You Talkin to Me?

Update: The post was republished on

As a youngster growing up I did not know I wanted to be an “entrepreneur”.  In fact I didn’t even know what one was.  It’s kind of a weird, unintuitive word.  But even as small children I think we can tell the difference between a Pirate and a peon.  Early on I just  knew I wanted to do something different, something bigger.  I knew it the first time I saw Tony Montana scorch the earth building an empire in the movie Scarface.  If you are reading this as an entrepreneur, you probably remember your early entrepreneurial feelings as well.

@ev, @jack, Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos, Reid Hoffman, Larry and Sergey, Marc Andreessen and many others – I have incredible respect for you.  Not many will do what you have done and maybe one day we can connect, hopefully some of that can rub off on me.  But I ain’t talkin to you.

I’m talking to the rest of y’all – the other 98%.   You at your desk hoping your boss doesn’t catch you reading Business Insider at work… again.   No need to close the tab, he probably hasn’t seen yet.  And you, reading this on your phone at the restaurant as you wait for your significant other to come back from the bathroom.  Go ahead and finish reading, I assure you they’ll be glad you’re reading a tech blog and not secretly texting someone else.  And yes, you laying in bed reading this on your ipad, you are just trying to squeeze in one last article before you go to bed.

How do I know you are all doing this?  Cause I am one of you.  I’ve done all those things and more.   I have wanted it so bad I couldn’t sleep at night.  Like you I have also put years into my own vision only to come up short on the latest attempt.  Like you I lived a double life, straddling the fence of trying to successfully launch a side project and lacking the cajones to let go of stability in a day job.  Somewhere along the line I found myself living a lie – vicariously living as an entrepreneur but not actually acting and doing like real entrepreneurs should.   That life sucks and I am done with it.

Yes, it’s a great time to be an entrepreneur and things once again seem to be bubbling.  Venture investments are up.  Valuations are rising.  IPO’s are starting to pop again.   With all this talk of Bubbles, IPO’s, Frothiness, and “it’s different this time”, I just have one question for you: What you gonna do now?

Because here is the truth for most of us:

1) We’ve never launched a successful product. We only wished we had.

2) We’ve never succeeded in raising venture capital, because of number 1.

3) Even though things are frothy, this will not change the numbers game.  Our odds of launching a successful product and raising VC are still going to be slim to none.

Well Tony would say eff the odds.  Tony said eff to everything and everybody.  He knew where he was going and nobody was going to stop him.  Regardless how you feel about the word (my apologies), I think it’s a great perspective.  Tony was the quintessential entrepreneur – purposeful, driven, headstrong and at times ruthless.  When he set his mind to something, you pretty much knew he was going to get it.  Great entrepreneurs look odds straight in the face, laugh, and then get back to work.

But what about Captain Jack?

I don’t care if you’re a billionaire. If you haven’t started a company, really gambled your resume and your money and maybe even your marriage to just go crazy and try something on your own, you’re no pirate and you aren’t in the club.

I about jumped out of my skin when I read those words written by Michael Arrington on Techcrunch a few months back.  It chilled me to the bone and was pure poetic justice at a time when I was really needing to hear it.   I wish I would have cut it out, put it in my pocket and showed it to anyone who asked why I was leaving my “stable and dependable” job.  Most people just don’t get how exotic and intoxicating being an entrepreneur really is.  I think Tony Montana would second Michael’s statement as well.

Although I agree with Arrington and his version of Captain Jack Sparrow, I feel Tony is a better depiction of a pure entrepreneur.  Strip away the guns, drugs and violence and you have a great example in Tony Montana.  He has the dedication.  He has the attitude.  He has the street smarts.  He has the charm.  He has the willingness to risk.  In him you have someone so committed to his vision he was willing to die for it.  Love him or hate him, we need more leaders as committed as Tony.

So here’s what we need to do:

Realize you are – YOU.   The best way to beat the numbers game is to be unique.  You cannot be the next Mark Zuckerberg, Ried Hoffman or Steve Jobs.  You were given your own unique vision.  Execute it.  Zuck was given the vision of a world wide social network.  That’s great for him (and for us to use).  But go do something different.  I think of Zaarly or Square.  Andrew Mason figured out how to make daily coupons cool again.  Awesome, think of something farther ahead like what LOCQL, a start up here in Seattle is doing.  Who knows, maybe back when Zuck, Hoffman, and Jobs were getting started they secretly wanted to be the next Bill Gates, Andy Grove or Thomas Edison.   But of course, they couldn’t and didn’t.  So they became the best versions of themselves and subsequently created the world you now live in.  Read that last sentence again…

Channel your inner Tony Montana.  One of the most interesting aspects of the movie Scarface is how it touches on both the light and dark sides of humanity, capitalism and wealth.  Most people who watch the movie see the obvious flaws in Tony.  But more subtle is the notion that we all have the capacity to think and act in this way.  You too have a little bit of Tony fire in your belly.  You also have the choice to use your competitive edge for the better of humanity, not the worse.  Channeling your drive, determination and what-ever-it-takes attitude will lead you to make a positive dent in the universe.  This is more important that you might think.  Although I have yet to raise a round of VC, I am pretty sure investors would rather have someone walk in their office with a Tony-esk chip on their shoulder talking about taking over the world than see (another!?) demo of a new twist on a social application which also shares groupons.   Mark Suster is so right – “There are so many big inefficiencies in this country that need tackling. I feel quite comfortable that our bars & restaurant industry will be just fine.” 

Find something you are willing to die for.  No, I don’t mean head out the door with machine gun in hand ready to do battle with anyone who criticizes your next idea.  But I am suggesting you find something so grand in vision you will spend the rest of your life making it come true.   In my humble opinion, this is the key to being successful – a driving purpose.  Simon Sinek taught me to Start With Why.  Read this book and you will discover true greatness is not about copying the next social sharing feature.  It’s about inspiring society to move forward with truly crazy ideas that have a larger purpose.  Trust me – Bezos, Jobs, Edison, Larry and Sergey… these guys would tell you the same thing.

It’s a great time to be an entrepreneur.  Shall we not let this time in history be remembered only as the “Social Bubble”.  I think there’s more within all of us.

Yeah I am talking to you…. you with me?