I hate being called a serial entrepreneur, and the other day it happened again in a meeting a friend was setting up for me. I was introduced as, "My friend Fahad, the serial entrepreneur."
I don't want to be a serial anything. Including a serial success. One of my favorite Warren Buffet quotes is from a Bloomberg documentary in which he says, "If you're batting a thousand, you're playing in the minor leagues." I think what Mr. Buffet is trying to say here is that in order to be game changing, you must be willing to tackle problems that push the limits of entrepreneurial endurance; something which I find impossible if you're jumping from venture to venture every couple years.
Okay take a deep breath all you "serial entrepreneurs" out there. This may sound like a cheap shot, but let me explain a bit further what I mean. It's always difficult to build something great -- especially a company. Very difficult -- so most people, especially millennial's, try one start-up, do it for a couple years (if that), then quit when they realize it won't be a billion dollar company. Actually, most people quit when all the easy milestones in years one and two are reached (set up a corporation, get a domain, put up your first site, get some early investors, etc..)
Then reality hits them right on the chin, "Oh shit, I have to actually make money at this thing and it might take the next decade of my life." So what does this have to do with "serial" entrepreneurs? Most people view them as people who don't have what it takes to do something great so they achieve minor goals (if at all) and just leap from company to company. Is that a bad thing? Not necessarily. It depends on what their original goal was. Many people are perfectly content with these outcomes, but when you talk to me about entrepreneurship, you'll likely hear the same song and dance I've been doing since I was nine years old.
I want to educate the world and I want to use technology to do so.
I have no desire to build ten companies over the course of my life. I want to be known for doing one thing better than anyone else in my generation. That's it. Am I upset about the fact that I've started three companies already with one failing, one "making it", and another yet to be determined? No, I'm not upset because of how much I've learned. These lessons have been invaluable from one venture to the next. I think that's the response most people expect serial entrepreneurs to give, but in reality that isn't the initial motive when they start their companies, is it?
How many entrepreneurs have you met that said, "I'm starting a company to make money, but if it doesn't work out to my initial expectations, I'll accept the best possible price (if any), count it as a learning experience and move on." Do you think that's what Henry Ford was thinking when he started his first company? Rockefeller? Carnegie? Gates? Steve Jobs? No, no, no, no, and NO. Would people today have considered them "serial" entrepreneurs? By the pure definition of it - sure, but do you think they would have called themselves as such? Absolutely not.
All of these men (and countless women) throughout history who have transformed industries had a singular unifying focus on being absurdly successful at one thing. They didn't think about their businesses in terms of "learning experiences." Everything they did from one company to another was always focused on one major outcome. Whenever it looked like they were going from company to company early in their careers, they simply ran out of cash (in most instances), started a new company, got cash under those auspices, and continued their previous project. Most people don't think of their careers as one continuous stream of events under different corporate names.
I want to be like them when it's all said and done. I don't know if I'll ever have a win that big under my belt by the time I die, but I know building small companies over and over again is not my goal in life. I don't want a consolation prize. I hate losing and although it seems like I'm hating on "serial entrepreneurs", my objective in writing this post is to remind them that their goal wasn't a small win. It was massive, world changing, disruptive force of epic proportions and they shouldn't settle for anything less in their life.
I also want to emphasize that this type of lifestyle, one of immense focus in order to achieve great success isn't limited to entrepreneurs. This principle applies to anyone in any industry. Einstein, Tesla, Rowling, Winfrey, Edison, George Washington, Lincoln -- anyone who's transformed the way we think about a particular field face the same dilemma's, challenges, and opportunities as entrepreneurs do. And staying focused on one major outcome should always be the goal.