As I am writing my first book on entrepreneurship, and I was looking for historical references, I found true inspiration in Christopher Columbus. Not Richard Branson, Bill Gates or Steve Jobs. They do deserve admiration without any doubt but they had the facilities and knowledge of modern society and the financial infrastructure. Columbus, on the other hand, started his project at a time when the Earth was considered flat, and had very little resource to argument the potential of his travels.
Here are the reasons why I consider him the best entrepreneur in history:
1. He spent 7 years trying to convince the Bank Of Genova that his plan is viable and did not achieve it (Does it sound familiar?)
2. He pitched his idea to several Venture Capital organizations of that period, such as kings and aristocrats and most did not believe him, with the exception of the Catholic Kings of Spain.
3. Being the good entrepreneur he was, he minimized efforts and left with provisions for 60 days only.
4. He was wrong with the product vision and ended up at a new continent, the Americas, instead of India.
5. He made huge mistake in the calculations of the Earth´s diameter. He assumed 3000km instead of the actual 6374km. “Just” 50% difference, as in many business plans.
6. He only had 10% of the net income, which made him a minority shareholder with no rights to drag along.
7. He managed a team of sailors with barely any provisions in the last stage of the trip, most probably staff was on the edge of strike.
8. When the investors realized the magnitude of the capital gain, they tried to take his power away.
9. It seems like after the company growth, he was not such a good manager.
Just like any other entrepreneur.
So what should we learn from the story of the person who achieved the highest capital gain ever with his project?
1. If investors do not believe in you, they are not necessarily right. Believe in yourself!
2. The initial business idea may not be the successful one. You will most probably have to change it over time.
3. You are going to be wrong in your calculations and will underestimate the risks. Get ready to suffer.
4. You will have leadership crisis and your team will be doubtful about the direction you are taking but you have to continue and show them the right way with calm.
5. Be careful with jealousy. When the cake is growing, contracts should be reviewed.
6. Not everybody is suitable for all the phases a company goes through. Some people will not be good managers in a bigger company.
Just to summarize, despite the 500 years of difference, the challenges and difficulties we are facing as entrepreneurs are very similar. We keep fighting, making wrong assumptions, working long hours and keeping the faith that there is light at the end of the tunnel.