I was just reminded today of a long philosophical talk I had with 2 friends. We were in Paris finishing up our executive MBA program at Georgia Tech about 4 years ago. We had some free time and went to some museums and then we took a walk down the bank of the Seine.
Rodney was a single man and a determined entrepreneur. Mike was married, had two older kids, had some startup experience and was working as the CTO of a new bank in California. I was just working as a software engineer at the time and, while I had begun the MBA program as a single man determined to become an international business tycoon, I was now married with my wife sitting at home in Atlanta 8 months pregnant. In the 19 months I was in the program my risk aversion had completely changed ends of the spectrum.
Rodney, Mike and I had worked together on our MBA project which was to build a business plan for a nascent venture centered around technology developed at Georgia Tech. We wrote up a huge plan, 50+ pages, and when we got back from Paris we won the eMBA business plan competition but I’m getting ahead of myself…
So there we are, walking down the bank of the Seine and talking about what we want to accomplish after graduation. They were ready put our audio/video search technology company on the front burner and see how much further it would go. I was shrinking back into the steady state world of corporate IT – convinced I could make a difference there.
They both wanted me to take a risk – a risk on doing something bold, new and entrepreneurial. I just couldn’t do it then.
Cut to February 2009, the ballroom at the 12 Hotel in Midtown Atlanta, GA. It’s Startup Riot 2009. 50 startup companies get 3 minutes to pitch. Their passion, creative energy and fanatical entrepreneurship fills the cavernous room. I was infected with the spirit.
Now it’s time for StartupRiot 2010 and I’m wondering how many other people will be making the same journey. The entrepreneurial spirit will be a powerful force again this year. I’m hoping everyone who goes there who’s considering either founding or joining a startup leaves there as transformed as I did.