By Dr. Jeffrey Lant
Author’s program note. I live and work in Cambridge, Massachusetts, just steps away from Harvard Sq. This compact area along the MBTA’s Red Line arguably contains the greatest concentration of brain power and technological innovation on earth. I’m here to tell you about a great new idea hereabouts which you’ll want to come and see.
To set the background for this article and get you in the mood, I’ve selected “You have to admit it’s getting better” by the Beatles, 1967, from “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band.” It’ll certainly get your blood flowing… a feeling every innovator young or old knows well and just cannot get enough of. Go to any search engine, find the tune, then crank up the sound and prepare to do your bit to ensure the future will keep getting better all the time….
Just the other day, September 16, 2011, something new, creative, innovative and long overdue was inaugurated the shortest walk from the Kendall Square MBTA stop in Cambridge. It’s the brand spanking new Entrepreneur Walk of Fame… and I say, “Hurrah!” and special thanks to the city of Cambridge, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and a handful of foundations and groups. The walk celebrates the essential importance of entrepreneurs, people who improve the nation and the world through invention and innovation, not least by being engines for the creation of new jobs; a task our nation’s capital and its bewildered office holders just cannot seem to do better.
For openers, the founders of the walk have honored 7 grand entrepreneurs, some of whom we know well, others we may not know at all, for all that we have enjoyed in one way or another the fruit of their experience and experiments. They include…
* Microsoft cofounder Bill Gates.
* Apple Inc. cofounder Steve Jobs.
* Lotus Development Corp. founder Mitch Kapor.
* Genentech cofounder Bill Swanson.
* Hewlett Packard Co. founders Bill Hewlett and David Packard.
How they were chosen.
Once the idea of the walk had been approved and financing was arranged, prospective honorees were canvassed… and, ultimately, inclusion criteria determined. These stated that those honored must be respected US entrepreneurs who developed an innovative, technology-based idea into a billion-dollar company, and who are known — and respected — as risk takers, thereby embodying the essence of the entrepreneur. They don’t need local ties, but must have had a big impact — creating jobs, or an entire industry. In short, these are the biggest of the big fry.
Why each entrepreneur was chosen.
The selection committee for the first seven honored released its reasons for each entrepreneur selected.
* Bill Gates… for creating the software industry.
* Steve Jobs… who embodies “bouncing back from adversity.”
* Bob Swanson… “showed that anything was possible. Created the biotech industry when he was in his 20s.”
* Bill Hewlett and David Packard. They “demonstrated the power of the team.”
* Mitch Kapor (always a local favorite). “Changed the entrepreneurial culture.”
* Thomas Edison, grandaddy of entrepreneurs, “created both inventions and a company.”
Each star in the walk is amplified by an inspirational quote. Here are a few of them…
Mitch Kapor’s “Building a workplace which engages a diversity of employees and brings out their best makes a far greater contribution than financial success alone.”
Bill Hewlett’s “Men and women want to do a good job, and if they are provided the proper environment, they will do so.”
Bill Gates’ offered this: “Never before in human history has innovation offered the promise of so much to so many in so short a time.” (I must say, Gates’ line is the best written, owing everything to Winston Churchill’s immortal remarks on the RAF pilots in the Battle of Britain. But then Gates had a Harvard education, though he did drop out long before he would have graduated.)
Innovatively, the walk also offers pedestrians such interactive stories as how Steve Jobs famously started Apple in his garage and how Gates left Harvard to become the richest man in the history of mankind, a tale from which restless undergrads have drawn all the wrong implications, to the chagrin of their worried parents who urge patience and the security of the degree Gates tossed away without a second thought. His parents worried, too….
Thoughts on entrepreneurs.
Let’s begin with the dictionary definition of the word, always a good place to start: “One who organizes, manages, and assumes the risk of a business or enterprise.” Entrepreneurs are bold, action-oriented, visionary, energetic, energizing. They can see the future and they want to do, will do, whatever it takes to deliver it. They are thrilled by challenges, not oppressed by them… and as a result they shape the lives of the rest of us… and reap unimaginable rewards… kudos, deference, money and — no matter how nerdy — the cute boy or girl of their dreams. It is no wonder, then, that the great age of the entrepreneur is here, now! It is a marvelous thing to be the cynosure of every eye with the deepest of pockets.
That’s why — right this minute — young men and (increasingly) young women throw off the comfortable and predictable to risk everything, knowing that failure is always a possibility, but proceeding anyway…
These folks, crucial to the economy, to the job market, and to the good of all, deserve just as much help as they can get. The Entrepreneur Wall of Fame and its many activities are an excellent start. Bill Aulet, managing director of the MIT Entrepreneurship Center, and his team should take a bow….
But it is not enough…
1) Every presidential candidate needs to visit the Walk of Fame and the MIT Entrepreneurship Center and see what it takes to make a better future.
2) The president of these United States should especially be invited. He knows nothing about the needs of entrepreneurs… and as a Harvard Law student never went near Kendall Sq. and MIT, and we are all suffering accordingly.
3) We need to establish and enthusiastically develop and promote a cabinet-level Department of Innovation and Entrepreneurship where we do everything possible for the crucial people reshaping the world to general advantage.
And one more thing, we ought to chastise roundly the candidates who lambast Cambridge, Harvard, MIT and, in general, the brainiacs here about. Such attacks are despicable, usually are made by those on the right in an attempt to frighten the uneducated, and get us no where. America needs entrepreneurs and their daring; let’s celebrate, not trash, them, for they are coming up with the ideas we need, not you.
About the Author
Harvard-educated Dr. Jeffrey Lant is CEO of Worldprofit, Inc., providing a wide range of online services for small and-home based businesses.
Republished with author’s permission by Graham Lee – The Income Zone
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