Innovation and Entrepreneurship require Optimism

It has been an interesting few weeks… no? As a Entrepreneur and Innovator who left a comfortable job at a Fortune 500 Silicon Valley software company to follow the dream of starting my own company – I can tell you the last few weeks have been rough.

  • Will capital completely dry up?
  • Will any micro businesses form – and if they do will they still find enough value in the services cosinity provides?
  • How can I best conserve my resources for the next year (or God forbid 2 years) to catch the rebound?
  • Is there any way to protect my assets from my house and startup?

And most disturbingly – I’ve had to consider shelving cosinity all together to protect my personal assets and my family. You see there is a reason I’m approaching 40 and just now starting my first business.

When I was young – probably 3 or 4, it was about 1974 – I remember my parents both lost their jobs at the same time. Nothing shocking here – 1973/1974 were some tough economic times. It didn’t go well for us; we lost our house and just about everything else. My father had a paper route – I remember that because I used to go with him early in the morning to pick up the papers for his route. But my most distinct memory of that time was being in the car having a conversation with my parents about my jacket. It was winter in Minnesota and the zipper had broken on my jacket, but we couldn’t afford to buy a new one.

When I was 12 my father passed away – leaving us a $10,000 life insurance policy and a stack of debt. My mom – who made maybe 20k at the time – was left to raise 3 kids. There wasn’t a day that went by when money wasn’t a huge problem.

I’ve always wanted my own business. During college in Minnesota (or as I like to call it my misguided musician phase) I was the general manager of a family owned pizza joint. It was a great gig. It was owned by a father/son team who were both very italian and very eccentric – we simply called them Sr. and Jr.

Jr. became like a father to me. At one point helping me investigate the possibility of buying my own pizza joint in an adjacent suburb. You know that book – the one that says you learned everything you really need to know in kindergarten? Well I learned – nearly – everything I would ever need to know about running a business at that pizza joint. It is where I fell in love with doing all the things required to own and run small business.

It taught me the simple things that we – so often – in the Silicon Valley echo chamber seem to forget.

  • You have to make money – or you are going out of business.
  • The only asset you have that matters is your customers and their goodwill.
  • The only path to success is hard work.
  • Employees will work their butt off – provided they know what they are working for.

If you want to know or understand my motivations – put those two influences in a martini shaker and mix thoroughly.

more after the jump…

I’ve spent the first half of my career attempting to insure that I would never re-live my childhood. I’ve done whatever it took to succeed, excel and by doing so create financial stability. That meant putting my entrepreneurial aspirations on hold. It wasn’t about anything other than balancing risk. I knew that my time in Fortune 500 – often doing jobs I hated for bureaucrats with no vision – was the price I had to pay to have stability and to position myself and my family for my entrepreneurial future.

After years (man it seemed like a long time) I left my secure corporate job and founded cosinity.

Optimism:

I was – and still am – optimistic about cosinity; both the mission and the potential. Both entrepreneurship and innovation require optimism. Not blind optimism – but the kind of optimism that enables one to believe in the basic correctness of one’s ideas. The kind of optimism that makes us sure the lights will go on when we get home from a business trip at 1 am. The kind of optimism that makes us believe that intelligence, merit and hard work really do matter still.

I’m optimistic. I’m optimistic there will be capital available to fund sound businesses. I’m optimistic that Americans will continue to found small businesses. I’m optimistic that I’ll be able to pursue my entrepreneurial aspirations without sacrificing my financial stability.

I’m just much less optimistic than I was 2 months ago.

What we need isn’t a massive bailout of financial companies. What we need is a massive investment in people like me. We need to commit that the US will lead Research and Development; capital investment in small businesses; infrastructure for the 21st century.

What we need is optimism – and a big dose of Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Somebody want to bail that out?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s