As business starters, Dave and I were under no illusion that anybody owed us anything (investment or business) or that we were important in any way.
We started with the two of us in the corner of our condo and grew, person by person, sale by sale. Most of the people we know who have started businesses have the mindset that they will keep plugging away at their idea and, perhaps over time, it will grow into something. It is only with the benefit of hindsight that one can see the development of a successful business, how it grew into something larger and/or significant.
Statistics clearly show that the largest part of the economy is made up of small businesses, not the multinationals that people recognize for their global brands and positions. Big businesses have to come from somewhere – all were at some point small and unimportant with little clue as to their later prominence. H-P came out of a garage in Silicon Valley as did Apple. McDonald’s had a humble and inauspicious beginning as a single restaurant.
Some businesses start small and stay small. Some businesses start up and fail. Others start up and grow like wildfire Good people and good ideas often don’t hit the big-time. Seemingly less able people create businesses of enduring success. Good luck and bad luck seem to strike at random. Opportunity knocks in some cases and evaporates in others.
For me, what’s most important thing is the mindset that allows a person to dare to take a risk to start a business and the learning that comes from the starting-up process. Most people are not successful with their first idea or even business, so having the mindset to try again with another idea or to keep iterating and improving the initial idea is critical.
My takeaway from our failed meeting with the VC has everything to do with how I engage with entrepreneurs today. I appreciate their attitudes and efforts. I try to never disrespect that they are attempting something difficult even as I see opportunities for improvement. I can share insights and perspectives, but I hope to never preach. I respect how hard it is to make decisions and take action with less-than-perfect information.
I also think about what some call the intrapreneurs – the innovators within companies, the people who bring forward new ideas. They, too, deserve respect for their creativity, looking differently at a situation and the articulation of new ideas. Their persistence at working on ideas, in the face of internal and market rejection, deserves appreciation. There’s something to the old saying “If you want to get a good idea, get a lot of ideas,” and the getting lots of ideas has a lot to do with how those ideas are received.
And the VCs? They will continue to sit in judgment of new businesses and investment opportunities. Time and the market will prove them right or wrong in their assessment of a business’s potential. They have their role, because they have the powerful vote of money.
But, money doesn’t do a lot without ideas, and that means that dreamers, imagineers and entrepreneurs are an indispensable part of the equation. A little respect can go a long way in keeping the ideas flowing – and it’s free.