We now come to the final installment from my eavesdropping on a fascinating conversation—in the after-hours of the first evening of a recent entrepreneurship conference—between Dr. Abraham, a world-weary experienced entrepreneur, and a young, energetic hot venture capitalist named Doug.
The first part of the conversation covered the fact that 80 to 90 percent of startups fail, despite anyone’s best efforts. Next, it went through exactly why they fail; it became very obvious that despite statements to the contrary, not everyone is cut out to be an entrepreneur. After that, Dr. Abraham elaborated on the first vital element of a startup business. Then, they argued over the difference between entrepreneurship and management. Next, they discussed the second most vital element for a startup—it’s capital.
It had gotten late, and both Dr. Abraham and Doug were nearly ready to retire. “But,” Dr. Abraham said, “Before we go, there is one more point I’d like to make.”
“Please,” said Doug.
“A real entrepreneur is basically engaged in 2 primary activities: perceiving a need within the business world, in society or a particular sector of society; and then meeting that need through the creation of a product or service.
“If you really take a close look, that is what the public is paying that entrepreneur to do. And when an entrepreneur is successful, it means they are doing all of that better—to a greater or lesser degree—than their competitors. Sometimes they do it so well they change our whole world. In any case, that is the entrepreneur’s basic, intrinsic strength.”
“I see what you’re saying,” Doug said. “An entrepreneur, when they’re good, possess the innate and unique ability to both perceive a need and imagine a solution for it.”
“That’s correct. And when they’re really great at it, they’re presenting real value to the public—a value that will be instantly understood.”
“I think that inner strength would also affect the rest of their company,” Doug said.
“Absolutely. Employees tap right into that strength and inspiration, because they can see what it’s really worth. It creates a respect for the entrepreneur, the product or service, and a self-respect within the employees themselves.
“And once again, it comes back to the question of an art or a craft: Is this ability an art, or a craft?” Dr. Abraham gestured to Doug. “What do you think?”
Doug thought a moment and then said, “Well, based on everything you’ve said tonight, I’m going to say it’s an art, because it’s not something that can be taught.”
“That’s right. It’s an innate ability—something that some people have more than others.”
“So maybe this isn’t even a worthwhile question, or one meant for another, much more philosophical discussion, but do you have any ideas about where such an ability comes from?”
Dr. Abraham smiled. “People have been arguing about that for centuries. Originally such high inspiration was thought to come from outside the person—from God, an angel or a spirit. Later in history the entire responsibility was placed on the shoulders of the individual themselves. Today, though, we’re not so sure.
“A fantastic TED talk by Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of Eat, Pray, Love, took this subject up and, I think, shed some fascinating light on it. You should have a look and perhaps decide for yourself where we gain great inspiration.”
Doug smiled. “I will.”
Dr. Abraham stood, and held out his hand. “It’s been a pleasure, and I hope I’ve been helpful.”
Doug also stood, and took Dr. Abraham’s hand. “It certainly has. Thank you so much for the insight.”
Dr. Abraham shrugged. “I always tell anyone I teach or help, ‘Take what you can use, and leave the rest.’ I’d advise you to do the same.”
“Oh, I think there’s a lot I will use!” Doug said.
“Well, that’s good! Good night, then.”