In the midst of my studies at Harvard Business School, 1 had grown more than a little frustrated by having o manually calculate and recalculate every single change on a spreadsheet as I worked through a case study. There had to be a battery, Figured,so started designing a computer program to address those inefficiencies. I described my idea to Bob Frankfort, whom I’d met as an undergraduate at MIT, and he agreed to try to turn my primitive prototype into a working program. After toiling for several months in the attic of Bob’s home, we had a hunch that we might have something big on our hands.
The rest of the Fiscal story is replete with the usual twists and turns-not to mention some very difficult downturns. But that cool little software program is still regarded as the first killer 53 FIRST PERSON Natural-Born Entrepreneur app of the PC industry, and, much to my surprise, I have had to get comfortable with Henning famous as “the father of the electronic spreadsheet,” Some 20 years and four start-ups later, I still get my jollies the same way: by creating tools that solve people’s everyday problems. Eke to think these are tools that speak to people’s needs, whether for expressing a personal passion, such as publishing digital photo albums, or for solving a practical problem, such as automating the small- business judged or prototyping a piece of software. Times haven’t always been easy. I’ve lived through a lawsuit, layoffs, two acquisitions, and a failed start-up. (Let’s just say that I won’t be endowing any university buildings or faculty chairs anytime soon. ) But life as an entrepreneur, professional tinkered, and technology and business commentator has brought me many joys. Action summer program that enhanced my basic programming skills. My education continued at MIT, where I worked at Project MAC, which later became the famous Laboratory for Computer Science. MIT helped me strengthen my skills in programming, systems design, Aspiring entrepreneurs and business and algorithm analysis and gave me executives frequently ask me what I’ve an appreciation for the knowledge and learned, especially now that the notion abilities Of the great technologists who of being an entrepreneur seems both came before me.
My generation was glamorous and, every once in a while, an wrestling with the same general protective method for getting rich. I’ve elms that the greats, ail the way back done a lot of thinking about that sues- through Galileo, were trying to solve. Zion recently, and although 1 don’t have Like a lot of my peers at MI T, 1 veered a complete answer, [ do know that UN- those who came before me, and I was less you find your true calling and love honored to work with a current generator craft, the risks may outweigh the Zion of stars. Rewards.
Sure, training, talent, and that After graduating from MIT, took a most elusive component, good timing, job designing computerized typesetter essential. But they are not enough. Ting and early word processing at Digging need to have a true passion for what tall Equipment Corporation. Four years you’re doing. Later, I went to business school, where You also need humility. We’re coming I learned to understand the legislations out of a time – the dot. Com era – when between things-for instance, how decimate entrepreneurs have lost all sense signs about allocating costs affect other of humility.
They’ve come to believe parts Of the business. Business school that the lessons of the past no longer taught me that all aspects of business, apply and are, in fact, laughable. They’ve even the seemingly mundane activated a price for their arrogance. Person- ties, can be fascinating and challenging. Ally, limb convinced that much of what I Try your hand at enough case studies, know has come from paying attention and you legalize that nothing is as simple to timeless questions and to the work of as it first appears. These were key methods who came before me. .NET in my development, but in terms of what made me an entrepreneur, other Composing a Life factors were surely at work. My formal training with computers My entrepreneurial backbone was began in high school in 1967 when I formed much earlier, as a kid in Philanthropically in a National Science Found- Delphic. My father headed up the fame Dan Bricklike, who changed the face of the computer industry with his invention of Fiscal, says he became an entrepreneur cause he coccid’s achieve his goals through any other means. Ill printing business, Bricklike Press, which had been founded by his father in the asses.
Afternoons spent at the printing plant and dinners devoted to the day’s business problems prepared me (though I didn’t realize it at the time) for the trials would face in my own business ventures. My family’s unspoken dedication to the business gave me respect for the paradox of running your own business – the contradictory feelings of freedom and responsibility that define the experience of setting out on your own. Growing up, I never expected hat some big company would eventually take care of me; instead, I was always looking for opportunities to turn some nifty idea into a business.
Some ideas would work out, i hoped, but 1 knew others wouldn’t, and that risk didn’t stop me from wanting to try. 1 suppose you could say the entrepreneurial instinct was in my genes. But much like a lot of people, I also became an entrepreneur because I felt I couldn’t achieve my goals through any other means. Another important part Of my early entrepreneurial training came from a source many people might regard as unusual-the religious instruction I received in Jewish day school, which I tended from kindergarten through high school.
Many of my values, my ways of approaching problems, and my first skills as a leader were formed there. One concept of Judaism that greatly impressed me was Titus Loam. According to one story, when God made the world, he left it a little bit incomplete. Instead Of making bread – so the story goes-God gave us wheat; instead of bricks, we have clay, and we have to bake the hayricks ourselves. Why? So that we are partners in completing the act of Dan Bricklike is the founder and chief technology officer vitriolic Corporation in Concord, Massachusetts.
HARVARD BUSINESS REVIEW Natural-Born Entrepreneur FIRST PERSON creation. The point of Titus Loam is that our time on earth is important; we are not passive observers but active participants in making the world a better place. That sense of individual responsibility – the need to ask. How will I pa artic pate? -stuck with me. My religious studies also taught me how to analyze complex problems. When you study Torah, you lean how to peel an onion. You lean to look at a situation, a single word or phrase, and to appreciate that even one word can have multiple interpretations.
The process of covering each meaning is gratifying, and it teaches you different styles of logic, which in Tums deepen your understanding. The discipline of studying the Bible certainly played a role in my technical work because it reinforced the importance of examining a problem from ail angles, sorting through the possibilities, testing different models, leaning from them in the process, and recognizing the contributions Of great philosophers. As a kid, I had already acquired a passion for tinkering.
In the third grade, built an electromagnetic crane from scratch for a school science fair, and a few years front of groups. Equally important, it later I had advanced to Heating volt- taught me to accept that I would make meters, shortwave radios, and a stereo mistakes and that the crowd wouldn’t rip me to shreds. 1 also came to understates for my parents. In yet another way, my religious stud- stand that one of the jobs of the leader sees gave me what you might call “just-in- was to teach other students how to time” leadership training.
As one of the chant from the Torah themselves. Bemire advanced students of Hebrew in cause of my notoriety and my years as my synagogue, was often called on to an entrepreneur, these days I am often dead services, which meant that 1 had asked to speak before large audiences, to be able to get up in front of my peers to pitch my ideas to investors, or to give and adults to chant from the Torah. I talks to journalists and conference don’t have a particularly melodic voice- audiences about trends in technology or I’m no Preparation – but that experience products.
Performing these activities has helped me to become comfortable per, been made easier by those formative exploring under pressure and speaking in princess in temple. So, are entrepreneurs boom or made? For me, the answer has been both: through a combination of following y instincts and being in an environment that cultivated and directed my talents. And I suspect this is the case for most entrepreneurs. Learning on the Fly Even with good training and strong motivation, being a successful entrepreneur is tricky.
You have to live with having control and not having control at the same time. It’s like this: In big businesses, when you need to cross a river, 55 What Will people Pay For? Someday soon, so we’ve been told, cell phones will become our most ubiquitous and essential financial instrument-to be used for everything from checking stock quotes and making trades to buying all sorts of goods and revises. Cell phones, these prognosticators argue, will lead a wave of wireless e-commerce, and people will pay to use cell phones in order to make all sorts of purchases.
I beg to differ. If you lookout’s people actually use the Internet, cell phones, and other communications technologies t/key pay/o/; you quickly discover that they are rarely driven obtrusively things or track their money Unlike the kings in chi Alden’s rhymes, most people don t sit in their counting houses counting out their money Most people don’t buy and sell stocks so frequently and on such whims that they need to do it on a cell phone. When have you ever heard any normal person say, “Oh, look!
That trendy kid over there is wearing penny loafers! Quick, I must buy stock in a penny loafer company before it goes up this afternoon. “The reality is, most people don’t buy and sell many stocks at all-and certainly not the imagined majority who will supposedly drive the wireless Internet revolution. So what will people pay for? For that answer, listen to cab drivers on their cell phones. Listen to bus drivers. Listen to mothers and teenagers in the mall. Who among us hasn’t witnessed – or participated in – these kinds of conversations? Finally left the office, but traffic is I can pick up a pizza on the way home,””reverberate minute and thought I’d shay’s. “‘ Or, watch people when they go to an Internet cafe in Paris, where fellow travelers stop in to connect to the Internet over a caftan alit. You don’t find them surfing to buy things. Instead, they pay money to send e-mails to friends and loved ones. A large percentage of AOL usage comes from instant-messaging services. The fact is, people will pay for the privilege of saying “hi,” flirting, chitchatting about their days, and coordinating activities with their buddies and families.
People engage in all sorts of seemingly mundane and trivial activities: forwarding jokes to people, recommending URL, arranging dinner plans, and, yes, gossiping. People will also pay money to give little gifts to show that they remember a special event, that they care about or are thinking festoon. They send postcards (mainly the paper kind but increasingly the electronic kind), they spend an inordinate amount oftener valuable vacation time buying souvenirs, and they love spending money on friends and loved ones at special times like Christmas. Indeed, for many Of us, it is absolutely more fun to give Han to receive.
Manometer how banal some oftenest uses sound, they are exactly the kinds of activities people will pay for and hyperinflation, (Think of that now archaic communications tool,the telegram, which people continued to use for years in celebration major life events in spite of its high cost. ) Instead of dream ins up far-fetched uses for the technology, we ought to spend some time considering what it is people actually want to do and what the natural uses oftenest devices might be. 56 you simply design a bridge, build it, and march right across. Taut in a small venture, you must climb on the rocks.
You don’t know exactly where each step will take you, but you do know the general direction you’re moving in. If you make a mistake, you get wet. If your calculations are wrong, you have to inch your way back to safety and find a different route. And, as you jump from rock to slippery rock, you have to like the feeling. Of course, you can save yourself some grief by taking to heart is>me conventional wisdom: Hire the right people. Choose people who are flexible – who don’t mind doing the dirty work-especially in the early days, when there’s more than enough work to go around.
And, yes, do what you love, and don’t, whatever else, do it for the dream of money alone. Too many people joined dot-comes for the lure of money and glory, only to be left with neither in the end. But those of us who love our craft find that approach foreign. We like to work in areas that interest us, and we hope money will be a by-product. To be sure, certain business truisms still apply: People matter, and focus is important. And yet, I’d like to suggest a few other lessons that have made all the difference to me. First, understand your true talent and what value you bring to an endeavor.
Too often, entrepreneurs don’t value the work others do, and they tend to overestimate their own contributions. Of course, in the early days, when you’re simply trying to give birth to an idea, you may not need help from outsiders. But when – make that if-you are able to take the business to the next stage of growth, a different and deeper set of talents may be required. If these aren’t your talents, you may need others to step in -for instance, to swim in the details of running the operation, to build strategic partnerships, to set financial priorities, or to make the trains run on time.