Ben Horowitz believes that both brilliance and courage make for a successful entrepreneur. Honesty and integrity follow from courage.
Making his remarks at a recent DLD conference, Horowitz is a venture capitalist and knows something about entrepreneurism, innovation, and funding the businesses that make progress for all people in a capitalist system.
An entrepreneur himself as a founding partner of Andreessen Horowitz, he pointed to the courage required to turn away bad ideas and the brilliance required to turn them into good ones.
Horowitz pointed also to the entrepreneurial icons of our time, specifically citing Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, and Larry Ellison.
All of them left the comfort of their colleges for the uncertainty of developing their dreams. Each deserted what others might have labeled their paths to success. Their successes were not to be found in ivy schools and advanced degrees. Low regard for a liberal arts college education marks an entrepreneurial characteristic.
Successful entrepreneurs learn for themselves what they need to know to grow a business. They learn by doing and do to learn. Entrepreneurial brilliance discerns useful learnings from useless knowledge. Why waste precious time on what doesn’t work in business?
To the list of entrepreneurs, I would add Peter Thiel, founder of the widely used and wildly successful online payment manager, Paypal. To make the point, Thiel offered “scholarships” for students to drop out of college and work at his company. This gives new meaning to learning by doing and doing to learn what it takes to do business successfully.
Another entrepreneurial quality is ignoring barriers put in the way, particularly by governments. Business development encounters all kinds of restrictions, regulations, requirements, prohibitions, bans, laws, licensing, taxation, penalties, approvals, reviews, encumbrances, and other inhibitions that could kill a business in its infancy.
Successful entrepreneurs manage their way around, over, or through these barriers to business and do it in ways that bespeak their brilliance for creative solutions.
While others bemoan their fate as “Oh, I can’t do that,” the successful entrepreneur says, “Yes, I can” despite growing impediments for conducting new and small business enterprise in the U.S.
Business speakers can then talk about entrepreneurial brilliance and courage at conferences while customers across the nation run to buy their products. Everybody, including the economy, wins.
Too bad it’s not like that much anymore.