I’ve long felt the most exciting and intriguing people in the world are entrepreneurs.
Many of them I know are bold, daring, innovative, creative, philanthropic and – very importantly – they create jobs. More jobs are created by entrepreneurs than all the largest corporations. They also destroy jobs by disrupting old ways of doing things. In the process new products and methods emerge and make the world a better place, which creates more jobs and a higher standard of living.
There is also a misperception that all entrepreneurs are rich. Many are but they earned every penny of it. Statistically, most small business owners could make more money working for someone else. The entrepreneur does it not for the love of money but for the love of creating something and working independently.
Recently I’ve watched many entrepreneurs present and explain their ideas and vision. This week I attended the graduation for the Los Angeles chapter of Founder Institute, a four-month training ground for people who want to launch a business. I attended most of the weekly classes during the semester in a role both as a mentor and journalist and have blogged about on this site. Of the 54 individuals that started, just 15 were left when it was over.
Among them was Matt Kim-Perek, whose company VidaPort seeks to provide affordable heath care services. Scott Herring worked on ZenCX, developing software that improves relationships between banks and customers. Kieve Huffman’s company Dather provides a social media marketing application for event sponsors and organizers that expands brand awareness and community. Melissa Jun Rowley is creating Incentivize.us, which promotes socially responsible brands. Narb Avedissian is founder of Trendest, which is developing a Web site for video product reviews and drive new online sales. Frank Mastronuzzi is president & founder at OneGoodLove.com, a community for relationship-minded gays and lesbians. Talia Goldstein and Val B are developing EventWho, a Web application to enhance connections at networking events. All the graduates are really good people.
On hand for the graduation were the mentors who helped educate and inspire this group. They were asked to provide some parting thoughts. Among them was Simon Mainwaring, a branding expert whose new book, “We First” explains how brands and consumers use social media to build a better world.
“Don’t look to the market to find out who you are,” said Mainwaring. “Look inward.”
Tony Greenberg, a serial entrepreneur whose companies include RampRate Sourcing and DeepStrat Consulting was the most animated of the evening, as Tony always is. About starting a company he said, “It will fail seven times. You’ll run out of money 15 times. You will fail again and again.” But, he said, with perspiration and inspiration, and for those who move fast, listen and stay open minded, “You will win.”
Tayrn Rose, another dynamic success story with a top-selling line of shoes for women, encouraged the graduating class to power through difficult times.
Other mentors in the course, run by Ken Rutkowski, encouraged graduates to follow their passion, stay in motion all the time, build relationships and network, never give up, learn from mistakes and have fun.
An example of entrepreneurial passion comes form Pandora Media, the popular Web-based music listening site. The company launched in January 2000, two months before the Internet bubble would burst and blow up an ton of Internet companies along with it.
It almost brought down Pandora. According to venture capitalist William Quigley, four years later no company employee at Pandora had yet taken any salary. One employee had maxed out his 12th credit card. More than likely that was founder Tim Westergren, an award winning composer, musician and record producer, who is now the company’s chief strategy officer. The two other founders were Will Glaser and Jon Kraft.
The company had made 347 pitches to investors over three years and struck out each time. That is stunning in that most founders, after about a dozen strikeouts in funding attempts, head for the painkillers and wonk out. At one point Pandora was down to $25,000.
The founders considered betting it on black at the roulette table, figuring their odds of winning were better than their odds at betting on investors. The Pandora execs, on try No. 348, got $5 million in financing and the company took flight. Today the company raised $235 million in a solid initial public offering.
That’s passion, determination, sweat, perseverance and victory. May we all have some of the same.
Strength & honor,