I had lunch today with an entrepreneur who has (another) great idea for an online business. This is not his first rodeo, so spending two hours with him in the middle of the day was definitely not a waste of time. In fact it was a fascinating, ass-kicking TED-Coachella-Kickstarter-Luau….for the brain. Lunch was pretty good, too.
There is nothing better than watching an intelligent and passionate individual pitch an idea, riff on it, spread it out like a warm, fuzzy blanket and then wrap you up in it so artfully and brilliantly that you leave the table thinking “I have GOT to do this!”
The naked enthusiasm of a startup entrepreneur is infectious. There are so many passionate founders, angels and advisors in the startup community that the whole ecosystem of Silicon Beach and LA and the rest of the tech world is like a beautiful, magical bubble. It’s intoxicating, and not just because of the potential upside. There is generally a cooperative spirit among companies that are just starting out, in much the same way independent films come together. Friends help friends get going and sometimes they stay, sometimes they move on. But even if they leave, they’re cheering from the sidelines while (sometimes) crying in their beer that they missed the signs of the next Airbnb.
Inside the bubble, a combination of brains, drive, and compassion is not unusual. What’s exceptional is the rare individual who possesses all those qualities plus a track record, an understanding of the data and its value, the ability to connect the dots from 30,000 feet and to see clearly the ground game required to execute. All this and access to funding–a bonus!
Great entrepreneurial brains are like jazz musicians. They can start with a few notes, improvise, build things to a crescendo and either they crash and burn or they keep going till they hear the applause. If they fail, it’s not because they’re not great, and it’s often not even their fault: either the market wasn’t ready, the timing was off, the funding ran out or the competition had deeper pockets.
So like good jazz musicians who just had an off night, they come back to the stage, fine tune their instruments again, and play another set.
It takes rhythm and soul and innate talent to be a great jazz musician. It takes brains and guts and determination to become a great entrepreneur. The best jazz artists and the best entrepreneurs felt a calling and, rich or broke, they are living the dream.
And so am I.