There is a saying: “Entrepreneurship is living a few years of your life like most people won't, so that you can spend the rest of your life like most people can't.” It is true that every entrepreneur has a different tale about why he or she decided to start a business. No matter how diverse and weird and crazy the story might seem, all would agree that being an entrepreneur is great. This week we talked with Wikipedia co-founder and American internet entrepreneur Jimmy Wales during his short trip to Dhaka about his take on entrepreneurship.
What would be your advice for internet entrepreneurs of Bangladesh?
Well, my first and most important tip would be – just get started. I meet so many young entrepreneurs. Some of them have great ideas, some have good ideas, and some have bad ideas. No matter how or what, you need to act on your idea. You don't want to be the guy who just talks about it. You need to go and do something. Never worry about if it's not the best idea. You will have one genius idea and suddenly everything will fall into place is just a myth. It does not work like that. There might be a lot of things that you might do right or you might do wrong. But you will never get to know that if you don't act on it.
Today there are many successful tech entrepreneurs who are really young. Is age a key factor to become a successful tech entrepreneur?
(Chuckle) No, definitely not. Yes, there are a few examples of young tech entrepreneurs becoming really successful; Mark Zuckerberg's one is probably the most prominent. But if you look into most of the successful entrepreneurs of the world, you will see that most of them started building their venture somewhere around or after the age of 35. There is actually a reason why people after the age of 35 are better positioned to build a company and make it a successful one. Generally people after the age of 35 have sufficient experience which is crucial in raising a company from the ground. A lot of young entrepreneurs these days might think I am young and I can handle my company better, but the truth is there will be tons of things you will miss if you aren't experienced enough.
How important is 'failure' in an entrepreneur's life?
I have to say it should be a vital part in an entrepreneur's life. Failure is like a mirror, it tells you what you have done wrong and how you can get it right the next time. I very often give a speech called: 'Failure: Jimmy Wales is really good at it!' – detailing all the dumb ideas that I came up with in my entire life.
There will always be things that don't work out for you. It doesn't mean that you are a loser. It simply means it's not the right thing at the right time. In cases like these you need to learn your lesson and move on. New entrepreneurs have the fear of failure, which is perfectly fine. They always doubt themselves; they worry about what everyone else will think. Well, the truth is no one cares because no one cares. In fact it is best to fail at the early stage because you have nothing going on.
Funding is a serious issue for startups. What would be your advice for new startups planning to raise funds?
I really understand the importance of funding because we do a lot of fund raising for Wikipedia and Wikimedia foundation which is a really tricky business. Personally I think it's a blessing. If you don't have funds you will always try to run your startup in the most cost-effective manner. I have seen many startups that had early access to funding but failed because they were bloated and everything seemed really easy as there were lots of money to solve the problem.
Now answering your question, I would advise the startups to keep a keen eye on the product and make sure it's innovative and cost effective. If you can keep it that way then funding will surely come to you.