Discovering Talented Entrepreneurs

Published by • December 3rd, 2007 RSS News Feed

the importance of fresh, young and raw talent

This article is an offshoot of Guy Kawasaki’s article, “in search of inexperience“. Guy Kawasaki’s article was itself a piggyback off of Glenn Kelman’s article on the Entrepreneur 2.0 phenomenon. Enjoy.

In case you don’t have time to read the articles, I’ll briefly touch on both articles. Both gentlemen discuss the problem of entrepreneurs who strike success early and hope to replicate that success with new start-ups by employing similar tactics. The conclusions are decidedly pessimistic about second timers, but for good reason. They discuss the importance of recruiting talent and finding the best and brightest to help create a successful business, but both are skeptics when the same business model approach is taken to drastically different business problems.

What makes the talented first-timer a potential success is that s/he is hungry during the first attempt and it’s much more difficult to predict how the young entrepreneur will fare a second time around once the motivating factors are diluted. In some cases, sheer dumb luck allows “entrepreneurs” to strike gold, but that’s another story.
Glenn Kelman’s opinion on Entrepreneur 2.0:

Second-time entrepreneurs are so intent on replicating their success that they manufacture an inferior idea where the first one grew naturally out of a problem that had been bothering them. Some become so obsessed with how great their first company was that they spend all their time trying to copy it rather than building something different and new. They often hire top-heavy teams from past ventures, or strain to grow fast enough to meet higher expectations. Most strike out on their own without the partners they depended on for candor in their first success.

And for all the rhetoric about working just as hard the second time around, few second-timers operate at the same level of savagery that drove the early, destitute years of their first startup. Most don’t even try. A friend of mine had a great idea, raised money from his old investors, then took a three-week yachting trip. Another is often reported by his subordinates to be “golfing in outer space,” a catchphrase for exotic vacations that mere mortals could never afford.

Now for Guy Kawasaki’s points, I’ll publish some of his words, but you should read his entire article if you’re interested in the issue. Kawasaki’s article is one of the better supplements I’ve read on issues of advancing technology and business and the relationships between creative energy, innovation and the motivation that makes it happen.

My favorite points related to “the serial entrepreneur”

  1. Serial entrepreneurs don’t (or can’t) work as hard. When you have a 5,000 square foot house, a second house in Montana, a car made by a company whose name ends in “i,” a spouse, and kids, attitudes change. Indeed, attitudes should change or people never grow up. However, it’s one thing to work to survive and another to work for fulfillment. They can say they’re just as hungry this time, but the point is that no one had to ask if they were hungry the first time.
  2. Serial entrepreneurs don’t get smacked around enough. Life is good as a serial entrepreneur: they walk in, tell people that their last company was sold for a bazillion dollars, and now they’re starting another one,
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    and it’s a privilege and honor to invest. Who’s going to poke holes in their strategy when Sequioia, Kleiner Perkins, et al are issuing term sheets and ever lesser venture capitalist is sucking up? No one. And that’s too bad because they won’t get anyone checking their sanity.

  3. Serial entrepreneurs hire their buddies who were with them the first time. Thus, the entire founding team suffers from all the problems listed above. People who don’t know what they don’t know are few and far between, but a startup needs this kind of people to push the boundaries of what’s possible in what ways. Ignorance is not only bliss; it’s also empowering.

Take a look at the arguments, very simple:

  1. Serial entrepreneurs can’t or won’t work as hard once they’ve tasted success.
  2. Investors will throw money at them because they’ve “been there before…”
  3. ‘Teams’ working on multiple efforts are problematic… see #1, #2 above.

The process of self-discovery, motivation and purpose

As one of the budding “inexperienced entrepreneurs” – depending on how you define it – in the industry, I love reading Guy Kawasaki’s blog.

I feel connected to him because his words help me understand who I am and how my talents can be put to use. Like you, I have a hunger and burning desire to be the next silicon valley success story. Who wouldn’t want to be “that guy” (or gal). We all know that it isn’t enough to simply want to be the next Bill Gates or Steve Wozniak, you have to be a special kind of person to experience the American dream.

What makes you special, can you hack it in a pool of sharks?

I’ll tell you what makes me special and you can see if you fit the same mold or have similar thoughts. For starters, here’s a cheap one: I ‘just know’ I’ve got the makings of CEO / visionary. Without going through a laundry list of defining characteristics, do you have a reasonable self-confidence that is unshakable and arrived at logically based on what you’ve been able to accomplish in your lifetime? I rarely pay attention to arbitrary measures of the Self, I find that my psychological profile places me in good company. If you are a thinker, a creative genius or simply curious, you should take the “Myers-Briggs” test. The results can help you find out whether you are suited to embark on certain career paths. It’s obviously a guide more than anything, but I find it’s pretty accurate in predicting my actions and responses to certain stimuli. My result: ENTP personality and under some detailed analysis of the ENTP, it’s explained that this group tends to be comprised of entrepreneurs, politicians, engineers and lawyers. Sadly, this group also has a good amount of people who will never escape the lower rung of society because they simply aren’t wired like your average Joe and environment and genetics will play a role in their ultimate fate.

This subject is not an easy one to broach, so as I attempt to explain what moves young entrepreneurs and talented minds, forgive my tone of it offends you. Your intellect and mindset are key to your success. What drives you and how do good are you at interacting with people necessary to make your team or company successful? Do you have the makings of an entrepreneur and should you consider making the move and taking the plunge? It’s not an easy question to answer and you better be sure about it before you make the move.

You have to ask yourself what motivates you and drives your desire to “succeed?”

For me, it’s not just a desire to “make money”. The articles referenced above considered the financial motivation behind young entrepreneurs as compared to their post-success wealth. I have no doubt I’ll make it rain with one or more of my “brilliant” ideas, how about you? Before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s consider why? What is it about you that makes you special and ready for prime time?

What is your goal or post-success strategy? I know that my money will serve as a catalyst for bigger and better things, but it isn’t the end all be all to life, heck for many of us it’s just beginning. Ahh, ambition, what a beautiful thing. I don’t care about cars, big homes, living the lavish lifestyle and meeting with celebrities at the playboy mansion, do you? Damn, I have to admit that I had to think twice about that playboy mansion! Seriously, though, what I care about is achieving (relative) and stimulating my mind.

Beyond that, I also want to share my spirit with all who’d dare get close enough to my aura of optimism and obsessive desire to make it rain. If there’s anything you can learn from this exchange, remember that in order to crush the obstacles in your way, you need more than just ambition to be “successful”. Entrepreneurs are a special breed of human and unlike Guy and Glenn, above, I don’t include the “lucky bastards” in this class.

It’s not just about confidence, intelligence, creativity, it’s about the mind, psyche and personality.

Consider the jack-of-all-trades character that we like to frown upon in society. What happens when you give Mr. Jack an injection of passion, creative genius, and reason? When this happens, Jack becomes an ace-in-the-hole for budding young companies. The problem is that it’s difficult to find these people. The “master of none” in my view is a misnomer. In my world, we call them “dumb” or “untalented”, but to refer to Jack as a hopeless case is a mistake.

A true “jack of all trades” (Jack) probably became that way because of an overwhelming myriad interests and high level of intelligence. The only thing lacking from Jack’s arsenal is 1) time to master all trades, and believe me they would if they could, and 2) support or guidance that helps them channel their minds into their passion.

Do you fit the mold of the Visionary?

Throughout my life, I can tell you that my brain has explored just about every area of intellectual thought imaginable. Psychology and the mind are invaluable areas of study if you want to understand people and relationships, and you should want that. Ask yourself what distinguishes movers and shakers from dead weight or people that aren’t cut out for business? I’m convinced that 75% of the personality types out there are not well suited for the entrepreneur’s lifestyle. It’s crucial to seek out the talent that will propel your operation to the top and if judging character and drive isn’t “your thing”, then you have to find a way to make yourself discoverable for someone who does the psychology of business.

Engineers, lawyers and doctors are often great fits for the entrepreneurial spectrum to go along with the lifers (e.g. undergrad business, an MBA, and career in the industry). One problem tends to trip up the majority of would-be entrepreneurs. People who are forced to think entirely through the ‘logical’ looking glass are incapable of “stepping outside the box”. This is why I say you need a special brand of human for entrepreneurial work, but that’s a good thing. Bottom line: You need to figure out what your skills are and whether you are ready for the riskier, lonelier, but potentially more lucrative and exciting lifestyle that entrepreneurs lead.

Itola Author

is an Attorney and Entrepreneur from the Silicon Valley.
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1 Comment »

Comment by Gene Pomrenke
2010-12-29 05:42:18

Many thanks regarding your awsome post. I’ll keep an observation about your website, i allready added it to own list :)

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