The story sounds familiar. A young, technology-savvy entrepreneur builds an industry-leading company with the support of wealthy investors. His initial product rapidly commands 80% market share across the United States. Within just a few years, the industrialist helps incubate half a dozen successful startups in energy, chemicals and transportation.
Even the most capable early-stage entrepreneurs winding through incubation can find cooperating and co-creating with co-founders, lead investors, strategic partners and early customers challenging. Often, the problem is that we simply don’t hear each other. We miss telling details of critical intelligence: needs and desires or inhibitors and motivators.
Antonio Stradivari and his apprentices handcrafted more than 1100 violins, violas, cellos, harps, and guitars in the late 17th and early 18th centuries. The Italian’s prodigious output, said to be greater than that of any luthier of his time, and the financial success documented by his scrupulously maintained records, suggest he was also a disciplined entrepreneur.
Christophe Plantin, founder of what would become the biggest publishing business in 16th century Europe, overcame setbacks greater than most modern entrepreneurs could imagine. A master printer and typographer respected for both his artistry and business savvy, Plantin survived a crippling sword attack that obliged him to change careers.
Ever since Minecraft’s creation by the then 30-year-old Swede Markus Perrson in 2009, the video game has catered to two basic human desires — adventure and building. Bought by Microsoft for $2.5 billion in 2014, Minecraft has become the second-most successful video-game of all time by tapping into an apparently universal desire to tinker and explore.
Failure seemed to stalk Jacob Davis. Panning for flakes of gold in the rivers of Canada’s western territories yielded mostly dirt and frustration. Patents filed for a steam-powered canal boat and a steam-powered ore crusher failed to generate commercial interest. Undeterred, the immigrant continued to patiently explore and prospect in search of opportunity.