Sunday, December 10, 2006

The "C" Words

I went to COLORADO COLLEGE (known far and wide as "CC") last week to talk about entrepreneurship and sustainability. I spoke about the CONVERGENCE of social entrepreneurship and sustainability in the BOP, driven by environmental degradation and poverty. As Jeffrey Sachs has pointed out eloquently, these two go hand in hand. To a BOPreneur, that means you need to address both if you are going to be effective. That is what we are doing with Envirofit.

Anyway, one of the students asked how I had the CONFIDENCE to launch Envirofit. I think this was a polite way of asking "are you CRAZY?" But as with many student questions, it kept coming back, days later. For the record, my answer was that I didn't have a lot of confidence that we could pull it off in the very beginning. But the idea seemed COMPELLING. So we gave it a try. Then it had us.

Well, I kept thinking about it. I even pulled out the dictionary. Interestingly, CONFIDENCE has several meanings. One is "feeling of CERTAINTY". Well, we were certain that there was a problem (urban air pollution from motorcycles is a huge problem in Asia). But we had no feeling of certainty that we would be successful in solving it. Another definition of confidence, however, is "trust in a person or thing". Well, I did have a lot of trust in both the idea, and the people with whom I was starting the business. So, it turns out, I had did have confidence in starting Envirofit, just a different type of confidence. I think that second type of confidence is critical to a start up. If you don't trust the idea or the people, you should move on.

A few other "C" words that might be applicable to the entrepreneurial endeavor might be COURAGE and CURIOUSITY. Courage is an interesting word, with its roots going back to early words for "heart". I think many entrepreneurs are led, in part, by their hearts when they start a business. Those early days are often called a "labor of love." To the extent courage is an approach to the unknown, it fits for entrepreneurs. But to the extent it deals with danger, the word is probably melodramatic when applied to entrepreneurs, and best left to soldiers and spies (although some BOPreneurs have some pretty crazy stories).

CURIOSITY is defined as "a desire to learn, especially about something new." Clearly a driver of entrepreneurship. But it has to be COUPLED with action. It is not enough to learn. You have to do something with the knowledge. Then you will have CREATED something. And if it has value, it will become an enterprise with a life of its own. And that is what entrepreneurship is all about.

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