What Entrepreneurs can Learn from 2014 Nobel Peace Laureates

2014 Nobel Peace Laureates

2014 Nobel Peace Laureates
[Source: The Nobel Peace Prize. Ill. N. Elmehed. © Nobel Media 2014]

This year’s Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Kailash Satyarthi and Malala Yousafzay for their struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education. Both these exceptional individuals have had life changing impact on thousands of children, helping them get a life they rightfully deserve. If you are familiar with the problem of child abuse and child labor in South Asia, you will appreciate how difficult it must have been for both of them to walk down the path they chose.

What caught my attention was the two different traits their lives distinctly represent – perseverance and courage. While both have demonstrated super human levels of perseverance and courage, Mr. Satyarthi’s journey is more of perseverance and Ms. Yousafzay’s journey more of courage.

Similary, there are two kinds of entrepreneur stories – one of perseverance and another of courage. Throughout an entrepreneur’s life they continue to demonstrate both, but most entrepreneurs can be classified into one of the two. And there is much to learn from the both of these Nobel laureates.

The Persevering Entrepreneur

These are the entrepreneurs who identify a tough problem, dig their heels and toil till they have made a dent. Most of them like to stay away from the limelight and would rather stay focussed on the problem that they are working on. This is the story of Kailash Satyarthi’s life – an electrical engineer and former educationist who has worked for more than 3 decades protecting child rights and liberating thousands of children from abuse.To solve this tough problem and achieve the kind of scale, one needs great perseverance. When the Nobel prize was announced, most Indians had not even heard of him although many were aware of the program he championed all his life! That is how quiet a life he has led while still making a huge dent.

The persevering entrepreneur picks problems that are often not the current trend. They often pick Herculean tasks, identify long term goals and have the strength to hang in there in times of adversity.

The Courageous Entrepreneur

These are entrepreneurs whom life presents with extraordinary challenges and/or circumstances. Not only do they respond to these circumstances, they shape the future by that very response and continue to thrive. Malala Yousafzay’s life and the extraordinary circumstances she faced did not deter her resolve to promote girl education in the strife-torn regions of Pakistan. It made her more resolute and she rose up to the challenge and has since succeeded because of her outstanding courage.

The courageous entrepreneur is brave and is not shy to make her presence felt. She is not afraid to face adversity and wants to make a dent sooner rather than later.

If you are an entrepreneur, you will identify how these two traits drive us every day. In order to succeed, you must have both. But it helps to know what you are best at. It can help you find a problem more suitable to your abilities and values. Entrepreneurship is a long haul and there are no short-cuts.

You will have to be gritty! [5 Characteristics of Grit]

Engineering a startup

I was reading an article titled ‘Engineering wants to rewrite‘ on the SVPG blog and couldn’t help keying in my own thoughts around the dynamics engineering has to work its way through in a technology startup. To quote the article:

When a company does get into this situation, everyone typically blames engineering. But in my experience, the harsh truth is that it’s usually the fault of product management. The reason is that for the past years the product managers have been pounding the engineering organization to deliver as many features as the engineering team possibly can produce. The result is that at some point, if you neglect the infrastructure, all software will reach the point where it can no longer support the functionality it needs to.

Most startups work at break-neck speed and the focus is always on features. The uncontrolled pace of piling up features without thinking of infrastructure and architectural limitations is a key component in this collapse. In a startup, a high rate of feature addition is inevitable and needs to happen. In this view, how should the Engineering and PM verticals be prepared to ensure a catastrophe is not waiting down the hill as products roll out? Here are some thoughts . Continue reading