Entrepreneurship Part I | George Bush Jr.

Entrepreneurship Part I | George Bush Jr.

Entrepreneurship Part I | George Bush Jr.

Entrepreneurship Part I | George Bush Jr.

Part I

“The problem with the French is that they don’t have a word for entrepreneur.”
George. W. Bush.

Bof! Besides making fun of George Doubleyah, the joke also underscores people’s misconceptions about what makes an entrepreneur. If the French don’t cut it, allegedly, who does?

The word itself conjures up many images – from the shrewd and sharp-suited judges on Dragons’ Den to hippie tech billionaires performing sun salutations at Burning Man.

It’s a mercurial mix, which doubtless adds to the mystique. But what separates entrepreneurs from regular 9-to-5ers?

Are they uniquely gifted? Rabidly ambitious? Slavishly hard working? Impervious to failure? Trend-setting visionaries? Or all of the above?

To help us answer these questions, we looked to famous entrepreneurs, past and present, as well as entrepreneurs we personally know and admire, for inspiration. We did this because we’re a fledging business and, like so many newbies, we want to learn from the best and grow.

Timing is everything

Entrepreneurship Part II | Crane lifting a red box

Entrepreneurship Part II | Crane lifting a red box

Making its Silicon Valley debut: the world’s first computer designed in 1849 is surprisingly lightweight and pocket-sized.

As an entrepreneur, you want to be five years ahead, not fifty. Because the bigger the gap between your vision and people’s understanding, the longer you’ll have to wait for the rest of the world to catch up.

This couldn’t be truer of British boffin, Charles Babbage. He invented the world’s first complex electronic computer in 1849. But he was born 100 years too soon. Electricity wasn’t even a usable source of power back then. So he died before he could complete his vision.

Most poignantly, we now know that Babbage wasn’t just theoretically ahead of his time. His designs actually worked. The Science Museum in London proved this when they built a functioning machine from his original plans. It’s mind-bending to think how evolved today’s technology would be had Babbage’s brilliance been realised in the 19th Century.

A lesson from Babbage

Of course, no one seeks posthumous success. But, assuming you’re not a time traveller stuck in the year 2021 with a head full of futuristic visions no one can decipher, there is a positive to be drawn from Babbage’s defeat:

The next time you present an idea to people and they look at you speechless, heads cocked to one side, don’t be put off.

It doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a bad idea. It may be trailblazing. So stick to your guns and be prepared to work a gazillion times harder to get it off the ground.

Tenacity is non-negotiable

Sir James Dyson made 5,127 prototypes over four years before anyone showed the faintest interest in bagless vacuum cleaners. So what kept him going? It wasn’t money. Contrary to popular belief, many entrepreneurs aren’t motivated by moolah.

Sure, you need to turn a profit – but this isn’t the sole driver. It’s legacy. A desire to create something that lasts. To make an indelible impression on the world and leave behind an innovation – yes, even a vacuum cleaner – that shapes people’s lives in some way.

Think big. Then bigger.

Entrepreneurship Part II | EVE Reign Video Game Poster

Entrepreneurship Part II | EVE Reign Video Game Poster

EVE Online, a massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORP for short).

CCP Games, one of the world’s most innovative companies in interactive entertainment, knows all about life-shaping innovations. Their mission is to – brace yourself – ‘create virtual worlds more meaningful than real life’. As missions go, this is right up there with the Rebel Alliance’s plan to nuke the Death Star out of existence. But their objective isn’t fantasy or empty boardroom rhetoric.

In 2003, CCP launched EVE Online – a dizzyingly immersive, intergalactic sci-fi roleplaying odyssey. What started as an eerie mass of constellations has erupted into a cosmos of colossal wars, empire factions, shocking betrayals and political intrigue.

It’s little wonder CCP’s Co-Founder, Hilmar Veigar Pétursson, describes the point when

EVE went from “impossible to plausible” as “an extremely powerful feeling”. He also talks of the satisfaction he gets from “experiencing the positive impact (their) games have had on players’ lives and on the lives of (his) co-workers”.

This is bigger than making money. It’s a lifelong calling, one that enraptures around 300,000 players each month. Perhaps that’s why Hilmar, like so many entrepreneurs, is people-focussed. For he believes that it’s not enough to have a clear vision. You must “guide a team of people towards that vision and, often, their way to achieve it is better than the one you had in mind.”

Put yourself on the map

The Atlas Building | Exterior | Angel O'Donnell

The Atlas Building | Exterior | Angel O’Donnell

The Atlas Building, one of the tallest residential structures in London.

Another entrepreneur who thinks big – and tall – is Tom Appleton, Chairman and Co-Founder of Rocket Properties. Since 2004, he and his team have built some of London’s most iconic developments.

One such icon – fittingly called The Atlas Building, in Shoreditch – towers and shimmers at 40 stories. It’s as if God has planted a vast silver totem into the ground for all to worship. It’s a new landmark. An instant classic. And, one might think, the pinnacle of Appleton’s career.

But it’s only the start: “I was told that you only get to build one tower in your life. We’re now on our second.”

This galvanising ability to strive forward – to not rest on the success of past wins – is a common entrepreneurial trait. For if complacency kills success, forging ahead must feed it.

A big shoutout to…

Hilmar Veigar Pétursson, Co-Founder of CCP Games, and Tom Appleton, Co-Founder of Rocket Properties for sparing the time to share their invaluable insights.

Header image: sourced from NBC News.

Image 1: by Jonathan Snyder, sourced from Wired.

Image 2: sourced from Bleeding Cool.