreneur, you probably won’t learn how to run a business from this series, but you can learn how to strike a deal, negotiate, and “work” with your friends and family members.

Learn more here.

5. Planet of the Apps (2017 – Current)

Available from Apple TV, this series is similar to “Shark Tank,” except the product pitches are all focused on developing apps. Instead of relying exclusively on tech CEOs or Silicon Valley investors to mentor contestants, the show uses four celebrity judges – Jessica Alba, Gwyneth Paltrow, Gary Vaynerchuk, and

If you’re into technology in general, or apps in particular, this may be the perfect series for you. It’s currently available on Apple TV.

Learn more here.

6. Becoming Warren Buffet (2017)

If you’re a business owner and you know who Warren Buffet is, then you already understand why watching this documentary is essential. If you don’t know who Warren Buffet is, he’s one of the most successful investors of all time – with a net worth of $60 billion.

Available on HBO Max, “Becoming Warren Buffet” pairs nicely with the first documentary on our list – (“Inside Bill’s Brain: Decoding Bill Gates”).

Learn more here.

7. Minimalism: A Documentary about the Important Things (2016)

Released in 2016, “Minimalism” is mostly geared toward consumers. The whole point of the film is that you can live a happy and fulfilling life with very few material items. 

This same lesson applies to the business world as well. 

Remember that profit isn’t simply about increasing sales — it’s also about reducing expenses. As an entrepreneur, resist the temptation to buy glossy business cards or spacious offices. 

Instead, you could: 

  • Design your operations to be as lean as possible 
  • Avoid “owning” physical things whenever you can 
  • Rely more heavily on the new sharing economy 

This is currently available on Netflix.

Learn more here.

8. Tony Robbins: I Am Not Your Guru (2016)

Tony Robbins is a renowned life coach and business strategist. He leaves everything he has on the field.

This powerful documentary takes a deep dive into all of the behind-the-scenes preparation that goes into his extremely well-attended workshops. It also serves as the perfect counterbalance to another Netflix favorite — “FYRE: The Greatest Party That Never Happened” (2019).

If you feel stressed about your workload — especially when it comes to conference planning — this documentary will inspire you. This is currently available on Netflix.

Learn more here.

9. The Big Short (2015)

Conventional wisdom has always been that boom times translate to higher profits and downturns inevitably lead to fewer sales. For most businesses, this trend holds true.

Yet, the logic starts to fall apart — at least for the real-life characters profiled in this biographical comedy drama.

With its all-star cast, “The Big Short” clearly demonstrates that profits are always available if you know where to look. While most of the world was losing billions during the 2008 economic recession, the main characters in this film managed to build fortunes that would put most monarchs to shame. This is currently available on Netflix.

Learn more here.

10. Capital C (2015)

Not all of Netflix’s titles are cautionary tales — 2015’s “Capital C” is an inspiring documentary about how entrepreneurs are increasingly decoupling themselves from traditional sources of financing. Banks and angel investors are no longer the sole gatekeepers, thanks to emerging alternatives like crowdfunding. 

The secret to raising large sums of capital lies in creating a message that resonates with others. If you do this, people will naturally want to help and support your growth. This is currently available on Amazon Prime.

Learn more here.

11. TED Talks: Life Hacks (2015)

If you’ve never watched a TED Talk, you should. Short for technology, education and design, each TED video features experts from around the world who cover topics about which they are most passionate.

The platform’s main website makes all of these videos free to the public — complete with powerful search features that allow you to filter topics based on their subject matter. Whether you’re interested in productivity, entrepreneurship, or design — you can quickly find it.

With so many videos already published, it’s easy to fall into the rabbit hole and never return. As an entrepreneur, time is one of your most valuable assets.

Fortunately, you’re in luck. YouTube has hand-picked some of the best content from these TED Talks and compiled them into a 9-part “Life Hack” series. If you’re looking for a crash course in business education that you can fit into a weekend of binge watching — definitely check out these TED Talks on YouTube.

Learn more here.

12. The Profit (2013 – Current)

Do you enjoy those makeover shows in which contestants, cars, or homes undergo dramatic transformations? “The Profit” is basically that – but for struggling businesses. The host, Marcus Lemonis, invests in and mentors the owners in the series with the goal of helping them turn a profit.

If you’re looking to boost sales or trim the fat from your operations, you’ll want to check out all seven seasons of this series, now available on Peacock.

Learn more here.

13. Elon Musk: How I Became the Real Iron Man (2014)

Succeeding in a single business is tough. Starting several multibillion-dollar companies (including PayPal, Tesla, and SpaceX) is nothing short of remarkable. You can learn exactly how Elon Musk accomplished this feat in YouTube’s 2014 documentary.

Learn more here.

“Print the Legend” is an award-winning documentary that follows the rise of 3D printing and additive manufacturing. Most consumers don’t have 3D printers in their home. This 2014 Netflix documentary makes it clear that with increased R&D and falling prices, these next-generation printers will eventually become common household items. Lucrative profits await whichever manufacturer is able to establish market share before that happens.

Learn more here.

15. Burt’s Buzz (2013)

Are you someone who dislikes wearing formal work attire, attending meetings, or dealing with stiff office culture? Starting your own business could be a good first step in turning things around. Available on Amazon Prime, this documentary follows the quirky, yet successful, management style of the guy behind natural beauty product line, Burt’s Bees.

Learn more here.

16. Jiro Dreams of Sushi (2012)

This 2012 documentary follows the approaching retirement of famed sushi chef, Jiro Ono, as he prepares his son to take over the business. 

There is a lot to unpack in this film, but one key takeaway is that charging higher prices doesn’t necessarily require adding more bells and whistles. Ono’s strategy involves an unwavering commitment to quality and perfection. 

This approach is much harder to scale. Yet, when you’re charging $300 a plate, you can afford to maintain a relatively small operation — and still be a huge success. This is currently available on Netflix.

Learn more here.

17. Something Ventured (2011)

Nearly every entrepreneur dreams of attracting investors to help get their ventures off the ground. The thinking goes that with enough outside financing, everything falls magically into place — at least in theory.

While your chances of success definitely improve with venture capital, this exposé into the early days of Silicon Valley clearly demonstrates that the road to success is neither easy nor automatic. Many of the hard lessons learned in this insightful documentary can help you avoid some of the common pitfalls entrepreneurs face when courting investors.

For a more entertaining look into the machinations of IT and venture capital, you might also be interested in the comedy series “Silicon Valley.” It’s a fun ride full of absurd twists and turns. This is currently available on Amazon Prime.

Learn more here.

18. Steve Jobs – One Last Thing (2011)

Steve Jobs was a complicated man, but the impact of his contributions is outsized beyond measure. In fact, some of the shows in this list (such as “Planet of the Apps”) wouldn’t be possible if Jobs hadn’t introduced the world’s first commercially successful smart device – i.e., the original iPhone. This documentary is available on PBS.

Learn more here.

19. Freakonomics (2010)

This movie stitches together a series of vignettes that walk you through the fields of human behavior and psychology. Because business is essentially the art of “negotiation” — this isn’t a documentary any entrepreneur can afford to miss. Whether your goal is to charge higher prices, compete more aggressively, or incentivize lackluster employees, “Freakonomics” is full of actionable insights you can put to work right away. This is currently available on Netflix.

Learn more here.

20. Shark Tank (2009 – Current)

“Shark Tank” is to startups what “The Voice” is for singers, however in the former, contestants audition with a business idea rather than a prepared song. If chosen by one of the celebrity judges on the panel, that contestant then receives mentoring and financial assistance to help get his or her startup off the ground or create additional opportunities for an existing business.

All 13 seasons of “Shark Tank” are available on ABC.

Learn more here.

21. Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room (2005)

The key players in this 2005 documentary fudged numbers, doctored reports, and lied to investors and regulators. 

The charade worked for a while — until everything came crashing down in spectacular fashion. 

This cautionary tale further drives home the importance of honesty and integrity. Every business has bad days — sometimes even bad years. Yet, remaining open and transparent increases the chances of coming out of the fire unscathed. This is currently available on Netflix.

Learn more here.

Get ready to watch and learn

The above titles are merely scratching the surface. You could spend hours (literally) watching tons of TV shows for entrepreneurs on Netflix and other on-demand services. Just remember that streaming services continuously update their catalog of TV shows, documentaries, and movies.

Also, don’t forget to talk to your tax advisor about reporting your monthly streaming subscription as a “business” expense. It never hurts to ask. 

Happy streaming.

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Disclaimer: This information is provided for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal, financial, or tax advice. Readers should contact their attorneys, financial advisors, or tax professionals to obtain advice with respect to any particular matter.

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