In the mid-1990s, just days after stepping off the plane for my first job in the U.S., I had the pleasure of meeting Guy Kawasaki. I was there to organize the Mac Summit Conference, and it turned out that he was the event’s keynote speaker.
If you look up the word “entrepreneur” in the dictionary, it’ll probably have a picture of Guy Kawasaki. He was one of Apple’s chief evangelists in the mid-1980s, spreading the word about the Macintosh computer. He later left Apple to start his own database company, ACIUS, and then started another software company called Fog City. At one point he returned to Apple, and then a few years later he left to start yet another company, Garage Technology Ventures, which he still runs today. Most recently, he started Alltop, an online magazine rack of blogs and news sources, a site I like to call “an acquired taste.”
Kawasaki has definitely been overtaken by the serial entrepreneur bug. Look at any photo of him and you’ll see a man who looks physically and spiritually 20 years younger than he really is. Being young at heart like that is one of the prerequisites for serial entrepreneurship. How do you know if you are young at heart? If you are curious about the world, create ideas often, and are usually ahead of the times, you are young at heart. Besides, if you need to ask if you are young at heart, you probably aren’t!
I’ve spent a good deal of my life around entrepreneurs, enough to know that they come in all shapes and sizes. You don’t have to be like Guy Kawasaki. Entrepreneurship is not a business model or a career trajectory, it is a spirit and different people express it differently.
Take Mark Albion, for example. Albion is another one of my favorites, a “social entrepreneur” who spent 20 years as a student and a professor at Harvard Business School. Now a seven-time entrepreneur, he left Harvard to develop a community of service-minded MBAs. Later, he founded Net Impact, a global network of leaders who are changing the world through business. Albion is transforming communities one business at a time, and he stresses the importance of having a higher goal in business, something beyond simply making money.
You don’t have to go to Silicon Valley or Harvard to find real-life entrepreneurial models, though. They are closer to home, and more like you, than you may realize. In fact, it’s quite likely you will find them right in your own social circle, or amongst the people that you run into every day.
One of the examples I look to in my own circle is Metin Suerkan, the owner of Brand Travel. Metin started his business in late 2008, having already built a successful career in the elite hotel tourism industry. Since he knew the ins and outs of the business, he could spot the niches that were not being filled, and he set out to fill them himself. In a short period of time, he not only grew his corporate portfolio, but took a leading role in promoting Istanbul to Europe’s high society.
Or consider Ferda Oran, whom I met recently while taking a lunchtime break from shopping on Bagdat Caddesi. Ferda was a marketing executive who worked for multinational companies in the Netherlands and Turkey, before deciding to open Cafe Sante, an organic foods restaurant and market on Istanbul’s Asian side. Ferda, a food engineer by training, saw a growing niche with great potential and left the corporate life so she could offer the world natural foods that are good for the body and soul.
There is no one common mold that all entrepreneurs fit into. Some of them thrive in the rarified air of hi-tech venture capital. Others come from academic backgrounds. Some stay in the same industry, but call on their creativity to break open a niche no one saw before. Still others leave their past behind to tackle a business that, at first glance at least, has little to do with what they’ve done before. Every entrepreneur enters the lifestyle from a different angle. If you are young at heart, if you have a healthy curiosity and a zest for life, and if you are open to the world around you, the entrepreneurial world will have a place for you, too.