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Why Successful Entrepreneurs Take Risks

ben1.gifJust yesterday I cracked open a new book about entrepreneurship, and although I haven’t made it further than page seven, I’ve already gotten from it the sort of energy that suggests this is going to be one seriously influential read. Aside from the most popular entrepreneurship blogs, though, it doesn’t seem like this one has made much of an impact just yet — and I do tend to keep a pretty close eye on the literature and book review scenes.

At any rate, the book’s title is My Start-Up Life, and it was written by a guy named Ben Casnocha. It’s the subtitle, though, that really grabs you. It reads, “What a (Very) Young CEO Learned On His Journey Through Silicon Valley”. That’s the sort of statement that begs this question: How young?

Well … Ben Casnocha today is 19. He started his first company when he was 12. And according to a bio on his book’s dust jacket, “By the time he was 16, he was nominated for Inc. Magazine’s ‘Entrepreneur of the Year’ and was chairman of his second company, Comcate.”

Wow. Jealous yet?

As an entrepreneur-in-the-making myself, I’ve spent a good bit of time on Ben’s blog and his website, and from what I can tell, this is a very wise kid who probably deserves all the good things that have come his way. I’m particularly fond of his positive, anti-cynical attitude, which seems to be almost non-existent among kids today. Take a look at the following essay by Ben; it’s essentially about the power of persistence, and it appears on page seven of My Start-Up Life. If you’re a would-be entrepreneur or a small business owner, I highly recommend spending a bit of time with Ben online, and, assuming you appreciate what he has to say, I’d recommend picking up his book as well.

Brainstorm: Who Knows What Could Happen If You Raise Your Hand? 

So much of entrepreneurship is simply showing up and taking small risks.

In my technology class we brainstormed a business idea but there was no follow-through. I went to the computer lab every day over the summer and turned our discussion into something real.

I showed up.

When you show up you risk embarrassment or failure. In the early days of Comcate I took many risks. I outsourced the programming of the prototype (OK decision), offered the product to early clients at a steep discount (good decision), paid an interim CEO to write a business plan (bad decision), committed to a delivery model of hosted software instead of on-site installation (probably good decision), and snuck into a couple nonvendor conferences to pitch prospects (good decision).

Today, I continue to take risks, albeit in a more calculated fashion–consider the potential upside, the potential downside, and the probability of either occuring. On my blog, I reveal personal and professional activities and leave myself open for critique–which comes in bucketloads! I travel internationally where few people speak English. At Comcate board meetings I try to advocate for the unpopular opinion.

Great entrepreneurs show up, take small risks (and sometimes, large risks), raise their hand when they’re confused, and try to figure out what’s going on and how a situation could be made better.

When you show up and raise your hand, you’ve already outperformed 90 percent of the crowd.         

–Ben Casnocha

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. June 14, 2007 at 12:07 AM

    Thanks so much for picking up my book, Dan!

    I love Lonely Planet, by the way.

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