I have never felt like an entrepreneur; I never really dreamed of making tonnes of money and neither did I ever really desire to be anyone's boss. These are just two rather stereotypical motivations people often assume were my driving forces, and which also seem to be common in entrepreneurial literature. Personally, I am driven by a passion for seeking knowledge. For me, running a business is like reading a thriller - a page turner that you can't put down. It's about experiencing a story within a context I am interested.
A lot of people ask me why I took the plunge from having a dream job at one of the most well-recognised and valuable brands (Rolls-Royce) to starting something where sleeping on the floor of friends' houses became a common event. The answer to that is simple - because of a strong belief. Once a concept grasps your imagination and its scale and importance somehow manages to overtake the reason for your very existence, there is nothing that one can do to hold back the inevitable - to just do it. When I started my business, I had never modelled a business on Excel, I had no clue about financial jargon, nor could I fathom putting together a team that could achieve my vision.
My business came from an idea that solar energy could - if packaged correctly - electrify the billions of people that have no access to electricity across the developing world. This idea become my drug; I had no clue at this very stage if it would ever make commercial sense, but the satisfaction of day-dreaming such a future was sufficient. As time passed, I slowly started to believe that some of my imagination could actually become a reality. This is a deeply personal process, but, in meeting many entrepreneurs over the years, this tends to be a common trait among founders. Founders dare to dream that they can make an imagination a reality. They are not driven by returns; they are driven by a goal to see work completed, to see it in play. This is highly addictive.
How does one find this idea? I am no expert in this, but I am guessing it's very much like finding love. It just happens randomly; perhaps at a time you least expect it and or at a time that is often most inconvenient. Once it is stumbled upon, being 'open' and 'receptive' is key to starting the relationship with one's idea.
Once one has found that hair-raising idea that simply cannot be put to side and is worth fighting for, the actions of a reasonable man or woman seize to exist. The act becomes highly emotional and it becomes an item that one is willing to sweat blood, time and money for in order to achieve. It becomes an addiction and the only cure is to do it. Now the last ingredient is maybe the most important one - courage. I suspect many people reach this stage; they burn for something so badly, they have a strong desire to drop everything and to just do it, but they find themselves numb and afraid to make that one move that they know will change everything. What one is afraid of is to fail - to be the cause of the failure behind their beautiful vision of the future - whether this vision is for festivals to feature giant cheese sculptures, or for dogs to be wearing sunglasses.
This is where your co-founders - your friends and your future family - become essential. People that share the love for the idea of that new future; they are addicted, like you. They feed your thoughts and you feed theirs and together you create a vision so big that no one mind could ever forge such a vision alone. That intellectual challenge, that extreme creativity - that makes a grown human being sit down in awe of the potential of such a future in which goose bumps are felt everywhere - becomes a common part of your life.
This belief and love for one's idea is fundamental, as what comes next is nothing short of religious pilgrimage - testing the boundaries of your physical and mental abilities to stay focused and true to your cause regardless of the circumstances. Then there is perhaps the most important element - the willingness to take constant and repeated sacrifices for your idea again and again (financially, socially etc.)
I have no facts or statistics to back up any of the above - but that is what I felt and I am sure many to-be founders , aspiring founders and the well established entrepreneurs have gone through a similar emotional journey. And I mean a very emotional one...