Saturday, 27 August 2016

Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish

The greatest entrepreneur speech ever:

“Today I want to tell you three stories from my life. That’s it. No big deal. Just three stories.

The first story is about connecting the dots.

I dropped out of Reed College after the first 6 months, but then stayed around as a drop-in for another 18 months or so before I really quit. So why did I drop out?

It started before I was born. My biological mother was a young, unwed college graduate student, and she decided to put me up for adoption. She felt very strongly that I should be adopted by college graduates, so everything was all set for me to be adopted at birth by a lawyer and his wife. Except that when I popped out they decided at the last minute that they really wanted a girl.

So my parents, who were on a waiting list, got a call in the middle of the night asking: “We have an unexpected baby boy; do you want him?” They said: “Of course.” My biological mother later found out that my mother had never graduated from college and that my father had never graduated from high school. She refused to sign the final adoption papers. She only relented a few months later when my parents promised that I would someday go to college.

And 17 years later I did go to college. But I naively chose a college that was almost as expensive as Stanford, and all of my working-class parents’ savings were being spent on my college tuition.

After six months, I couldn’t see the value in it. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and no idea how college was going to help me figure it out. And here I was spending all of the money my parents had saved their entire life.

So I decided to drop out and trust that it would all work out OK. It was pretty scary at the time, but looking back it was one of the best decisions I ever made. The minute I dropped out I could stop taking the required classes that didn’t interest me, and begin dropping in on the ones that looked interesting.

It wasn’t all romantic. I didn’t have a dorm room, so I slept on the floor in friends’ rooms, I returned Coke bottles for the 5¢ deposits to buy food with, and I would walk the 7 miles across town every Sunday night to get one good meal a week at the Hare Krishna temple. I loved it. And much of what I stumbled into by following my curiosity and intuition turned out to be priceless later on. Let me give you one example:

Reed College at that time offered perhaps the best calligraphy instruction in the country. Throughout the campus every poster, every label on every drawer, was beautifully hand calligraphed. Because I had dropped out and didn’t have to take the normal classes,

I decided to take a calligraphy class to learn how to do this. I learned about serif and sans serif typefaces, about varying the amount of space between different letter combinations, about what makes great typography great. It was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science can’t capture, and I found it fascinating.

None of this had even a hope of any practical application in my life. But 10 years later, when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me. And we designed it all into the Mac. It was the first computer with beautiful typography. If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts.

And since Windows just copied the Mac, it’s likely that no personal computer would have them. If I had never dropped out, I would have never dropped in on this calligraphy class, and personal computers might not have the wonderful typography that they do. Of course it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college. But it was very, very clear looking backward 10 years later.

Again, you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.

My second story is about love and loss.

I was lucky — I found what I loved to do early in life. Woz and I started Apple in my parents’ garage when I was 20. We worked hard, and in 10 years Apple had grown from just the two of us in a garage into a $2 billion company with over 4,000 employees. We had just released our finest creation — the Macintosh — a year earlier, and I had just turned 30. And then I got fired.

How can you get fired from a company you started? Well, as Apple grew we hired someone who I thought was very talented to run the company with me, and for the first year or so things went well. But then our visions of the future began to diverge and eventually we had a falling out. When we did, our Board of Directors sided with him.

So at 30 I was out. And very publicly out. What had been the focus of my entire adult life was gone, and it was devastating.

I really didn’t know what to do for a few months. I felt that I had let the previous generation of entrepreneurs down — that I had dropped the baton as it was being passed to me. I met with David Packard and Bob Noyce and tried to apologize for screwing up so badly.

I was a very public failure, and I even thought about running away from the valley. But something slowly began to dawn on me — I still loved what I did. The turn of events at Apple had not changed that one bit. I had been rejected, but I was still in love. And so I decided to start over.

I didn’t see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.

During the next five years, I started a company named NeXT, another company named Pixar, and fell in love with an amazing woman who would become my wife. Pixar went on to create the world’s first computer animated feature film, Toy Story, and is now the most successful animation studio in the world. In a remarkable turn of events, Apple bought NeXT, I returned to Apple, and the technology we developed at NeXT is at the heart of Apple’s current renaissance. And Laurene and I have a wonderful family together.

I’m pretty sure none of this would have happened if I hadn’t been fired from Apple. It was awful tasting medicine, but I guess the patient needed it. Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don’t lose faith. I’m convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You’ve got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers.

Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.

My third story is about death.

When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: “If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.” It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.

Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure — these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.

About a year ago I was diagnosed with cancer. I had a scan at 7:30 in the morning, and it clearly showed a tumor on my pancreas. I didn’t even know what a pancreas was. The doctors told me this was almost certainly a type of cancer that is incurable, and that I should expect to live no longer than three to six months.

My doctor advised me to go home and get my affairs in order, which is doctor’s code for prepare to die. It means to try to tell your kids everything you thought you’d have the next 10 years to tell them in just a few months. It means to make sure everything is buttoned up so that it will be as easy as possible for your family. It means to say your goodbyes.

I lived with that diagnosis all day. Later that evening I had a biopsy, where they stuck an endoscope down my throat, through my stomach and into my intestines, put a needle into my pancreas and got a few cells from the tumor. I was sedated, but my wife, who was there, told me that when they viewed the cells under a microscope the doctors started crying because it turned out to be a very rare form of pancreatic cancer that is curable with surgery. I had the surgery and I’m fine now.

This was the closest I’ve been to facing death, and I hope it’s the closest I get for a few more decades. Having lived through it, I can now say this to you with a bit more certainty than when death was a useful but purely intellectual concept:

No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

When I was young, there was an amazing publication called The Whole Earth Catalog, which was one of the bibles of my generation. It was created by a fellow named Stewart Brand not far from here in Menlo Park, and he brought it to life with his poetic touch. This was in the late 1960s, before personal computers and desktop publishing, so it was all made with typewriters, scissors and Polaroid cameras. It was sort of like Google in paperback form, 35 years before Google came along: It was idealistic, and overflowing with neat tools and great notions.

Stewart and his team put out several issues of The Whole Earth Catalog, and then when it had run its course, they put out a final issue. It was the mid-1970s, and I was your age. On the back cover of their final issue was a photograph of an early morning country road, the kind you might find yourself hitchhiking on if you were so adventurous. Beneath it were the words: “Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.” It was their farewell message as they signed off. Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish. And I have always wished that for myself. And now, as you graduate to begin anew, I wish that for you.

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.”

Steve Jobs,
Stanford University Commencement address,
June 2005

How do you make a mark?

How do you make a mark with a new company in a competitive market? How did Facebook reach its first $100 million mark in revenue?

The answer may surprise you - and change the way you think about your own business strategy.

In 2006, Mark Zuckerberg and his team were more focused on coding Facebook than growing revenue. Mark hired Dan Rose from Jeff Bezo’ as “VP of Business Development” to help grow revenue.

Dan had learned from Jeff Bezos that one big partnership can make all the difference to revenues. He watched Myspace start doing big deals in the grand style of it’s new Deal Maker owner, Rupert Murdoch. The problem was, Facebook was growing, but was not as big or as established as Myspace yet, so its marketing partnerships were still small.

Within a month of Dan joining Facebook, in August 2006, everything changed. Myspace announced a $900 million deal with Google. Myspace had the traffic, and Google had the ad network. It was a perfect partnership where Google would manage Myspace’s ads, and that deal single-handedly made Myspace profitable.

Dan Rose asked “Who has the most to lose from this deal?” The answer was Bill Gates’ Microsoft MSN ad network, which had lost out to their arch rival Google. Dan jumped on the phone to Microsoft, and asked them if they wanted a similar deal with Facebook. Microsoft’s answer? “Okay, we’ll be down there tomorrow to iron it out.”

That one deal, wrapped up 24 hours later, doubled Facebook’s revenues in 2006 from a forecast $22 million to over $40 million. The year after, the Microsoft deal was worth over $100 million in revenue to Facebook.

One phone call to solve Microsoft’s problem - which was not wanting to lose to Google - led to Facebook’s first $100 million.

Sometimes to win the war, it’s easier to help others fight their battles than to fight your own. Sometimes their battles are much bigger than yours.

Who would you love to work with who would want to have you in their corner? Who could you be helping to win big today?

The fastest way to find out? Bring in someone with inside knowledge - Inside knowledge that’s outside the box.

“If opportunity doesn't knock, build a door.”
~ Milton Berle


Steve Jobs’ Top 10 rules of thumb

Great entrepreneurs don’t use rule books, but they do use rules of thumb:

Rule books are fixed. Rules of thumb are flexible.
Rule books put you in a box. Rules of thumb point you on a path.
Rule books instruct you. Rules of thumb inspire you.

All the ingredients of fast-growing companies - Creativity, culture, talent, team and trust - grow with the guidance of the right rules of thumb.

Here’s Steve Jobs’ Top 10:

Rule 1 - “Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected.”

Rule 2 - “Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.”

Rule 3 - “One of my mantras - focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex.”

Rule 4 - “My model for business is The Beatles. They were four guys who kept each other’s kind of negative tendencies in check. They balanced each other and the total was greater than the sum of the parts. That’s how I see business: great things in business are never done by one person, they’re done by a team of people.”

Rule 5 - “Sometimes when you innovate, you make mistakes. It is best to admit them quickly, and get on with improving your other innovations.”

Rule 6 - “The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking.”

Rule 7 - “For the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: ‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?’ And whenever the answer has been ‘No’ for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.”

Rule 8 - “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.”

Rule 9 - “Overthinking leads to negative thoughts”

Rule 10 - “Stay hungry, stay foolish.”

When you throw away the rule book, and write down your rules of thumb, you’re writing down your guiding principles. They give you a simple compass to follow instead of a complex map to remember. What are yours?

Would you give all your money away? This Person did

Would you give all your money away? If so, where? This is the extraordinary story of Chuck Feeney, who finally achieves his 34 year mission of going from $8 billion to broke this year.

2016 is the year his Foundation gives the last of his money away. In the process, he has become the hero of Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, who said “Chuck has set an example not only for people of my age but also younger generations. He will be an example 100 years from now or 200 years from now.”

“He is my hero. He is Bill Gates’ hero. He should be everybody’s hero.”

Here’s Chuck’s 3 steps to making, and giving away $8 billion.


Chuck was born into a poor, Irish family during the Great Depression in 1931. He shovelled snow and sold Christmas cards door-to-door as a kid to make money to take home. While young and in poverty, he read Andrew Carnegie’s classic essay, “The Gospel of Wealth”.

Andrew Carnegie’s essay was a revolutionary call for those who create wealth to live modestly, and to give all their excess wealth to support others while still alive: “Giving while living.”

The words touched him so deeply, Chuck decided at that moment that he would dedicate his life to create wealth to give away, saying “I want the last cheque I write to bounce.”


As a teenager, Chuck joined the US airforce during the Korean War. He got to see first hand the difficulty servicemen had in getting the products they wanted from home. So he set up a business to import and sell them the goods they wanted. He found a way to sell them without duty, by setting up stores on the air-side of airports and his company, Duty Free Shoppers took off.

Ever bought anything from a DFS shop at an airport? That’s Chuck’s company.

But from the early days, Chuck had already set up his company so that all the proceeds went into his foundation, the Atlantic Philanthropies, so the money the company made could be given away each year. The money has gone into causes around the world in health, education and human rights.

When Chuck sold DFS in 1996, his Foundation took all the money from the sale, and committed to spend everything within 20 years - by 2016. By the time it gives the last of his money away, it will have given away $8 billion.


What about Chuck? Surely he has kept enough aside to live in luxury? Today, at 85 years old, Chuck does not own a home or a car. He still famously wears a watch he bought for $15, and he carries his papers in a plastic bag.

Chuck says “I always tried to live my life as though nothing changed. People would say, 'You can have a Rolls-Royce'. I'd say to that, 'What do I want with a Rolls-Royce when I can have a bike?’"

Instead of measuring his success by his level of money in the bank, he measures it by his level of happiness: “People used to ask me how I got my jollies, and I guess I'm happy when what I'm doing is helping people and unhappy when what I'm doing isn't helping people.”

2016 marks the end of Chuck’s giving, but just the beginning of his legacy. His story inspired Bill Gates to also give all his money away, and to launch the Giving Pledge, which now has 142 of the World’s Billionaires pledging to give the majority of their wealth away while alive - including Richard Branson, Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk, Tim Cook, Warren Buffett and many more.

Bill Gates credits Chuck for the new age of giving, saying “Chuck Feeney is a remarkable role model, and the ultimate example of giving while living.”

As you begin another week, how would things change if you were to know everything you make will be given away to a cause far bigger than yourself?

Where would you contribute the money you are yet to make?

How would it change your sense of purpose and determination?

Make that decision now so you can focus at money flowing through you, not to you.

“There’s a limit to what you can get. There’s no limit to what you can give.”

Do you believe in luck?

Do you believe in luck? Here’s the incredible story of 34-year old William Tanuwijaya, who has created Indonesia’s first Billion dollar ‘Unicorn’, and the lucky set of coincidences that led to him raising $100 million when he most needed it…

When he became a teenager, Williams’ father sent him on a one way ticket from Sumatra to Jakarta with the family’s savings, hoping he’d end up with a better life.

William enrolled in a college and for three years worked 12 hour night shifts in an Internet cafe to pay for his tuition. Using his nights exploring the Internet, he got inspired to start his company, Tokopedia, as the first online marketplace for Indonesia in 2009.

The good news? From day one, Tokopedia started growing. The bad news? There was no startup funding scene in Indonesia at the time.

William remembers the struggle as he visited potential investors: “I was told ’William, don’t waste your time. The guys who started Amazon, Facebook and Google, they are special people. Unfortunately, you are not.’”

William said, “I decided right then that I will never give up on myself.”

He picked up a small investment from a company that invested in mining companies, giving him time to look for more. Then, five long years after launch, in 2014, luck struck. Within less than a week, he raised $100 million by a series of chance events.

As William recalls:

“I’d been in a 7 years relationship, a long distance one with my girlfriend. She studied medicine, and on her graduation, she wanted to go to visit Japan, and asked me to go for holiday with her.”

“But I said no to her, that I can’t take a holiday, as Tokopedia needs me, and Tokopedia was almost running out of cash by November.”

“Secretly, I bought a ticket, filled out a leave form for the first time in 5 years, asked her parent's approval, and planned for my secret proposal to her on 1st of October in Osaka.”

“At the end of September, I got a call from SoftBank, that Son-san (Masayoshi Son, one of the first tech investors in Asia and one of Japan’s richest men) requested a meeting in early October. Living in Indonesia, you need 5 working days to arrange a VISA. That request was less than 5 working days.”

“But, I already had the VISA, ticket in hand!”

“Then, on the 30th of September, one of my shareholders asked me to meet with Sequoia Capital. The Sequoia venture partner called me and ask for a meeting the day after. I told him that I am on the way to airport going to Osaka. When I arrived at Osaka, the venture partner was also there, took the same flight with me, and ended up chatting with me the whole day. I almost skipped my proposal.”

Then, the proposal. She said yes.

“The day after my proposal, I flew to Tokyo to met with Son-san.”

"That week, 3 proposals happened. And the rest is history.”

William got married, and raised $100 million from Softbank and Sequoia - the first company in South East Asia to raise that amount. That event sparked the beginning of the investing wave into Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia, with Tokopedia being the first investment by Sequoia Capital into Asia.

In April this year, William raised another $147 million, and today Tokopedia is worth over a billion dollars.

Some people think luck is completely random. Others think it’s “what happens when preparation meets opportunity”. I see it as the same four things that make a great footballer ‘lucky’ enough to keep being at the right place, at the right time, to score the goals:

LOCATION - Be at the right place, at the right time, and the universe will reward you. Most of us are too busy being in the wrong place, at the wrong time.

UNDERSTANDING - Understand the game is on, which means looking out for the ball - the opportunities - coming your way, and take action when they arrive.

CONNECTIONS - No matter how good a player you are, you won’t get any balls passed to you if there’s no one on the pitch. Surround yourself with the right people on your team.

KNOWLEDGE - Keep practicing. You only score the goals if you know how to kick the ball when it shows up.

Location, Understanding, Connections, Knowledge = L.U.C.K.

Follow these principles, and you’ll get more lucky. Maybe not happy marriage lucky. Maybe not $100 million lucky. Maybe different lucky. And maybe better lucky.

“Synchronicity is an ever present reality for those who have eyes to see.” ~ Carl Jung

Keep at it, because you’re leading the world’s 5th wave of exponential economic growth

A message to entrepreneurs: Keep at it, because you’re leading the world’s 5th wave of exponential economic growth:

Up until 1780, world economic activity was relatively flat, with the Gross World Product (all economic value creation worldwide) under US$200 billion for over 5,000 years.

The world then went through exponential growth over 200 years from 1800 to 2000, doubling every 20 years, with Gross World Product growing from US$200 billion to $40 trillion.

The four waves of exponential growth have been:

1. The Industrial revolution
2. The race for oil
3. Corporate capitalism
4. Financial markets

Each wave grew and fell in power over around 50 years each.
Each wave led to a global transfer of wealth.
Each age changed all the rules.

In the 15 years from 2000 to 2015, despite a dotcom crash and global crisis, Gross World Product has doubled again, from $40 trillion to over $80 trillion - We continue to add value to each other at an accelerating rate.

What is this fifth wave we’re in now? Entrepreneurial start-ups.

The rules have changed again:

It’s no longer about economies of scale, but economies of speed.
It’s no longer about getting money but giving value.
Today collaboration beats competition.
Today David beats Goliath.

This wave has only just begun, and as with any wave, you can sink or swim.

Or you can take the entrepreneurial 3rd option, and surf.

"The person who says it cannot be done should not interrupt the person who is doing it.” ~ Chinese Proverb


Proof that entrepreneurship doesn’t depend on your company size, but on your mindset

Proof that entrepreneurship doesn’t depend on your company size, but on your mindset: Here are the top five company comebacks - each from the jaws of billion dollar failures.


In 2008, Starbucks' over expansion into music, movies and too many loss-making stores led to an exodus of customers as quality fell. 977 stores closed and its stock price plummeted 80% from $40 to $7.83. In the midst of the crisis, founder, Howard Schultz returned as the CEO, saying Starbucks had “forgotten what we stand for.”

He refocused 100% on the coffee, closed all stores for a day to retrain the baristas, brought all 10,000 store managers to New Orleans to rediscover their sense of mission and purpose. As he says, “If we hadn’t had New Orleans, we wouldn’t have turned things around.” Since then, Starbucks has doubled in size and profitability, growing to over 23,000 stores, $16 billion in revenue and $3 billion in profit. Howard remains as both Chairman and CEO today.


In 2011, Netflix announced: "We will no longer offer a plan that includes both unlimited streaming and DVDs by mail." forcing subscribers to join two separate services and pay $16 a month instead of $10. The massive backlash led to more than 800,000 customers quitting Netflix in a single quarter. Netflix’s stock plunging fell 77% in 4 months from $300 a share to around $65.

Founder, Reed Hastings, took personal responsibility for the miss-step and apologized, saying “I messed up. I slid into arrogance based upon past success. Inside Netflix I say ‘Actions speak louder than words,’ and we should just keep improving our service.” He reversed the changes, refocused the company on quality and the customer, launching original content like “House of Cards”, and over the next few years the company has recovered to be the fastest growing video streaming company with over $6 billion in revenue.


In the late 1990’s, Lego lost money for the first time in its history, with its traditional blocks struggling against the rise of video games and other toy makers. Jørgen Vig Knudstorp stepped in as CEO in 2004, and says “When I became CEO, things had gone awfully wrong at Lego.” He began by refocusing the entire staff of 14,000: “We had to ask, ‘Why does Lego Group exist?’ Ultimately, we determined the answer: to offer our core products, whose unique design lets children learn systematic, creative problem solving - a crucial twenty-first-century skill. We also decided we want to compete not by being the biggest but by being the best.”

He began involving Lego fans in product development and rewarding ‘Super users’. The Lego brand was reignited, and Lego has now become the most profitable toy company in the world. As Jørgen says, “We used to be seen as a bit of a basket case. Our competitors were ten years ahead of us. Now we’ve passed them.”


In 1997 Apple had lost its way, was in disarray and just a few months away from bankruptcy when Steve Jobs returned as Interim CEO. His first step shocked the Apple faithful: A $150 million deal with arch-rival Bill Gates to put Microsoft products on all Apple computers. The move sent a message to the market that Apple had to be a serious business that made smart commercial decisions, and rebranded Steve from being a dreamer and visionary to also a serious business leader.

He refocused the team, brought on Tim Cook from Compaq (who now leads Apple), and then began the chain of innovative product launches from the iMac, to iPod, to iPhone. Apple’s market cap grew from $3 billion when Steve Jobs returned to the company, to more than $740 billion today. It’s cash went from deficit to over $200 billion today: The biggest corporate turnaround in history.

TESLA & SpaceX

In 2008, both of Elon Musk’s companies, Tesla and SpaceX, were out of money and he was broke. As he says "I could either pick SpaceX or Tesla or split the money I had left between them. If I split the money, maybe both of them would die. If I gave the money to just one company, the probability of it surviving was greater, but then it would mean certain death for the other company. I debated that over and over.”

That was on top of his personal challenges: "You have these huge doubts that your life is not working, your car is not working, you’re going through a divorce, and all of those things. I felt like a pile of sh_t. I didn't think we would overcome it. I thought things were probably f*@king doomed.”

He went knocking on all the doors he could, getting Sergey Brin to put up $500,000 and Bill Lee to put up $2 million. Elon managed to pull together all the parts for a $40 million round of funding, but wasn’t able to close. Then, on Christmas Eve, SpaceX announced a $1.6 billion contract to SpaceX, and the Tesla deal closed hours before Tesla would have gone bankrupt.

Elon broke down in tears and said “I hadn’t had an opportunity to buy a Christmas present for Talulah or anything. I went running down the f*@king street in Boulder, and the only place that was open sold these sh%*y trinkets, and they were about to close. The best thing I could find were these plastic monkeys with coconuts—those ‘see no evil, hear no evil’ monkeys.”

He bought the monkeys, turned both companies around, and eight years later - in the last month -has reached new records with the sea landing of his Falcon 9 rocket and the largest product launch in history with the Tesla Model 3.

Each of these five comeback stories show that any company of any size can be turned around when approached with an entrepreneurial mindset. What would Steve Jobs do if he were in your shoes? What would Elon Musk do if he owned your company?

Shift your mindset, and set your mind free.

You’re never too small to start, never too big to fail, and it’s never too late to start again.

“I don’t measure a man’s success by how high he climbs, but how he he bounces when he hits bottom.” ~ George S Patton Jr.

We don't make movies to make money. We make money to make more movies.-walt disney

Great entrepreneurs think differently. Instead of seeing money as an income, they see it as an outcome: An outcome of pursuing their purpose and a means to continue to.

"We don't make movies to make money. We make money to make more movies." ~ Walt Disney

Samsung , No. 1 Smart phone company ?

How many times did Samsung pivot their business before becoming the No.1 smart phone seller in the world, beating Apple at their own game? 13 TIMES! Here’s how...

START HERE - Lee Byung-chull launched Samsung to sell groceries in South Korea in 1938

PIVOT No.1 - By the early 1940s, in a competitive grocery market, Lee changed tack, went vertical and Samsung began producing and selling their own noodles

PIVOT No.2 - By 1950, with the Korean War ruining his business, Lee left Seoul and turned Samsung into a sugar company with its own sugar refinery

PIVOT No.3 - After the war, in 1954, Lee switched Samsung’s focus again, launching the largest woollen mill in Korea

PIVOT No.4 - As Korea developed, Lee switched to cater for the growing population, focusing Samsung on selling insurance and securities.

PIVOT No.5 - By 1960, Lee had switched Samsung again to focus on electronics, with its first electronic product being a black & white TV.

PIVOT No.6 - By 1980, Lee moved Samsung into telecoms, producing telephone switch boards and fax systems

PIVOT No.7 - When Lee died in 1987, Samsung separated into four companies - Department stores; Chemicals & logistics; Paper/Telecom; and electronics.

PIVOT No.8 - By 1980, Samsung Electronics decided to focus on international investing, investing in plants and semiconductor facilities around the world.

PIVOT No.9 - By 1990, Samsung began moving from investing to property, and became a world leader in construction, with building contracts on 3 of the world’s tallest buildings: Petronas Towers in Malaysia, Taipei 101 in Taiwan and Burj Khalifa in UAE.

PIVOT No.10 - In an attempt to rationalise during the 1990s recession, in 1993 Lee’s son, Lee Kun-Hee, began downsizing, selling many subsidiaries and merging the rest.

PIVOT No.11 - By the late 1990s, the merging of electonics, engineering and chemicals in Samsung led to the company becoming the largest producer of memory chips in the world

PIVOT No.12 - As memory chips became more competitive, in 1995 Samsung switched to liquid-crystal displays, and over the next 10 years became the world’s largest manufacturer for flat screen TVs.

PIVOT No.13 - By 2010, with liquid-crystal displays becoming more competitive, Samsung launched a 10 year growth strategy, with smart phones being a key focus. At this point, they were already providing Apple with many components for the new iPhone.

END HERE! (For now) - This year, in 2012, Samsung became the world’s largest mobile phone and smart phone maker, outselling iPhones two to one.

With so much change, what remains the same? When Lee began his company all those years ago, he called it ‘Samsung’ which means ‘Three Stars’ in Korean. His three meant ‘big, numerous, powerful’ and the stars meant ‘eternal’. From the beginning, his vision for Samsung was to leave a legacy as a leader in whichever market made sense at the time.

That strategy has led to Samsung having sales today of over $250 billion and producing about a fifth of South Korea’s total exports.

How many times have you pivoted your business onto a new wave of success when things aren’t going your way? What is the bigger purpose you are pivoting your business around?

In fast changing times, take Samsung as an example: Set a bigger purpose, with long term vision and short term results, and have the courage to switch when you need to.

It takes courage, it takes commitment and, as Samsung says in their most recent ads, ‘It doesn’t take a genius’.

DiDi Chuxing

Jean Liu is the 37 year old President of Didi Chuxing, the company that today just raised another $6 billion - just one month after Apple invested $1 billion at a $25 billion valuation.

Now, with 300 million users, and 14 million rides each day, Didi is far ahead of Uber in China and is calling itself “The World’s largest mobile tech-based transportation platform.”

How did Jean, at 37, get here so fast?

When she was 17 years old in 1996, Jean was inspired by Bill Gates’ book, “The Road Ahead” where Bill predicted in the future “We’ll find ourselves in a new world… in which market information will be plentiful and transaction costs low. It will be a shopper’s heaven”

Inspired to be a part of this "new world", she followed in Bill’s footprints, leaving China for Harvard, and then working her way up the banking industry until approaching Chinese ride-sharing company, Didi in 2013. As Jean says, “I was quite intrigued by the fact that they had so many investors chasing them.”

Jean joined the company when it was only one year old, and as President she grew the team from 700 to 5,000 staff in her first 18 months.

She also merged it in a billion dollar merger with its main rival, Kuaidi Dache in 2015. That move gave Didi a big advantage over Uber, and Jean sees their market strategy as ahead of Uber’s, saying:

“I think Uber has a short-term strategy to subsidize heavily to get drivers and passengers. But, if I were them, I would think very carefully. It is a highly competitive market. It’s already a healthy ecosystem. We have five million car owners; we do insurance, car sales.”

While Uber is competing, Didi is collaborating, and works with the China taxi industry instead of against it: “We are trying to serve every Chinese in every situation. We launched our taxi service three years ago, and later we figured [taxis are] in such a big shortage that there is a lot of unmet demand on that platform. Then we provided a private car service to fulfill those demands.”

“Then we figured there are a lot of drivers who want to earn extra money. That’s why we launched the chauffeur business.” Didi also helps you find private buses and shuttle buses.

“So our philosophy here is you don’t really need seven individual apps to fulfill your commute need. You just need one. That one app will make sure you will get a ride anywhere in three minutes.”

Because of this focus on serving the customer more than fighting on price, Didi will reach profit far faster than Uber. While Uber is losing $1 billion a year in China, Didi is already profitable in 200 out of the 400 cities it operates in.

Jean said at the recent Code Conference, "I find it quite cute because I've never seen a company put their competitor's brand on their own homepage”. Uber advertises their pricing on their app as 30% less than Didi’s. "This is a very strong proof to show that we have better service, and I'd like to see this more often.”

Jean’s forward thinking is also what drives her team. Inspired by Sheryl Sandberg’s book “Lean in”, she has created a vibrant culture in Didi’s workplace, saying: “To be a great company you need not just the best product but also the best people. We aim to get the best young talent from many different fields and make sure that they have the feeling that they can have a huge impact.”

20 years ago, Jean read a book that altered the course of her life.

Today, her company has 87% of China’s private ride sharing market, 100% of the taxi market, and another $7 billion in the bank.

What book might change your life today?

“Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.” ~ Joseph Addison

What is meaning of P.A.T.I.E.N.C.E ?


P.A.T.I.E.N.C.E. is a multi-dimensional mix of flexibility and steadfastness. Keep the balance and know that however tough things get, provided you're patient, everything you visualize will happen in time. In nature nothing is rushed, but all is accomplished.

“Genius is eternal patience.” ~ Michelangelo

What does an English teacher know about math? Plenty, if your name is Jack Ma.

Jack raised $4.5 billion (the largest private tech investment ever) for Ant Financial: A company he created in December 2014. The company has gone from zero to $60 billion in value in just 16 months.

Jack Ma has never taken no for an answer. In September, 2014, when he was not able to list his company, Alibaba, in Hong Kong, and with China banning any foreign ownership of its companies, Jack got around the rules by setting up a Cayman Island shell corporation which would receive a percentage of the profits of Alibaba.

He then listed the Cayman Island company on the New York Stock Exchange, raising $25 billion in the largest IPO in history - without giving any of the shares in his China company away.

Before the listing, he took the payment side of the business, Alipay, and moved it into a separate, private company that he controlled, called Ant Financial. As Alibaba has been making headlines over the last year, Ant Financial has been quietly growing as Jack’s second billion dollar business.

Ant Financial now reaches 450 million users (More than the population of the US and UK combined), and has given out 20 million loans to entrepreneurs in China. Alibaba receives 37.5% of the profits from Ant Financial, but does not own any of it. Jack has managed to spin the business off entirely from Alibaba, and then grow it alongside Alibaba while entirely under his personal control, from zero to $60 billion in value.

This has allowed him to pursue his vision of helping the small guys while raising the money he needs from the financial markets and without losing control or giving away any ownership.

Jack’s next step? The former English Teacher plans to list Ant Financial on the China stock market later this year, which is likely to double his current net worth of $22 billion.

While too many entrepreneurs get caught up in how much of their pie to give away, Jack understands that when you own the bakery, you can always make another pie.

How can you create partnerships and raise financing creatively, while keeping true to your vision? How can you organise your own resources smarter? Take a tip from Jack, and never take no for an answer.

“They called me ‘Crazy Jack’. I think crazy is good. We’re crazy, but we’re not stupid.” ~ Jack Ma

Remember You network is your net worth

How valuable is your network? The Paypal Mafia is an extreme example of the phrase “your network is your net worth”.

When eBay bought Paypal in 2002, the founders of Paypal had an average age of 30. With the opportunity to go out and start again, they decided to stay in touch and share their strategies, experiences and connections as they launched their next businesses.

The result?

Elon Musk launched Space X and Tesla (Now worth $30 billion+)
Reid Hoffman founded LinkedIn (Now worth $25 billion+)
Peter Thiel launched Palantir (Now worth $20 billion+)
Steve Chen and Chad Hurley founded Youtube (Sold to Google for $1.65 billion)
David Sacks launched Yammer (Sold to Microsoft for $1.2 billion)
Russel Simmons and Max Levchin launched Yelp (Now worth $1.6 billion+)
Dave McClure founded 500 Startups (Invested in 1,300+ companies)
Premal Shah became president of Kiva (Crowdfunded 1 million+ microloans)

The founders sold Paypal for $1.5 billion 13 years ago, but as a result of sharing their journeys after that, they now have a combined net worth of over $20 billion.

Between them, they have created 7 billion dollar companies and invested in many more, generating over $100 billion in market value.

Supporting each other was the intention from the beginning. As Peter Thiel recalls, “When we started PayPal, I remember one of the early conversations I had with Max was that I wanted to build a company where everybody would be really great friends and, no matter what happened with the company, the friendships would survive.”

Your success will be determined not by how much you want to be successful, but by how many of the right people you connect around you who want you to be successful.

Your network is your net worth.

What can you do today to improve your network?
What can you do to add more value to the one you’re in?
How can you grow network value everywhere you go?

Today we live in a networked world. So thinking about growing network value is more important than ever. As Reid Hoffman says, “In the Networked Age, we’re all like the little kid from The Sixth Sense. If you’re not seeing networks when you enter a room, you might want to check your pulse.”

Have you ever been rejected for a job?

Have you ever been rejected for a job? Brian Acton has. After 11 years at Yahoo! and out of a job at 38 years old, Brian went job hunting... first to Twitter (rejected) then to Facebook (rejected).

What do you do when you’re 38 years old, competing unsuccessfully against 20-somethings for a job as a systems engineer? If you’re Brian, you go out and play frisbee...

Two years earlier, he had travelled South America playing ultimate frisbee with Jan Koum, who he had met while working at Ernst & Young as a security tester. Now, in the midst of his job rejections, he met up with Jan again for a game of frisbee.

It was while playing, Jan told Brian he was working on a start-up to create a new kind of mobile app, but he had run out of money. Jan had lived on welfare with his parents when he first arrived to the US from Ukraine. Not wanting to go back on food stamps, he asked Brian for advice on whether he should quit and start looking for a job.

Admiring Jan for his courage in starting his own company, Brian replied “You’d be an idiot to quit now. Give it a few more months.”

The topic turned to Brian’s success in getting a new job (which was non-existent) and it was only a matter of time before Jan (who had previously been rejected from a job at Facebook) had turned Brian’s advice on himself.

He persuaded Brian to quit the job hunt and join him on his start-up, creating a new messaging app, “WhatsApp”.

Brian and Jan had one thing in common - Ultimate Frisbee. Other than that, they turned out to be complimentary to each other in every other way. As Brian says, they are “Yin and Yang, I’m the naive optimist, he’s more paranoid. I pay attention to bills and taxes, he pays attention to our product. He’s CEO. I just make sure stuff gets done.”

In a job hunt, all your weaknesses are exposed. In a start-up, your weakness can be supported by your team member’s strength. So becoming an entrepreneur is easier than being an employee.

It took a few months of convincing but Brian finally decided to take the step, reject the rejecters, and join Jan.

Brian managed to raise some funds to keep the two going, while they worked out of the Red Rock Cafe in Mountain View. With no office and no overheads, they put 100% focus at growing WhatsApp as the messaging app with “No Ads. No Games. No Gimmicks.”

In the first year, revenue grew to only $5,000 a month, but user growth boomed. Brian and Jan would switch from “free” to “paid” for the app (charging $1) when users began growing too much. When they saw people would even pay for the app, Brian said “You know, I think we can actually stay paid.”

The company stayed on an exponential growth path and, four years later, Facebook - the company that had rejected both founders - bought WhatsApp for $19 billion, making both Brian and Jan multi-billionaires.

As a symbolic gesture to their difficult beginnings, the two signed the purchase papers on the steps of the building where Jan’s parents would pick up their food stamps.

And Brian remembers a second thing outside of Frisbee that the two have in common, and which led to their success: “We’re part of the Facebook reject club.”

It took 4 years from ultimate frisbee and ultimate rejection to Brian and Jan’s $19 billion success.

4 years from now will be the year 2020. Where will you be in 2020?

Where you are in 2020 will have everything to do with the decisions you make today.

> Are you focused at finding a job instead of adding value to those already around you?

> Are you chasing opportunities instead of seeing the ones that are right in front of you?

> Is your latest rejection hiding a doorway behind it? A doorway to an entirely new, more exciting adventure?

Sometimes, it just takes a change in focus.

“Sometimes the best gain is to lose.” ~ George Herbert

Do you know Warren Buffett?

Warren Buffett holds Berkshire Hathaway’s 51st AGM. At a time when world stock markets have been at their most volatile, Warren’s investments are showing another record year.

It’s easy to forget that Warren’s wealth is entirely self made (Even after giving away $21.5 billion he is still the 3rd richest man in the world with $66.7 billion). So how did he get started?

At 20 years old, Warren applied to Columbia Business School where Benjamin Graham (famous for his ‘value investing’ theories) was lecturing - Just so he could be around the best mentor he could find.

Warren worked for Benjamin for free, and his loyalty led Benjamin to send him out to visit possible investments on the weekends. In 1951, Benjamin sent Warren to research GEICO, a direct mail auto insurance company. He visited on a Saturday and the janitor sent him to the only person in on a Saturday, the head of the company.

The two chatted for five hours, and Warren pledged three quarters of his entire net worth - $9,000 at the time - to buy shares in the company. Impressed, Benjamin bought 50% of GEICO for around $720,000 - using a quarter of his fund’s assets.

Little did he know it at the time, but eventually Warren would end up owning all of GEICO, and the company would turn into a $9 billion business.

Warren kept learning from Benjamin for the next six years and by 1957, Warren had learnt enough to launch his own fund. With Benjamin’s support, he asked one of Benjamin’s investors, a doctor, to find ten other doctors who would invest $10,000 each into his new partnership. Eleven doctors agreed to invest.

Over the next five years he kept asking investors to recommend friends and by 1962 the Buffett Partnership, which began with $105,000, was worth $7.2 million. Buffett invested $1 million of his fund in Dempster Mill Manufacturing, bringing in management to turn it around, and making a net gain of $2.3 million within two years.

Warren had another big break in 1962, when American Express shares fell from $65 to $35 following a scandal. As the rest of the market was selling far below true value, Warren invested $13 million - 40% of his assets. Within two years, the shares had tripled in price and the partners made a $20 million profit.

Then, four years later, Buffet made a fateful purchase of a textile company, Berkshire Hathaway. He recalls, “We went into a terrible business because it was cheap. It’s what I refer to as the “used cigar butt” approach to investing. You see this cigar butt down there, it’s soggy and terrible, but there’s one puff left, and it’s free. That’s what Berkshire was when we bought it – it was selling below working capital – but it was a terrible, terrible mistake.”

Buffett bought Berkshire Hathaway and then tried to turn it around, but couldn’t. So he turned this ‘terrible, terrible mistake’ into a listed vehicle to manage all his other investments. As a listed company he could now raise funds through the stock market. Through his experience with GEICO, he also understood the value of owning insurance companies, giving him an instant cash base from policies to invest with.

In 1967, he bought two insurance companies for $8.6 million which came with a combined investment portfolio of $31.9 million. Over the next two years he grew the portfolio to $42 million – more than paying for the entire purchase price of the companies. Warren continued with this strategy and by 2004, Berkshire Hathaway owned 38 insurance companies.

With ready access to cash to feed his flow, Buffett had built the investment vehicle he needed to sustain ongoing growth. He set a target to grow the value of his investments by 15% per year, which he then exceeded. The 1972 market sell-off came at just the right time, leading Buffett to say that at the time he felt “like an oversexed guy in a harem.” He added, “You’re dealing with a lot of silly people in the marketplace; it’s like a great big casino and everyone else is boozing. If you can stick to Pepsi, you should be OK.”

By 1979, Buffett’s fortune had risen to $140 million, but he continued to live on a $50,000 salary. (He still lives in the same Omaha home that he bought in 1958 for $31,500). Berkshire Hathaway shares continued to grow at a 22.2% compound growth rate - a feat he has maintained over 40 years, leading to his $66.7 billion net worth today.

This week, he also announced plans to invest $3.6 billion in the World’s largest wind energy facility in Iowa. Plus he set another record year of giving as a part of his Giving Pledge to give away 99% of his wealth (He’s already given $21.5 billion to Bill Gates' Foundation since joining the Giving Pledge in 2006).

Warren has always focused at the long term, saying, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you'll do things differently.”

What lessons can you take from one of the wealthiest people in the world? What mentor can you learn from? How much are you willing to invest your time to learn before you earn?

Instead of trying to focus on an exit strategy, how can you focus at a success strategy - where there is no need to exit? As Warren said to a group of students: “I may have more money than you, but money doesn’t make the difference. If there is any difference between you and me, it may simply be that I get up and have a chance to do what I love to do, every day. If you learn anything from me, this is the best advice I can give you.”

As soon as you stop wanting something, you get it!

The paradox of entrepreneurship: “As soon as you stop wanting something, you get it”

It used to really annoy me when I started with my first boot-strapped start-up and people with money said “It’s not about the money”. I would think “It’s easy for you to say that, because you’ve already got the money.”

It was only later in life I understood what they really meant. It’s like a footballer saying “It’s not about the ball.” The footballer who is always chasing the ball isn’t welcome on the team - and rarely gets the ball because it moves too fast.

The footballer who thinks “It’s not about the ball”, and knows it’s about positioning himself to be of greatest value to the team, is the one who constantly gets the ball passed to him.

If you’re in business chasing the money, you will rarely get it. If you’re positioning yourself to be of value to your customers, they’ll happily pass you their money.

If you're constantly needing help, you will rarely get it. If you’re positioning yourself to be of value to team members and partners, they’ll happily pass you their time and skills.

So whenever you want something, whether it is support, resources, connections, or money, don’t chase what you want but position yourself to be the natural choice for those who have these things to pass them to you.

Once you receive, pass it on.

“Only by giving are you able to receive more than you already have.” ~ Jim Rohn

Reid Hoffman sold his company, LinkedIn, to Microsoft for $26 billion in cash

Reid Hoffman sold his company, LinkedIn, to Microsoft for $26 billion in cash. It’s a major milestone in his 23 year journey of “networking while not working” that began in 1993:

As Reid says, when he tried to start his first business after graduating “It was the beginning of the online revolution, in 1993. This was when America Online was starting to drop floppy disks to everybody to try to get people online.”

“I networked my way to a couple of different venture capitalists. They said, "Have you shipped software before? You're asking us to invest millions of dollars in your company. You've done this before, yes?" I said, "No, not really."And they said, "Go get a job first.”

So Reid joined Apple to build ‘eWorld’ - an early social network. eWorld didn’t work, but Reid’s network grew, and he launched his own social network, SocialNet, in 1997.

As he remembers, “SocialNet focused on online dating. It also had some activities like finding golf partners and roommates and that kind of stuff.”

But SocialNet didn’t work either. “We had a bad model at Socialnet. We thought we were going to partner with newspapers, and that didn't work.”

Again, Reid’s product didn’t work and, again, Reid’s network grew.

A friend of his, Peter Thiel, was quick to act: “When I decided to leave Socialnet to start another business, I went to Peter and he said, "No, don't do that yet. Come join us now. We're sitting on a powder keg. The rocket is about to start taking off.”

The rocket was PayPal. Reid joined in 2000 to look after all PayPal’s external relationships. Peter said Reid “was the firefighter-in-chief at PayPal. Though that diminishes his role because there were many, many fires.”

After a decade of Reid networking while finding out what was not working, and after two years at PayPal, eBay bought the company for $1.5 billion. Reid took his share and launched LinkedIn, aiming to grow it into the World’s No.1 Professional Networking site.

13 years later, and Reid is now selling LinkedIn - with its 433 million members - to Microsoft for $26 billion. It’s the biggest acquisition that Microsoft has ever made.

Are you “networking while not working”?

It’s not about what you know. It’s about who you know - and who knows you.

Your network is your net worth and, as Reid says, “The fastest way to change yourself is to hang out with people who are already the way you want to be.”

The Journey : from poor young girl to the World’s wealthiest self-made female billionaire?

What’s the rags to riches story that has led a young girl in poverty to become the World’s wealthiest self-made female billionaire?

There’s a good chance the mobile phone you’re using has a screen made by her: “The Touchscreen Queen”, Zhou Quinfei. How can her billion dollar journey help you on yours? Here’s her three big steps to success:


Qunfei was born to a poor family in a tiny village in China. Her father was blinded in a factory accident, and her mum died when she was five. Determined to be successful, she quit school at 16 and went to live with her uncle in Shenzen, saying "I don't want to die regretting what I didn't do.”

She got a factory job making watch faces for $1 a day, and sent the money back to her father.

Bored with the job, after three months she quit, but was given a promotion instead. Guessing why, she said “Maybe it was because my resignation letter was well written and this attracted the attention of the factory supervisor”.

She kept being promoted up to management but then in 1993, at 22 years old, her factory shut down. So she decided to take her knowledge, connections and $3,000 in savings and begin her own watch face factory, which she started next doors to her old factory.

The early days weren’t easy: ”Twice I even had to sell my house in order to pay my employees salary. Much like climbing a mountain, it's not your physical strength that will get you to the top, but your tenacity and persistence."

Then, in 1997 the Asian financial crisis hit. This is when her persistence really paid off. She went to the watchmakers who owed her money and settled their debts in exchange for their equipment. So while other factories closed down, she gradually assembled an entire production suite for glass processing for next to nothing.


Six years later, in 2003, she got a call from Motorola, who wanted a glass screen for their new Razr V3 mobile phone: “I got this call, and they said, ‘Just answer yes or no, and if the answer’s yes, we’ll help you set up the process. I said ‘yes’.”

Her success with Motorola led to HTC, Nokia and Samsung also calling. Then, in 2007, Apple launched the iPhone, and picked Qunfei’s company as the supplier.

Ten years late, Lens Technology has 32 factories in seven different locations and employs more than 90,000 staff. Their glass is used in over 50% of all smartphones in the world, and in all Apple iWatches.

A year ago, Quinfei listed her company on the stock market, making her the wealthiest self-made female billionaire in the world. Today she is worth $6.4 billion.


Qunfei says when she was a child she would watch the rain falling on lotus leaves. That’s what later inspired her to create Lens Technology's patented, scratch-resistant coating on smartphones.

'Droplets of water would roll around the surface of a lotus leaf and not leave any trace,' she said.

'If it wasn't for my primary school teacher reminding me to be observant I may not have had the inspiration to think of my invention.'

Ms. Zhou also credits her detailed-oriented approach to her childhood. “My father had lost his eyesight, so if we placed something somewhere, it had to be in the right spot, exactly, or something could go wrong,” she said. “That’s the attention to detail I demand at the workplace.”

How can you see every closed door as a new opportunity?
How open are you to new opportunities that could transform your own success?
How can you use your past experiences to support your future vision?

Use Qunfei’s story as an inspiration for your own journey.

As a self-taught expert in glass, she’s a living example of how, with persistence, every glass ceiling can be broken.

My 8 favourite famous failures : J.K. ROWLING

Thomas Edison was told by his teachers that he was "too stupid to learn anything."

Oprah Winfrey was fired from her first job as a television reporter and told she was "unfit for tv.”

Walt Disney was fired from his first newspaper job because "he lacked imagination and had no good ideas.”

Henry Ford went broke 5 times before finally creating the Ford Model T when he was 45 years old.

While first writing Harry Potter, J.K. Rowling’s mother died, her marriage failed, she had no job, was on welfare, was diagnosed with clinical depression and described herself being as "poor as it is possible to be in modern Britain, without being homeless.” She kept writing anyway.

One of Elvis Presley’s first singing gigs was at the Grand Ole Opry, but he was fired after just one performance with the manager telling him, "You ain't goin' nowhere, son. You ought to go back to drivin' a truck.” He kept singing anyway.

Vincent Van Gogh only sold one painting during his lifetime, and that was to a friend. He kept painting anyway.

Famous philosopher Socrates’s original ideas at the time led him to be named "an immoral corrupter of youth" and he was sentenced to death. He kept talking anyway.

Each of these 8 famous examples show the difference between mindful vs mindless failure.

Mindless failure is when you keep failing without growing skills and self awareness. Mindful failure is when each failure gets you clearer about who you are, why you’re here, and how to do it better next time.

The key to mindful failure? Set up a rhythm of commitment, action, failure, learning, repeat - and keep persevering to create your own virtuous cycle maximizing failures that steer you and minimizing failures that sink you.

“The season of failure is the best time for sowing the seeds of success."
~ Paramahansa Yogananda

What do you and 31 year old billionaire Elizabeth Holmes have in common?

What do you and 31 year old billionaire Elizabeth Holmes have in common?

Right now, Elizabeth Holmes is under attack. Not by her customers or investors, but by the press and the US government.

She started her company, Theranos, when she was 19. It’s now worth $9 billion and has made her the youngest self-made female billionaire in the world. How? Because her company helps people check their blood easily in pharmacies at a fraction of the cost a hospital will charge.

Elizabeth’s a big threat to the medical industry because she’s openly saying “Health care is the leading cause of bankruptcy, and the lack of it is the leading cause of suffering.” If she succeeds in making blood tests cheap and easy, they lose control of your medical data and wallets. We take control.

So one thing has led to another, and in October the Wall Street Journal ran a mud-slinging piece on Elizabeth and her company, quoting 'unnamed sources' who say her tests aren’t all accurate. Now the rest of the press is on the bandwagon and Elizabeth is fighting back, saying “"We’ve seen two articles that were false, and immediately everyone reprints it as if it were true.”

Have you noticed all success stories have a big road bump in the middle, when the establishment or dark forces turn against the hero?

Are you in a similar situation where everything seems against you?

It’s happened to everyone from Bill Gates to Oprah Winfrey, from Mark Zuckerberg to Marissa Mayer, from Mahatma Ghandi to Mother Theresa, from Luke Skywalker to Katniss Everdeen.

Each have had a darkest hour, which has also become their defining moment.

It’s now happening to Elizabeth Holmes and maybe right now it's also happening to you or someone you know.

Mythologist and scholar, Joseph Campbell, calls it part of the “Hero’s Journey”. He showed that every culture told the story of the hero - how we must follow a journey with the same “Three Acts” to reach our true greatness:

In “Act 1 - The Departure” we follow the 'call to adventure'. We start a business, or take on a new challenge, which leads us into unfamiliar territory and internal struggles.

In “Act 2 - The Initiation” we meet the 'road of trials'. We are tested by external demons and dragons to see if we are up to the task. We need to be strong enough to stand tall and humble enough to seek the help of others.

This is where Elizabeth is right now. Most don’t make it through the road of trials, and give up. They never reach the prize - which is to rise above these obstacles to become the very best version of ourselves.

“It is by going down into the abyss that we recover the treasures of life. Where you stumble, there lies your treasure.” ~ Joseph Campbell

In “Act 3 - The Return” once we make it through the trials, comes resurrection and rebirth. We then return to where we began, with far greater power and wisdom to share with others.

This is all our journeys: It’s your journey. It’s my journey. We’re all in this together.

Get strength from the journeys of amazing entrepreneurs like Elizabeth’s. They’re unfolding in real time right in front of us. Keep hanging in their, and know you’re not alone.

Mark Zuckerberg tells the story of when he asked Steve Jobs for advice

Mark Zuckerberg tells the story of when he asked Steve Jobs for advice:

"Early on in our history when things weren't really going well. We had hit a tough patch and a lot of people wanted to buy Facebook.”

“I went and I met with Steve Jobs, and he said that to reconnect with what I believed was the mission of the company, I should go visit this temple in India that he had gone to early in the evolution of Apple, when he was thinking about what he wanted his vision of the future to be.”

"So I went and I travelled for almost a month.”

Mark travelled to Kainchi Dham Ashram, in Nanital, Uttarakhand. The same place Steve had visited, and where he got clarity on his life purpose. For a month, Mark meditated in the temple and travelled through India.

“Seeing how people connected, and having the opportunity to feel how much better the world could be if everyone has a strong ability to connect reinforced for me the importance of what we were doing and that is something I've always remembered over the last 10 years as we've built Facebook.”

Mark returned from the trip, rejected all the offers for the company and committed to push on with his mission to “connect the world”.

That one piece of advice from Steve Jobs, that one decision to take action on it by Mark Zuckerberg - and leave his company and country for a month to follow it - has proven to be worth over $35 Billion as Facebook has grown to connect over one billion people today.

Today, who can you learn from?

Today, what action are you willing to take?

Earning always follows learning.

“I realized my mission in life was to learn more, not earn more.” ~ Surya Das

Top 10 Commandments of Entrepreneurship

#1 - Don’t start a company for the money. Start a company for the mission and the money will follow.

#2 - Don’t think small and start big. Thing big and start small.

#3 - Don’t sell to people you don’t love, products they don’t need. Find people you love, and serve them what they need.

#4 - Don’t ask “how can I make money”. Ask “how can I help others make money”.

#5 - Don’t find a team to work for you. Find a team you want to work for.

#6 - Don’t ask “what to I need to do”. Ask “What do I need to help others to do.”

#7 - Don’t measure your wealth by quantity of money. Measure it by quality of time.

#8 - Don’t have an “exit strategy” where you win when you end. Have an “enter strategy” where you win when you begin.

#9 - Don’t set a goal to achieve a goal. Set a goal so you can be the person you need to be to achieve that goal.

#10 - Don’t climb mountains so the world can see you. Climb mountains so you can see the world.

“It belongs to the imperfection of everything human that man can only attain his desire by passing through its opposite.” ~ Soren Kierkegaard

Apple just invested a billion dollars for one CEO in China, 33 year old Cheng Wei

This week Apple just invested a billion dollars in the youngest billion-dollar CEO in China, 33 year old Cheng Wei.

Cheng Wei started his car-riding company (now known as “Didi Chuxing”) in June 2012 when he was 29 years old. Today, at only 33 years old, his four-year-old company is worth $20 billion after Apple’s investment, eclipsing the size of Uber in China.

How does a young 30-something grow a business that fast in four years? Here’s 3 steps out of the many Cheng Wei took that you can follow today:


Before his new start-up, Cheng Wei worked for 7 years through his 20s at Alibaba. First in sales, and then with Alipay, the ‘Paypal’ of Alibaba. Without that experience, he wouldn’t have had the expertise and insight to create a Chinese car-sharing site at the same time Uber was starting in the US.

Unbelievably, despite starting a company that today enables over one billion car rides each year, Cheng Wei still hasn’t learned how to drive. But instead of seeing this being a handicap, he says it makes him his company’s ideal customer, as he needs to get rides everywhere he goes. So every day, he's learning as he takes rides with his company's customers.


Cheng Wei says the early days were anything but easy: “When the company was founded, we didn’t expect to face the cruelest competition, the strictest regulation, the most complicated games among giants and capitals, and the highest frequency of media exposure in history as an internet company.”

After struggling in the early years against many competitors and government regulations, Cheng Wei made a genius move a year ago, merging his company (then called Didi Dache) with his biggest competitor, Kuaidi Dache, in a $6 billion merger. This brought together the two company’s backers - the two biggest tech giants in China, Baidu and Alibaba, in one massive joint venture. By turning all his potential competition into allies, he eliminated his competition.

“Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.”


Today, Cheng Wei’s company has 99% share of China’s taxi-hailing market and 87% of the private-car hailing market. Didi Chuxing operates in 400 cities compared to Uber which is only in 45 cities.

How has Cheng Wei achieved this incredible domination? By staying focused (He only operates in China) and being mission focused: To help China to be more mobile. That’s what has attracted Apple to invest $1 billion this week, their biggest investment this year.

As Cheng Wei says ““The endorsement from Apple is an enormous encouragement and inspiration for our four-year-old company. Didi will work hard with our drivers, riders and global partners, to make available to every citizen flexible and reliable mobility choices, and help cities solve transportation, environmental and employment challenges.”

That single focus gives Didi a big mission riding on the big technological disruptions coming in the next decade: to help solve the pollution in Chinese cities.

As Cheng Wei said at the Global Mobile Internet Conference in Beijing last month: “Didi intends to build out an open platform with leading machine learning capabilities where ride share solutions, electric vehicles and self-driving technologies link up riders and drivers with different needs in a sustainable and inclusive urban ecology.

(As Didi’s official registered name is “Xiaojo” which means “Little Orange”, Didi later joked on Weibo that the real reason Apple invested was both companies were the names of fruit).

What lesson can you take from Cheng Wei? How can you earn while you learn? Who should you collaborate with today? And how can you have one, purposeful, focus so you can delete the rest?

Whether you are just getting started, in the early days of your business, or facing both external and internal growing pains, Cheng Wei’s 4-year, $20-billion, turbo-charged story has one underlying message:

Stay in the right gear at the right speed at the right time, and you can always accelerate out of trouble.

"There are no speed limits on the road to success." ~ David W. Johnson

UPDATE - AUG 1st: Cheng Wei has just made his biggest alliance to date - with his arch-rival, Uber. On 1st Aug Didi & Uber China announced a merger.

In the deal, Didi gets all of Uber's China operations and Uber gets 20% of Didi at a $35 billion valuation - which is a 75% increase in the $20 billion valuation when Apple invested $1 billion just 10 weeks ago (when I wrote the post above). Didi is also investing $1 billion in Uber at a $68 billion valuation.

The result will be that Uber will become the largest shareholder in Didi, and Didi will become one of the largest shareholders in Uber.

In the new economic paradigm, competition erodes value and collaboration adds value. What big competitor could you partner with today?

Sunday, 7 August 2016

3 Steps to $30 millions, Yahoo bought 17 year old Nick D’Aloisio’s iPhone app

This week Yahoo bought 17 year old Nick D’Aloisio’s iPhone app, Summly, for $30 million. When Yahoo was founded in 1994, Nick wasn’t even born yet.

What’s he doing with $30 million? As Nick says, "I can't even buy a car because I don't have a licence yet." So he’s going to buy a new bag. Why? “Mine is broken; it’s old and the strap’s not working.”


Nick’s app has delivered over 90 million news summaries in the four short months since he launched it on his 17th birthday in November. But Nick isn’t even old enough to be a Director of his company, so his mum is the Director while he sits in as Company Secretary.

What has gotten Nick to success so quickly in 15 months when so many of us are still struggling after 15 years? Here’s 3 steps his journey has in common with most super-success stories:


Nick’s Summly App was the solution to a real world problem that no one else was solving well. As Nick relates, “I was 15 years old and I was revising for some kind of history exam. The problem was I was trying to find information that was useful to me.”

Searching Google on his phone didn’t give him enough detail to know what was or wasn’t a useful link. So he put his own iPhone app together. The app quickly rose up the download ranks and Apple featured it in their store.

Then came a fateful email: “About a month later, the private fund of the Hong Kong billionaire Li-Kashing cold emailed me and expressed an interest to invest, but they didn’t realize I was 15...It turned out that they actually liked my age because it demonstrated I was net-native, so I’d only grown up with the Internet. They flew to London about a month later and invested $300,000. That kick-started this whole journey.”


Nick used the money to bring in world experts to help relaunch the app. At 16 years old, he teamed up with the leaders in Natural Language Processing, Stanford Research Institute (Who create Apple’s SIRI - named after the company’s initials, SRI).

In between high school classes in London, Nick worked with SRI in the US by phone and text messages to build the new app. SRI’s solid reputation and Nick’s focus on approaching well known celebrities to help him attracted high profile investors Stephen Fry, Ashton Kutcher and Yoko Ono who invested $1.3 million. Nick made the most of his investors, with Stephen Fry starring in the launch video for Summly.


With world class partners and world class investors, Nick gave up full-time school at the end of 2011, with his parent’s blessing: ““I talked about it with them and my headmaster and we decided it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and it would be silly not to run with it. Now, looking back, I can say it was a massive gamble. But it was a good gamble.”

From a standing start to $30 million, Nick has taken the age old 1-2-3 formula of solving a problem in a smart way, then using the resources he attracts to bring in the best talent, and leveraging that to attract the most influential partners.

What made him think he could just go and knock on the door of the best companies and most well known people in the world? As he says "I was naive. I didn't know I couldn't."

Nick is now reflecting on this week’s news: “Numbing is probably the best word to describe it. It’s a shock to be honest. The only thing I can take from this is that I’m genuinely kind of proud that I’ve been getting a lot of tweets where young people are commenting and saying, “This is really inspirational, I want to go and start my own thing.”

How many of these 3 steps in the 1-2-3 formula have you taken in your business? What can you do to upgrade your product, your talent or your partners?

Or maybe it’s time to be a kid again, be naive again, when you didn't know you couldn't. And start something entirely new.

If The World Were A Village of 100 People...

Our world population of 7 billion as a village of 100 people:

Here are our mother tongues:

12 speak Chinese
5 speak Spanish
5 speak Hindi or Bengali
5 speak English
73 speak the other 6,000 languages

Here is our wealth:

1 owns 40% of the wealth
6 own half the wealth
51 live on less than $2 a day

Here are our religious beliefs:

33 are Christian
22 are Muslim
14 are Hindu
7 are Buddhists
2 are Atheists
(And 33 believe in witchcraft, ghosts and aliens)

Here are our homes:

51 live in cities and can’t see the Milky Way
25 live in substandard housing or no home at all


7 can’t read or write
10 have no job
11 have a vehicle
13 don’t have safe drinking water
14 are on Facebook
64 don’t have Internet access

If you woke up each day in this village, and knew each of the other 99 villagers personally, what would you do differently?

“I can do things you cannot, you can do things I cannot. Together we can do great things.” ~ Mother Teresa

“It’s not the size of the dog in the fight. It’s the size of the fight in the dog.” ~ Mark Twain

Jamie Vardy’s amazing story from underdog to champion:

> Jamie had dreams of being a footballer, but was rejected by Sheffield Wednesday F.C. when he was 16 for being too small

> Not giving up, he went to work as a labourer in a carbon fibre factory, working 12 hour shifts, so he could join 7th division team, Stockbridge Park, spending 3 years earning £30 a week.

> At 20 years old he was convicted for assault after a pub fight, but kept playing football, and had to play for 6 months with an ankle bracelet and a 6pm curfew.

> In a world where footballers are transferred for millions, he was transferred to Halifax Town for £15,000 in 2010.

> At 25 years old, he was sold to Leicester City in 2012, a team that have never won the Premier League. He only scored 4 goals all season and came under fire from the fans.

> He ended the 2014-15 season with the team on the threat of relegation, with a Thai sex tape scandal that led to three of the players (including the manager’s son), and then the manager, leaving the team.

> He started this season with a new manager, Claudio Ranieri, who had been out of work for eight months after being fired from Greece after only four months on the job.

Then what happened in the last year?

Jamie breaks the Guinness World Record with 11 goals in 11 games and becomes the first player at Leicester to score 20+ goals since Gary Lineker in 1984.

He helps lead Leicester City from 5000-1 underdogs to winning the Premier League this week in what has been called the “most unlikely triumph in the history of team sport".

Gary Lineker has said of his hometown team’s victory that it is "the biggest sporting shock of my lifetime. I can't think of anything that surpasses it in sporting history. It is difficult to put over in words.. It was hard to breathe. I was a season ticket holder from the age of seven. This is actually impossible.”

Alan Shearer has said "For a team like Leicester to come and take the giants on with their wealth and experience - not only take them on but to beat them - I think it's the biggest thing to happen in football.”

This week Jamie has also been named the Football Writers’ Player of the Year.

The inspiration in the story?

Never give up. Anything can happen. And sometimes it does.

“Anything can happen. If the underdog wants a game bad enough, they can go out and get it. We just need to keep on playing as hard as we can.” ~ Ashley Langen

Big congratulations to Jamie Vardy and Leicester City!

“It’s not the size of the dog in the fight. It’s the size of the fight in the dog.” ~ Mark Twain

Top 10 Startup Mistakes

Four things make up 79% of all business failures:

#1 - Building something nobody wants (36%)
#2 - Hiring poorly (18%)
#3 - Lack of focus (13%)
#4 - Failing to market & sell (12%)

How to best avoid these failures:

#1 - Always start with the customer, not the product. Get your beta group / user group of customers and work with them to deliver what they love. People will pay you to do what they love, not to just do what you love.

#2 - Outsource to experts who manage themselves, not workers who need to be managed. Hire people who let you do more of what you do best, not people who take you away from your talents because they need to be managed.

#3 - Once opportunities begin to grow, don't get defocused. Anything that doesn't add to your customer's experience isn't worth doing.

#4 - Don't fail by having a great product that no one knows about. Don't rely on someone else to sell your product until you have more sales than you can handle. Don't make sales by closing customers. Create buyers by opening relationships.

#5 - More than all of the above, maximise failures that steer you (testing and measuring) and avoid failures that sink you (when you run out of money and time). Fail passionately and fail often, earning and learning with each failure, so it's you that keeps failing (and learning) and not your company!

"The biggest risk is not taking any risk.. In a world that is changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks."
~ Mark Zuckerberg


"Never, never, never give up."~ Winston Churchill

What’s the price when you fail?

What’s the price when you fail?

This week, Elon Musk watched as his latest attempt at landing his Space X Falcon 9 rocket went wrong, ice froze one of the legs and the entire rocket toppled over and exploded.

That’s another $60 million up in smoke. What was Elon’s reaction?

First, he tweeted “Well, at least the pieces were bigger this time!”

Then, he posted a video of the explosion on Instagram.

And finally, he posted yesterday “My best guess for 2016: ~ 70% landing success rate (so still a few more RUDs to go), then hopefully improving to ~90% in 2017.”

“RUD” stands for “Rapid Unscheduled Disassembly” which is another way of saying “it blew up”…

What can we learn from Elon happily blowing up his rockets?

Most people would see this as an expensive failure, but Elon is a master of learning by failing, and he expects to fail epically and often.

It doesn’t cost Elon to fail as he builds it into his business model. Each Falcon rocket is expected to be lost anyway if he wasn’t testing how to land them. This one had already done its job of delivering an ocean monitoring satellite in orbit, which had already paid for the rocket.

This year, there are another 10 to 20 falcon rockets scheduled for take-off, each already paid for by the companies and governments paying Elon to send their cargos to space. With revenue secure, he focuses his time on how to test new innovations (like landing the rockets back safely).

We’ve moved from the industrial age where product development and testing took place BEFORE delivery, to the technological age where product development and testing takes place DURING delivery.

How can you increase the testing you can do? When in front of customers? When serving your customers? When delivering an existing product to develop the next product?

In the old paradigm, it was easy to dismiss testing as being too costly.
In the new paradigm, it’s NOT testing that’s far more expensive.

When Elon finally works out how to return his rockets each time, he’ll be saving himself over a billion dollars of lost rockets each year - and he’ll be able to cost his trips to be far ahead of the competition.

You don’t need to be a billionaire like Elon to test like him.
But you do need to test like Elon to be a billionaire like him.

Failing isn’t where the price is. Failing is where the profit is.

“If things aren’t failing, you are not innovating enough.” ~ Elon Musk

If you’re up against adversity or overcoming challenges, this story is for you.

If you’re up against adversity or overcoming challenges, this story is for you.

Will Smith's first career as a rapper led to him going broke in 1990 when the IRS came knocking. Will says, “They wanted $2.8 million and I had two dollars and eighty three cents.”

“There’s nothing more sobering than having six cars and a mansion one day and you can’t even buy gas… the next.”

Overnight, his hip hop friends disappeared and he was left trying to figure out what to do next. Early success and fast spending had led to big failure.

It was producer Quincy Jones who became Will’s white knight. Quincy was planning a new comedy for NBC, and thought of his own experience bringing up his kids in Bel-Air. He remembered one call from his daughter who was away at camp: “Dad, the water here sucks. Please FedEx Evian.”

So Quincy put his experience together with Will Smith’s “Fresh Prince” image, and created “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air”. Will auditioned while struggling with no money, and took the job. The series became a hit, but Will had to keep paying 70% of his pay to the IRS for the next 3 years.

Given a fresh start, with just enough to money to survive, Will threw himself into acting: "I was trying so hard," he said. "I would memorize the entire script, then I'd be lipping everybody's lines while they were talking… My performances were horrible.”

Will persevered, and set himself the goal of being "the biggest movie star in the world”. He threw himself into studying other movie stars and what they did. Then he picked the right movies:

“The biggest movie stars make the biggest movies, so I looked at the top 10 movies of all time. At that point, they were all special-effects movies. So Independence Day, no-brainer. Men in Black, no-brainer. I, Robot, no-brainer.”

His mix of failure, resilience, determination - and another 20 years of work-ethic - finally led him to his goal:

Will is the only actor to have eight consecutive films gross over $100 million in the domestic box office, eleven consecutive films gross over $150 million internationally, and eight consecutive films in which he starred open at the number one spot in the domestic box office tally.

He’s been ranked as the most bankable star worldwide by Forbes and set a Guiness World Record for attending three film premieres of films he featured in a 24 hour time period.

The path to success is never a straight path, and it’s the seeds we sow in our failures that create our success.

So cut out the noise on the outside, listen to the voice on the inside, and keep your eye on the prize.

All it takes is will.

Think Big - Dream Big - Earn Big

John Pemberton invented Coca-Cola when he was 55 years old.

Ray Kroc bought McDonald’s when he was 59 years old.

Colonel Sanders began franchising KFC at 62 years old.

Tim & Nina Zagat were 51 yr old lawyers when they wrote the 1st Zagat guide.

Charles Darwin was 50 years old before he wrote “On the Origin of Species”.

Julia Child was also 50 years olf when she wrote her first cookbook.

Henry Ford was 45 years old when he created the Model T car.

Microfinance pioneer, Muhammad Yunus, launched the Grameen Bank at 43 years old.

Samuel L. Jackson was 43 years old before he had his first hit film, “Jungle Fever”.

It’s never too late to succeed.
It’s always too early to quit.

“You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.”
~ C.S. Lewis

How Instagram Invented ? - Story Behind It

18 months & 3 simple, not-so-simple steps to $1 billion...

Today, Instagram sold to Facebook for $1 billion. A week ago, when TIME asked Instagram founder, Kevin Systrom, if he would sell the company, he said “It’s not really on the top of our minds right now.”

Kevin is 27 years old and started Instagram 18 months ago with Mike Krieger, in October 2010. The company has grown with just 4 staff, and today has just 9 in the team. With the $1 billion deal that was announced today, was Kevin just plain lucky, or was there some simple steps that he (and others who have had the same luck) have in common?

Here’s three steps he followed. They may not guarantee you exactly the same success - but they will increase your own good fortune:


It was while Kevin was studying at Stanford 7 years ago that he had the idea of a photo-sharing site, from his passion for photography. That was before iPhones, and before Facebook. Step one is to cultivate your idea by learning from others. He met Mark Zuckerberg in 2004 and talked about his idea. Mark then offered him a job at Facebook, which had just launched (in hindsight, a cheaper option that the $1 billion he’s just paid to work with Kevin). Kevin turned him down but they stayed in touch. He went to intern at Odeo with Evan Williams, who sold Blogger and Jack Dorsey, who launched Twitter. This is where Kevin got to understand the power of social sharing. Kevin later said “Comparing Instagram to photography is like comparing Twitter to Microsoft Word”.

He then went on to work at Google. All in all, it was a full six years after having the idea of a photo sharing site that he worked with others leading the field: Getting paid for his own education before he launched his own start-up. As Kevin says, “I was given the opportunity to be in the middle of a ton of innovation, and meet some of the smartest people doing the coolest stuff in the world. When I finally did it [myself], it just felt so right."

Who could you (and should you) be working with today to lay your own foundation?


When Kevin launched Instagram in October 2010, he explained in his first blog what problems Instagram intended to solve. He listed the top three problems users were having:

“My mobile photos look lame.”
“It’s a pain to share to all my friends.”
“Photos take forever to upload.”

How would he know these were the problems? Just by talking to people? No, by getting it wrong the first time. In early 2010 he launched his first attempt “Burbn” as a location-based photo app, using Foursquare. It was a one-man-band, but after a year of hard work it had failed to catch on. It was, however, a failure that allowed him to learn from his users what would work, and to attract interest from like-minded people, including his future co-founder of Instagram, Mike Krieger.

By focusing on these three problems, Instagram launched in October 2010. Kevin relates the first moments of launch: “It was 12:15am, October 6th and we had been working on the app non-stop, day and night for 8 weeks. With a bit of hesitation, I clicked the button that launched “Instagram” live to the Apple app store. We figured we’d have at least 6 hours before anyone discovered the app so we could grab some shut-eye. No problem, we figured. Within a few minutes, they started pouring in... The night of sleep we were hoping for turned into a few meager hours before we rushed into the office to add capacity to the service. Now, only a couple months later, we’re happy to announce that our community consists of more than a million registered users.”

What problem are you solving, and what are you learning by failing, that is setting you up for your own overnight success?


Kevin explains the difference between Instagram and Burbn: “We actually got an entire version of Burbn done as an iPhone app, but it felt cluttered, and overrun with features. It was really difficult to decide to start from scratch, but we went out on a limb, and basically cut everything in the Burbn app except for its photo, comment, and like capabilities. What remained was Instagram.”

Kevin cut out all the noise. He then launched Instagram just on the Apple App Store (It just came to Android last week) and focused on sharing on Twitter and Facebook (Three platforms that didn’t even exist when he first had the idea). That’s it: Photo, comment, like. No other platforms. No other noise.

Simpler means sharper means easier to cut through the noise. Instagram went from one million users by Dec 2010 to 30 million users today. In 2011, Apple named Instagram the “App of the Year”. Why would Facebook buy it now for $1 billion? Because Mark already knows it will add more value than that to Facebook when it has its upcoming $100 billion IPO.

If you are already thinking big, connecting smart and focused at the problems you are solving - How could you solve them in the fewest number of steps?


It obviously takes more than three simple, not-so-simple steps to get the pieces lined up and timed right for the kind of 18 month run that Kevin has had. But these three show up again and again in today’s stories of hyper-growth, and the ones I will continue to share here on Facebook and at my Fast Forward events.

As an end to this chapter of the Instagram story, here’s how Kevin relates the beginning of his photo-sharing idea. It is at the heart of his journey, as your story should be at the heart of yours:

“When I studied abroad my teacher set what I do now in motion by saying, “Give me that camera of yours.” He took my camera away and gave me a little, plastic camera. I was studying in Florence at the time and he told me that I wasn’t allowed to use my camera for the rest of the class. I had to use this plastic camera with a terrible lens. He said I was too focused on sharpness and “I feel like you’re more artsy than that.””

“He said, “I want you to use this Holga,” this plastic camera with a plastic lens that had this cult following in the ’80s and ’90. I was blown away by what it could do to photos. My photography teacher was totally right. I was too focused on being meticulous with these really beautiful, complex architectural shots. It helps to see the world through a different lens and that’s what we wanted to do with Instagram. We wanted to give everyone the same feeling of discovering the world around you through a different lens.”

It’s ironic that as Instagram hits a $1 billion value, mimicking the feel of these disposable cameras, the biggest producer of them, Kodak, has filed for bankruptcy.

Each wave that crashes is followed by another. The only question is who is already positioning themselves to surf it. Are you up for the ride?