"There is a place. Like no place on Earth. A land full of wonder, mystery, and danger! Some say to survive it: You need to be as mad as a hatter. Which luckily I am."
The quote above is from one of my favorite movies, Alice in Wonderland. If you did not know where this quote had come from, you would have guessed someone was describing the life of an entrepreneur in a startup. I believe it is why the tweet by Box.com founder, Aaron Levie also resonated with so many people.
Startups are for people that wanted to run marathons, cage fight, and hunt alligators, but were born with asthma.
— Aaron Levie (@levie) June 16, 2012
Ben Horowitz, high technology entrepreneur and co-founder of the venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, says the number one thing he looks for in an entrepreneur is courage. I believe that in order to have courage, you must also have unsinkable faith in yourself.
Being an entrepreneur is a bit like being Biblical Noah. Let's face it, this man was viewed by his peers as crazy and insane because he built a ship that was so large for his time no ship that size is documented again in history until the 19th century. The ship had no windows, no steering wheel or rudder and a door so big that no human could pull it shut. He was convincing people they had to build this massive boat because a great flood would wipe the earth. To put in tech perspective, this is similar tech blogger Robert Scoble telling his followers that Twitter was fast approaching ghost town thanks to Google+ and that we should all convert sooner rather than later. With Twitter's recent changes to third party applications, it will be interesting to see how Twitter evolves.
Now I am a believer, but even I have doubts about stories in the Bible and the future of Google+. How is it even possible that a ship this large would house a pair of every species on earth and weather a flood that would eventually kill everything else on earth. It's not a story you need to believe in order to take away the lessons it offers people crazy enough to be entrepreneurs.
First you must be crazy enough to build something out of nothing. Second, notice Noah's Ark was a minimum viable product. Who builds a massive boat without windows, a steering wheel or rudder? Startups have limited resources so you build a minimum viable product and then iterate according to what you learn from your first adventure seekers -- or as they call them in startup world, users. You know the ship, or product, would be so much better with windows, a rudder, and a steering wheel but without market validation of your core value proposition, the windows, rudder or steering wheel would have no impact on the final outcome.
Then comes faith. The door slams shut and Noah is stuck on this massive boat with thousands of animals for over a year not knowing what would happen or where the boat would end up, if the people and the animals would even survive. This is when an entrepreneur stares at the analytics dashboard to see if the adventurers even care about their crazy idea. The entreprenuer may even start to wonder, why they pursued this dream in the first place. And the only reasonable answer is: you actually are crazy -- just like Biblical Noah and the Mad Hatter.
One of Apple's most popular commercials comes from the Think Different campaign which reads:
Here's to the crazy ones,
The round pegs in the square holes.
The ones who see things differently.
They're not fond of rules
and they have no respect for the status quo.
You can quote them,
disagree with them,
glorify or vilify them.
About the only thing you can't do
is ignore them,
because they change things.
They push the human race forward.
And while some may see them as the crazy ones,
we see genius.
Because the people who are crazy enough to
think they can change the world
are the ones who do.
This commercial reasonated with millions of people because for those who are crazy, it validates that people who have faith in themselves, in their idea, or in something greater than themselves can be crazy enough to change the world. For those who are not crazy yet, they secretly wish they were crazy enough.
So I say this to all the entrepreneurs and wanna-be entrepreneurs in the world, may you be crazy and courageous enough to live a fearless life or more importantly, to live the life you have always imagined. Don't settle for the status quo. You will be glorified or vilified but the one thing you cannot be is ignored. Keep pushing forward because even if your startup fails, at the end of the day you can say, "I had courage" and not many people can say that about themselves.
My one wish for you is not to be content with this idea of achieving success, but that you may one day be crazy and courageous enough with your lives to exceed your own expectations and do something you did not think think you were capable of. That is my one wish.