At the heart of technological innovation is a burning desire to create something dynamic and practical that people don’t know they need – yet. Look no further than the products many of us hold in our hands and laps each day that were the brainchild of the late Steve Jobs. Apple’s iPhone and iPad have become products that nearly one billion people the world over now use. They’ve forever changed our lives inspiring ingenuity and creativity, while daring entrepreneurs all over the world to dream bigger than ever before.
Across Silicon Valley, two other titans of tech have continued to perfect their products and introduce innovation to all of us. Sundar Pichai, CEO of Alphabet Inc. and its subsidiary Google LLC, as well as Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, have carried their respective companies further into the 21st century by staying on the cutting edge of their product suites and customers’ needs.
As easy as it would be to believe these leaders rose to the top of the most successful companies in the world in a very linear, smooth fashion, it’s simply false. There were many hurdles, stops, starts, and bumps in the road along the journey. As you’ll learn herein, the path to entrepreneurial success is rarely straightforward. There’s the need for a strong business acumen, in addition to a keen curiosity and subject matter knowledge in your product or service offering. Having ideas is important, but how you catalyze and turn those ideas into something tangible that people can use is what really matters.
It’s also about the mindset and fortitude you show in the face of adversity. Interestingly enough, adversity and struggles are part of the story of all these leaders. If you’re just starting your journey as an entrepreneur, or if you find yourself wondering whether you should dive in, pay close attention to the success principles and lessons here. They may have a profound impact on turning your business into a profitable venture.
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I think it is possible for ordinary people to choose to be extraordinary. – Elon Musk
Elon Musk’s innovative mindset has pushed technology forward. The irony in naming his electric car company Tesla is that he’s the closest thing to a modern-day, real-life Nikola Tesla – one of the most brilliant inventors the world has ever seen. Musk has continued to push for expansion in space travel via SpaceX, electric cars, his famous Hyperloop idea, and more.
The idea of electric cars largely replacing gas-engine automobiles seemed incomprehensible even ten years ago. A novelty, sure. But the idea that a car company could innovate and eventually create a product that was reasonable in price and of superior quality and efficiency mass-produced for the public? It seemed like a far cry. Yet Musk is well on his way. Tesla is humming along and mass-producing vehicles that are changing the world of transportation.
When something is important enough, you do it even if the odds are not in your favor. – Elon Musk
The Hyperloop is continuing to receive research and development dollars and looking to launch in the years to come. SpaceX is trying to place a colony on Mars. Crazy, right? Not if you look deeper for the learning opportunity. The biggest entrepreneurial lesson from the life of Elon Musk is to keep pushing boundaries by innovating and creating what hasn’t been there before. Let’s face it –we live in a copycat culture that lacks action behind great ideas. Elon Musk’s gift has been to continue innovating and creating products that the world didn’t realize it needed – but have now become instrumental to human innovation and growth.
Dream what’s never been. Use your imagination for good and keep pushing further and further into new frontiers of innovation.
Most of how life plays out is up to you, not up to what happens outside of you. It’s important to keep that in mind and take the long-term view. – Sundar Pichai
Sundar Pichai’s greatest lesson can be summed up in this powerful quote: “Wear your failure as a badge of honor.” He started as a materials engineer and later came to the United States to receive an education and grow his professional career. His journey of reaching the apex of one of the most successful companies in the world is nothing short of remarkable. He was once a student in India dreaming of one day providing billions of people with technology that could change their lives.
After arriving at Google, Pichai was instrumental in spearheading the innovation and product management of Google products like Chrome, as well as Google Drive. His imprint on the technology we use today cannot be understated. He got to the top of the company by demonstrating his successes along the way. Pichai showed that opportunity often comes from achieving results and innovating on your natural talents and expertise. He used his background in engineering to further his curiosity in creating software products (like the ones I’m using now, and the ones we all use each day!) to make them easier, better, and more powerful for the user. He’s focused on solving problems that people need solved. That’s the mark of a great entrepreneur.
I know how much hard work it takes to pursue a dream of building a business. The long hours. Time away from family. The ideas you know are brilliant that just don’t seem to catch on. I remember reading about that and thinking – it’s the idea that matters. It doesn’t matter where you come from or what your background is. One revolutionary idea. One brilliant invention can unleash other entrepreneurs to revolutionize industries in ways we can never predict. – Sundar Pichai
Make sure your work is focused on solving people’s problems. When you can match this up with ideas that tie to your values and core ideals, you’re truly onto something.
Additional Lessons for Entrepreneurs
1. You will have to make sacrifices – which means giving up some things you like for what you truly want.
Let’s face it – you’re going to have to give up the comforts that could come from a full-time job. But you’re also going to need to eliminate time-wasting activities like binge-watching Netflix and gaming for hours on end. Entrepreneurial success requires a very hard work ethic. Elon Musk has dedicated his life to his companies and works very long hours. In the end, he feels like it’s worth it. Hard to argue with those results.
2. Don’t fear mistakes. They’re inevitable. Use them to make you smarter, stronger, and better prepared for each new venture
It’s hard to believe but only 12 years ago, Tesla and SpaceX were on the verge of bankruptcy. Musk has crashed rockets, underperformed in car production, and been ousted as CEO of PayPal. He’s kept going and learned from every one of these experiences to get better.
3. See your impact as being bigger than yourself.
Apple has likely factored into your life in some capacity. Maybe you regularly use their products each day. Maybe you’ve studied the brilliance of Steve Jobs’s success in driving innovation and also marketing Apple’s products. Jobs diversified Apple’s product offerings but simply put, he gave the world products they didn’t know they needed – but now can’t live an hour without. Apple’s success has carried over to current CEO, Tim Cook. If you can observe the way they’ve put products in the hands of people all over the world and helped create access for billions, it’s truly amazing. They’ve literally changed the world.
Be bigger than just your goals. Have a purpose that creates impact.
4. Don’t get caught up worrying about needing to “arrive” so early. Focus on getting to work and building the best product or service offering you can and the results will take care of themselves.
Sundar Pichai’s path to the top of Google took time. He worked extremely hard on the product side of the organization and listened to what customers wanted and needed. Google’s suite of products has become universal in the world because they’ve kept innovating and simplifying their offerings to stay at the top.
Take it from these brilliant tech leaders – focus on the fundamentals, dream big, and adapt to change around you. Don’t worry about failing – the only real failure is in not trying at all. If you’re looking out at the landscape and wondering if it’s your time to give your dream a shot, use the inspiration of Sundar Pichai, Elon Musk, and Steve Jobs to dive in. You may just find yourself launching the next incredible company.
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