Money is like alcohol: Arvind Gupta
A successful entrepreneur, a failed entrepreneur, really the difference between them is one has quit. Right? It’s really the only difference. And so… You know… It’s easy to say successful entrepreneur is someone who’s built over 100 billion dollar company. That’s not necessarily the only definition. The successful entrepreneur is really the one that’s still at it. And so the only time you really not succeed is when you’ve walked away. And even then if you haven’t… if you’ve learned some very strong lessons and know how to come back, in uh… in a way that’s even stronger… You still haven’t failed. It’s just when… coming back – that’s what’s important. True relentlessness – so that’s the number one quality. A person’s personal story matters deeply because it directly relates to their passion. If someone’s doing a startup because they think it is cool, it will fail every time. Because, the pain tolerance required is too high. If I’m doing something because I think it is cool and it’s continuously painful, it’s not so cool anymore. And I’ll quit. If I do something because I deeply believe in it. Because of some reason… right? “I wanna cure… I wanna cure cancer because my mother had it.” I’ll be able to endure a lot more pain in making that happen. And I’ll be a lot more relentless than if I think it’s an interesting intellectual pursuit. The other reason is because a strong personal story also points to a very strong purpose. Those people can tell you the change… You can send… you can ask them the question: “What’s the change you’re gonna create in the world?” And they would tell you exactly the change they’re going to create in the world. And so if there’s… If the… the way the startup is trying to do it fails, they can figure out a way around it. Whereas someone else without that strong personal story… the direction the startup is going may fail and they won’t figure out the way around it because they don’t have that strong change they’re trying to create. So in science, you know you said, “Experiments don’t really fail.” They may not… they may not live up to the hypothesis that you started with but, you’ve ruled that out. Right? So, the classic is Edison. Well, “What progress have you made?” “Well I found a thousand different filaments that don’t work.” That’s great progress! (laughs) Um… That’s “Smart failure”. “Dumb failure” is… Simply not seeing what you learn. And if you’re not seeing what you’re learning well then… You are gonna be stuck, not moving forward but you might even be moving backwards. So… You could iterate your way out of mistakes. But if you’re just not opening your eyes and just not learning, you can’t iterate out of that. So entrepreneurs don’t ever have to take my advice. I… So I actually think it’s okay. Because I’m not always right. The most important first step every entrepreneur makes on the journey to CEO is making their own decisions. And how do they do that. So very common scenario is An entrepreneur sits down with their investor and the mentor. The mentor says one thing. Investor says another. Both are very opinionated. And all will always say things as if it’s a fact. “You should do this. Definitely.” And the… and the entrepreneur is just sitting there going, “Oh, man what do I do?” “The investor says one thing, and the mentor says the other.” Well, It’s up to them to make that decision. It’s also up to them to communicate why they’ve made that decision. So, if they can’t communicate why they’ve made that decision… That’s when I get angry. Or that’s when I just, when I start to lose um… Hope, in a… you know, in a company. Because a company that can’t be mentored, is also hard to invest in. Right? However, It doesn’t mean that they just blindly take advice. So it’s about communication. The very best teams are actually always explaining to me why their course of action is the very best, um… and maybe will come for advice on one or two directions but then take them back and then make their own decision. That’s part of the maturation process from a team trying to figure out an idea to a team building a multi-billion dollar business. So money is critical to make that change possible. So… there are… So IndieBio for example. Any one of these teams can change the world. If they didn’t have IndieBio, they would have no chance because they don’t have access to a lab, which costs several hundred thousand dollars which we funded and built. They don’t have the ability to support themselves and pay rent. So obviously needs to do all those things. To even try. And so what money does, is it gives you the space to be able to do it. It does not guarantee anything. As a matter of fact, the way I like to say it is, “Money is like alcohol.” It just amplifies what’s already there. So… if someone, you know, like get’s crazy when they get drunk, that’s just amplifying what’s already there by lowering… Same with money! If a team was going to fail, for some reason, money just accelerates that failure. Right? If the team was going to succeed, it just accelerates the success. So that’s what money is. It’s a… it goes both ways.