From the desk of Herb Sih, Managing Partner, Think Big Partners
“The years teach much which the days never know.”- Ralph Waldo Emerson
The changing of seasons is one of Mother Nature’s greatest inventions. As autumn leaves fall and tree branches begin to bare, it is a natural time to reflect on the year that has passed. It is often during this time, and the natural tendency to slow down as the weather becomes colder, that some of life’s greatest revelations become self-evident.
“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” - Soren Kierkegaard
Every year, we start winding down Think Big Partners activities during November, forcing many critical decisions to be reckoned with in December. These decisions will shape our business, both operationally (day to day) and longer term in pursuit of our vision of economic prosperity for our community and country, based on successful entrepreneurship and its many proven rewards. By helping entrepreneurs build profitable companies, bridging the gaps between innovation and commercialization of good ideas worth doing, or maximizing economic growth opportunities for cities based on their rich, unique history of industrial success, we contemplate lessons learned and ways we can work smarter in the future.
The process of winding down doesn’t mean we stop working. Work is sometimes an illusion. Being busy doesn’t always mean getting things done. Activity should not be confused with progress, and should not be measured by the number of emails sent, meetings attended or arbitrary tasks checked off your list as completed. But the act of taking things off your list…that is very different. This is, in fact, a productive activity beyond measure. To be truly productive and be able to live a smarter life going forward, we must be willing to release ourselves from our self-imposed obligations of the past.
“It's not what you look at that matters, it's what you see.” - Henry David Thoreau
If you take the time to examine things, you often can learn more than you bargained for. It has been said that the truth is already know, it just has to be revealed. Take the time to look for these revelations.
Reflecting on the past year, we think we see things in our world of running a hybrid technology focused business incubator, startup accelerator and collaborative coworking space for entrepreneurs a bit more clearly than ever before. Perhaps it is because we have crossed Malcolm Gladwell’s proverbial “10,000 hours” mark of experience for true mastery. Maybe it is because entrepreneurship and innovation seem to be “the new black”, and everywhere you look there are opportunities ripe for observation. Or maybe it is simply because we now look at things just a bit differently, based on our newfound experience and quiet lessons learned along the way. Some of these lessons were quite obvious. Some were very subtle. A few were even painful. But no matter how we arrived at these revelations, all were invaluable.
With these lessons, we see things clearer than ever before.
"The only source of knowledge is experience.” - Albert Einstein
We originally launched Think Big Partners in October 2010. But truth be told, we actually started in spring of 2009. It seems like a long 4 years since that time.
Back in May 2009, Tyler Prochnow and I took “B” office space and decided to re-learn all the things we hated about starting a business that we had forgotten about over the previous 10 years. Things like waiting for the cable guy to show up in their 4 hour window. Ordering a VoIP phone and not being able to properly hook it up for weeks. The isolation of working nearly alone, where you lack feedback for your ideas and contact with talented, diverse people that can give it to you. We had to tap back into our past forgotten experiences to gain the knowledge we were look for.
In 2009, Tyler had just come off the successful sale of Kansas City’s arena league football team (he was the original founder and pulled off a near miracle getting them to launch on time), and I had just sold my interest in a call center that I helped launch. Tyler had been practicing law for the bulk of his adult life, and I had been in the investment space for more than a decade, concurrent to some my career as an entrepreneur. Tyler had won awards and recognition as an outstanding attorney, and I had received recognition for being a co-founder of an Inc. 500 company in the marketing space. And while we had 2 very different backgrounds, we had one common experience. This experience was that it was really, REALLY hard to successfully take a good idea and turn it into a sustainable business.
Good ideas are a dime a dozen. That is not to say that it is easy to launch a new venture, but what gets really hard is taking a new venture from bright, shiny enthusiastic object stage to grind it out, not so fun when you miss dinner but must get it done stage. Getting your first 10 customers and your first real taste of revenue is where it gets tricky. And that is the part that we love the most, as we always seem to enjoy a good challenge, especially one that we can keep score in.
Our collective experiences, along with those of our immensely talented team members and partners, have equipped us for the next chapter in our book. We are very excited knowing exactly what we need to do, what we need to build and how we are going to execute this game plan. We are grateful for the partnerships we have created, both public and private, that will empower us to be very powerful allies for our entrepreneurs, startups, ideas, commercialization partners, big and small companies, investment partners, communities and country as we go into the new year.
These realizations have all come as the result of slowing down, to see things a bit more clearly, and to tune into the wisdom that is all around if you just pay attention. We are thankful for the wisdom we have gained, and more so for the opportunity to do something with it in 2014.
Stay tuned…and thanks for reading.