The path to entrepreneurialism seemed to me to follow one of two tracks:
1) The celebrity entrepreneur: typically the 'kid done good', who started off selling lemonade to his school pals, before maybe dropping out of school/ university and starting up a number of failed and successful business before his empire took root.
2) The MBA/ ivy-league entrepreneur: Part genius, part hyper-networked for huge success.
By my early 30s in another fairly safe, salaried sales role, I'd evidently missed the first track (despite my best efforts at 21, when I'd rushed to join the leagues of business-model-less websites turning teenagers into paper millionaires)- and I now feared I'd missed the second. I'd mulled an MBA over at the crossroads of each role I'd moved on from, but instead 'something better' always came along (normally an opportunistic recruitment consultant)- so it never happened. Instead, I had a CV chequered with two-year stints at other peoples' interesting start-ups, lured by the next disruptive business model and the opportunity to play a formulative role in their early growth. I'd worked across numerous different industries and to varying degrees, loved the first 18 months of each experience before disillusionment crept in - either due to the business not growing as fast as the dream I was sold or increasing clashes with management over strategic direction.
Ultimately, I had a CV which silently shouted 'SHORT ATTENTION SPAN' and 'NOT EASY TO MANAGE' across the top.
Maybe my path to entrepreneurialism was more a default necessity out of the fact that I wasn't very good at being someone else's employee, combined with this constant thirst to 'disrupt' and ultimately, and most importantly...luck.
In the Spring of 2011, I returned from a year in Africa (where I'd cut my entrepreneurial teeth on starting up an eco-tourism company - something I now view as my personal MBA), to find a good friend dabbling in the coolest tech I had ever come across. Ambarish Mitra and Omar Tayeb had used cutting edge mobile image-recognition technology to augment Rish's head over the Queen's on a 5 pound note. And so Blippar and the verb 'to blipp' was born - a new marketing medium for brands and an exciting new behaviour for consumers enabling them to instantly 'unlock' static, physical images, magazines and packaging into interactive content experiences -simply by looking at them through a phone camera. 'Let me sell it', I screamed, and my journey began, alongside Steve Spencer - our creative co-founder, and Stephen Shaw and Dave Black - the founding business development team.
The journey has seen us grow to a team of 35 in less than 18 months, open a US office, attract seed funding from Qualcomm Ventures and work with some of the largest brands and publishing groups in the world including Unilever, Heinz, Conde Nast, Time Inc, Coke, Warner Bros, L'Oreal, Sony and many more. We are already acknowledged as one of the, (if not 'the') global leader in our space. My personal contribution was recently recognised at the 2012 NatWest everywoman awards, where I was presented with the Iris award (sponsored by IBM).
And over the last two years I have met with many fellow founders and realised that what I thought was my more atypical route here, is perhaps not so different after all. A short attention span is actually celebrated, rather than seen as a weakness and the tapestry of my industry and start-up experience has fared me very well for the challenges Blippar has thrown - plus built an impressive network of contacts. I hadn't needed that MBA to get here, or to follow a set path -just my own self-belief, hard work and of course that all-important right-time, right-place luck.
Moreover, whilst I find kindred spirits amongst founders and entrepreneurial business owners - I rarely do amongst self-styled 'entrepreneurs'. I believe you can be a successful, entrepreneurial business owner, but I'm not sure about being an 'entrepreneur' per-se or worse, a 'serial entrepreneur'. I believe in letting my successful businesses do the talking, not my personality.Suggest a correction