Posts Tagged ‘Risk’

There is a fine line between entrepreneurship & insanity*

June 2, 2009

“It is true that there is a fine line between entrepreneurship and insanity. Crazy people see and feel things that others don’t. But you have to believe that everything is possible. If you believe it, those around you will believe it too.” Anita Roddick *


The Mad Hatter from Lewis Carroll’s
Alice in Wonderland (Sir John Tenniel,
1865. Wood-engraving by Dalziel)

Many of my  friends think I’m as Mad as a Hatter! I gave up a well paid stable job to pursue hare brained ideas. And I continue to spend ever increasing amounts of money without return. They say, “I just don’t understand.” or “it makes no sense.” Not many people working in comfortable jobs seem to understand. They see only danger and risk. However I don’t see it as risk but as opportunity.

The academics say entrepreneurs don’t see their actions as taking risks. The entrepreneur sees their decisions as calculated judgements. “isn’t it a risk staying in your job year after year” I heard. My more sympathetic friends tell me how brave I am having a startup, especially with a young family. In fact, people have been telling me how ‘Brave’ I am for years. Like when I moved to London OR when I left a well paid job in London to go traveling for a year.  “I wish I could do that”. Well you can!! Live your dreams and don’t let fear rule you.

Are entrepreneurs mad or unstable? Is there something  more sinister lurking in the mind of startup entrepreneurs? I think not. Insanity, craziness or madness is described in Wikipedia as “the behavior whereby a person flouts societal norms and defective function of mental reasoning”. As Anita Roddick put it so well- entrepreneurship is about beliveing and seeing things that others don’t.” Its having a dream of how things can be. This is the Successful Product dream Simon, my co-founder and I are chasing with our website monitoring startup:


Understand the Risks, from Tim Berry’s
Hurdle: the Book on Business Planning

We dream of building something great! A consultancy service is less risky and brings immediate revenues but has a smaller upside. Whereas the product startup needs more time and has much greater risks but also massive potential rewards.

We can all dream of a brighter and grander future. Martin Luth King had a “dream” which is now coming to fruition. Entrepreneurs see a clear pathway into an uncertain future and are prepared to pursue that dream with vigor and determination. Doubters will only believe in entrepreneurs dream when they see it forming into reality. It just takes time before an idea starts to become real.

A final thought:There’s a fine line between genius and insanity. I have erased this line.”(Oscar Levant, 1906 – 1972). To truly create we must leave convention, the norm and even reality behind. For a while at least 😉


The Lucky Entrepreneur: How to make your own luck

February 24, 2009

Last week I gave a half day briefing to 30 Entrepreneurship MBA students on identifying entrepreneurial opportunities (see my Slideshare presentation and blog post). Feedback on my presentation was positive and two of the students even put comments on this blog. One of them referred to the need for ‘Lady luck’. Since then I’ve been thinking about the meaning of being lucky and how one becomes lucky.


The Lucky Irish Leprecon & his pot of Gold

Until now I’ve not thought much about luck in life.  I have had a lucky life so far but things can always change. I now need all the luck I can get with a new a startup (50% of startups fail within 5 years) and we are now in a deep recession (depression..!).

What is luck? When asked about the secret of their successes I’ve heard of founder’s or senior managers saying they were lucky. However some people seem to have all the bad luck with many things in life going against them. What’s the difference between these two types of people:

  1. Hard work? A focused and committed effort on achieving a goal reduces the risk of failure and increases the likelihood of success
  2. Random chance? I don’t believe in chance – There is no such thing as chance; and what seem to us merest accident springs from the deepest source of destiny.Johann Friedrich Von Schi
  3. Being in the right time in the right place? Fait, coincidence or destiny you may call it. If you are determined and locate yourself often enough in the right place where thing can happen, they eventually will.
  4. Seeing the positive and making the most of the negative? Those people with the streaks of bad luck in life seem to struggle to find the difficult times, which we all encounter, as ultimately beneficial. It seems unlucky people often wallow in self pity and reflect on the past. Whereas positive (lucky) people see a brighter future.
  5. Being modest about your own achievements and efforts? This is an interesting one.. Lucky people seem often to be modest about their success. They attract other lucky (positive) people around them which results in more luck (success)! But its not luck, it’s a deep understanding of other people . Lucky people don’t seem to have bloated ego’s. Their interested  in others and not in being self obsessed.

At my talk I referred to the need to reduce risk in business. However risk and taking chances can’t be eliminated altogether. You can become paralyzed if  you don’t go for it at some point. ‘Screw it, lets do it’ as Richard Branson likes to say. Luck is about reaching a positive outcome. It’s based upon probability and probability is the assessment of a measured risks. Louis Pasteur said “Chance favours the prepared mind.” and Ernest Hemingway, “You make your own luck”.

I believe there is much truth in these two statements and becoming a lucky person is combination of the five points listed above. Richard Wiseman, head of a University psychology research department, studied lucky people for 8 years and found very similar attitudes in lucky people. I hope luck shines on us all and shines brightly when we really need it, including my little startup :)