I think it’s in our nature to be moved after hearing the struggles, failures and successes of others entrepreneurs.
Today I listened to 30 social entrepreneurs in LA pitch their causes to a room full of us coaches and volunteers in preparation of the LA social venture’s “fastpitch” contest.
I arrived to the event about ten minutes late, not because of the reputable “Indian standard time” but instead because of traffic jams from driving across LA that reminded me if only two possible places- Bombay and the infamous Hyderabad. Nonetheless I quickly realized that I made the proper decision to involve myself with this event and gained comfort that my idea for filming a documentary around it is very possible. What I witnessed today in the USC library conference room was something magnificent. Seasoned leaders humbled themselves after years of putting their hearts and souls into a cause to convince a room in 3 minutes they were ready for funding. This was a coaching session for an event 3 weeks away – I felt like Simon from American idol a few times with my critiques however the overall vibe was extremely supportive. When a pitcher got nervous and blanked out the room did their best to help them get comfortable so that they could regain composure. It struck me as odd watching so many aspiring civil servants compete against each other. Furthermore the level of class with the people in the room is something unmatched in my limited experience in business. I am just glad that I am not the judge who has to pick one of these many passionate entrepreneurs to fund their selfless cause to make LA a better place. There are some very clever ideas in this sector and my passion for social entrepreneurship was fueled today.
I left the event to drive across town for my MBA class “managing new and
growing ventures”. The class has one of my favorite professors of all time but she has absolutley no tolerence for lateness in her classes and therefore I risked several traffic violations to make it in time for class – afterall her brother did fly down from the bay area to speak at our class tonight.
I made it in time for one of the most inspiring/disturbing/strangely familiar story I have heard.
This CEO spoke about a 9 year venture that truly pushed the limits of a new entrepreneur. Mind you, two hours before 30 mother Theresa’s were pitching me on startups that were designed to save childrens lives, raise literacy rates, fund the arts, and save our beautiful oceans. Now I was in a classroom listening to a man who left a comfortable job just days before his son was born to start a company with his best friend who he later fired along with firing his father and 100 other employees months during the dotcom bust. Months before he regrettably refused a multi million dollar buyout. As cutthroat as that is, his business decisions – which we were fortunate to hear in a very detailed and logical presentation, were somehow absolutley sound. This was an entrepreneur who initially turned down half a million dollars to keep his best friend and founding partner in the company. (2 years prior to firing) Every decision he made was carefully calculated and although he admits that they are neither right or wrong- given the circumstance I agreed with each one. perhaps the most moving quote he shared was one regarding the autonomy entrepreneurs seek when they choose to start their own company. He stressed that this is a common misconception and in fact we entrepreneurs lack control of our environments and are similar to floating kayaks in a sea of large ocean liners – being pushed back and forth between their waves.
This has defintely been the hardest lesson for me over the past few years and through this mans humble account of a decade of experience, I have come to understand my own struggle in this chosen career. I got into this business thinking I could call the shots but quickly learned the power of financiers, competition, platforms like apple iTunes and other stakeholders.
He exited one venture mildly successful – diluted his and founding partners/investors shares to almost nothing. However after what seemed to be the 20th change in business models, he made a power play, against the initial opinion of the board, and directed a profitable exit for the company.
Perhaps my first venture may someday be looked as a failure. Tonight I gained a tremendous amount of inspiration that I am in the company of very intelligent and successful people who have also had years of hardships. I am comforted however that success is a lifelong challenge. These rolemodels of mine don’t define their success by any one successful venture. They in fact prefer thinking about their losses over their wins. Perhaps because they are easier to understand – many succesful entrepreneurs are quick to admit the starring role of luck in their successes I know I’ve certainly made my share of mistakes however i can look back at this early journey and stomach each loss with the assurance that “it’s not for nothing”. I don’t know if I will ever be successful enough to be able to hire and god forbid fire my own father, but it’s going take something major to extinguish the fire in my belly right now. I will continue to embrace the uncertainty of the future of my entrepreneurial pursuits knowing that as a failure I will be in the company of many legends, and by succeeding in survival i will hopefully avoid the comfort of quitters.
As previously mentioned – I lack Internet at my house, but wrote this post from my phone. Please excuse any typos.
Sent from my iPhone