I’ve just returned from the e10 (sounds like yes-sir), which is part of the international entrepreneurship week. In this unconference, the content of the talks was decided by the audience. In fact, anyone who wanted could come up and talk about anything that interested them for 10 minutes, including questions from the crowd.
The Fourth Quadrant
I want to thank everyone who went up to the stage and shared with us his or her idea. It takes tremendous amounts of courage (I failed to overcome my fear and sat quietly on the benches), especially if you aren’t a professional speaker. Here’s a breakdown of the population, in the familiar four quadrant style chart:
- The Code Monkey, or The Employee, does what he’s told. He has worked for other people his entire life, and now is looking for something more. What stops the employee is fear: fear of failing, fear of loss of income, fear of the unknown. What I’ve seen it a lot, is people who are trying to break through the fear of freedom and responsibility. Worse than fear of failing, is the burden of making decisions and being responsible, in conditions of great uncertainty. In e10 I’ve seen those who try to move from here to the Scientist quadrant, they are studying entrepreneurship, reading blogs and books, but are not practicing it yet.
- The Scientist, or The Artist, has the idea. He tries to innovate and execute ideas in unconventional ways. The Scientist is the diamond in the rough. To e10 came those who are trying to build something new, to push their idea through to the market. They are trying to be The Rock Star.
- The Salesman, or The Consultant, has no idea, but can sell it like a truck. When he talks, you can believe water is more expensive than gold, and sand is more valuable than diamonds. But they can’t make gold and diamonds (or water and sand, for that matter). They can help you sell your idea, but they have none of their own.
- The Rock Star, or The Entrepreneur, is the golden boy of e10. He has the idea, and he can sell it in 10 minutes. He wants to change the world. He’s also very rare. Most of us can only aspire to be The Entrepreneur, but are not there yet. An interesting thing about them, though, is that on some of them you can still see the stretch marks. They were not born rock stars. They’ve worked hard to get there, and they’ve stretched themselves to do it. The effort is still evident, and that inspires me tremendously. It is possible to make your way across the board.
What’s common to most people in e10 is that they are trying to raise their game, trying to move to a higher weight class. The only exception, I think, are the salesmen. Most of them just tried to sell you on why you really must have a salesman on your team, and here’s my business card.
But the rest are struggling to make a difference, to create, to push through, to become better than they are. They are trying to change the world, even if for now they only change themselves.
I’ve compiled a quick overview of the subjects that were discussed today. Most of the notes are associative, and they represent what I’ve learned and how it connects to the world as I understand it. If you were at the conference, you may have experienced it differently. Feel free to leave a note in the comments.
Learning is a Process
Just over six months ago, I’ve started on this entrepreneurial road, and most of this time I’ve spent on moving from being the employee to being the scientist. This should have been easy for me, because I’ve spent the last six years pushing innovation as a researcher in BigCo. However, I quickly realized the differences between innovating within the framework of a BigCo and truly owning an idea, end to end. Five months ago, I couldn’t explaining my idea to myself, let alone to others. Four months ago, I felt that when I left the room after a meeting, everybody I’ve just met laughed at me behind my back. Three months ago, I started thinking of how I could leverage failure in my resume. My partner pushed me through. Last week we had a meeting with a VC, and for the first time ever, it didn’t suck.
Still very (very) far from Rock Star, it was clear we are making progress. Huge progress. Today, at e10, I found people where I was half a year ago, and where I hope to be in a few years. I saw how much I’ve learned in such a short period. I also saw how much I still have to go. It’s OK. Learning is a process. It’ll take time for you too, but you can learn it. Nobody is born a rock star.