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Good Entrepreneurs are Missionaries

(via Stanford Graduate School of Business) At a speech to business school graduate, John Doerr a VC of repute with Kleiner Perkins and a former Intel alumni shares some of his pearls of wisdom. Some of the good ones are

What makes a great entrepreneur? According to Silicon Valley venture capitalist John Doerr, the best ones “are missionaries, not mercenaries.”

“Mercenaries have a lot of drive, they’re opportunistic and always pitching their latest deal,” he told a packed house of business students March 3, “whereas missionaries are more passionate and strategic. Mercenaries are sprinting and often have in their organizations an aristocracy of founders, whereas the missionaries are in it for the long run, obsessing on customers, not competition. They try to build a meritocracy—a loud, noisy place where the best ideas can get on the table.”

For more tips on what makes a young company great, Doerr recommended Organizing Genius: The Secrets of Creative Collaboration by Warren Bennis and Patricia Ward Biederman. The book’s case studies, ranging from the Manhattan Project and Xerox PARC to the 1992 Clinton presidential campaign, have several common threads, Doerr said.

All the groups described in the book started out with strong leaders and talented people who had a sense of mission. They were pragmatic but optimistic. And most important, the leaders were very young. “All typically had their best work done by people under 35,” Doerr said. “They didn’t know what they didn’t know, so they attempted the impossible.”

Doerr closed with some “unsolicited advice” to the under-35 crowd in Bishop Auditorium. “Always, always network,” he said. Keep business cards. Call somebody you weren’t going to call every day and talk for at least 10 minutes. Call your mom once a week whether you need to or not. Take your first assignment based on the opportunity to learn and grow, not on the compensation.

“And please, please, please,” he told the students, “in your drive to become great leaders, don’t forget the fundamentals: learning about recruiting, hiring, firing, inspiring, managing, developing, and motivating others with the kind of tough love that makes leaders very effective—not this Donald Trump thing, ‘You’re fired!’ There are extra points for humor.”

1 thought on “Good Entrepreneurs are Missionaries”

  1. damn inspiring stuff 🙂 and very true : the best entrepreneurs ARE the world’s biggest fanatics, true evangelists of their beliefs…
    but me thinks: a lot of the sheer thrill of starting a business is in the initial phases ; once u’ve reached the so-called _critical mass_ things like being a “meritocracy” and “attempting the impossible” end up as mere catchphrases and more practical things (=pains) take over..

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