Monday, March 16, 2009

A Return to Passion

In his piece in yesterday's New York Times, George Anders talked about "The Secrets of the Talent Scouts". It reminded me of the need/opportunity to return to passion in the world of start ups.

Mike Moritz of Sequoia Capital was quoted in the piece: "The only people who want to start a company in a time like this are the ones with the greatest conviction.”

That's exciting. Because over the last few years, the fever of money-making has, to a large degree, overtaken the passion to "change the world" that has driven start ups for a long time. For those of us who started in technology awhile ago, this passion has been a sentiment that we found missing. It reached a pinnacle (or nadir, perhaps) for me when, a few years ago, I met a very young entrepreneur who, when asked to tell the story of the founding of the company, answered with the following: "Do you want to hear the real story or the one that sounds better?" Ugh.

But now, I suspect such raw ambition without a foundation of passion wouldn't succeed in getting funded. (Yes. There are a lot of venture capitalists who aren't funding those companies either, but that's another story.)

At Roeder-Johnson, we are fortunate to represent multiple companies that have built and maintained their companies on sheer dint of will and the passion to make their visions happen. Turns out they are feeling the impact of today's economy less than a lot of other start ups.

So, what does this have to do with communications? A lot.

We believe that today, more than any time in the last few years, communications strategy and messages need to combine BOTH that passion and vision as well as the basic business case. That is, whether the founders of the company want to make cloud computing instant, a chip that does many high speed communications functions better than any network or general purpose processor, next generation multi-touch and gestural controls, or breakthrough fuel cell materials, the story that the company tells should combine four key elements:

*The inspiration for the basic idea;

*What is possible when this basic idea is realized (and, in its small way, how it might change the world);

*The business opportunities that are opened because of this breakthrough; and
*The passion that will lead to success -- through thick and thin.

It's no longer good enough to have a clever, opportunistic gimmick to make it through the challenging times we face. We have to believe that the change will really happen.

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