Published Essays, Published Stories, Travel Column, US

Entrepreneurs pivot… and so does the world

There’s this running joke amongst entrepreneurs that ‘entrepreneurs never fail–we just pivot… and pivot… and pivot… and pivot…’

It’s tough, being an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurs needed to have that unwavering optimism that their big idea will be ‘the next big thing’.

That almost blind optimism and unwavering belief almost reminds me of a religious fanatic. Otherwise, if one is pessimistic, realistic, insecure and unconfident, they would never succeed in the world of entrepreneurship. Because, who else would be your biggest believer except for yourself?

America seems like the perfect breeding grounds for an entrepreneur. I was impressed by the level of optimism and self-confidence. The archetypal entrepreneur is smart. suave. charismatic. self-assured. confident… and cocky.

But in this modern society, cocky is good. Confidence is society’s strongest placebo. You could come in an exclusive party without an invitation if you brought some serious swagger. Because you know how it is–if someone walked around with so much confidence, there probably is a reason for it.

Cocky is good social capital. Extroverts win. Optimism is an asset. Entrepreneurs don’t fail, we just pivot.

But can optimism become too much that it becomes unhealthy?

One word, four letters: FYRE.

To those who aren’t familiar, a quick Google search can enlighten you: Fyre Festival was the biggest failure in the history of music festivals. Marketed as a ‘luxury music festival’ in a deserted island previously owned by Pablo Escobar.

One ticket cost thousands of dollars and promised a VIP experience with exclusive villas, private jets, supermodels and rock stars but the real festival left hundreds of festival goers stranded and hungry; rich kids housed in disaster tents and cheese sandwiches.

The insanity of the whole thing made it so impossible to not laugh.

To those who have seen the Netflix documentary special, it’s insane how one person was able to pull off this titanic disaster, becoming the laughing stock of a lifetime and sentenced to six years in prison for defrauding investors and ticket holders.

Interestingly, in the show, there have been a lot of people who worked with him who voiced their concerns, doubts, and suggestions to withhold the festival–but they all fell on deaf ears.

Instead they are responded with stuff like, ‘we don’t need cynics in the team’, in typical Billy fashion–nonchalant, we-can-wing-this attitude.

After all, it is said that entrepreneurs never fail–they just pivot.

It was at that point that you realize: how easy is it to blur the lines between optimism and delusion…

Too Many Billys…

But Billy is no isolated case. In fact, Billy reminded me of one too many. I begrudgingly admit that he even reminds me of myself, and among a few others.

A friend’s boyfriend (now ex) was certainly a beta version of Billy McFarland. When I met him (let’s call him Ted), he was a Californian man and hotshot new entrepreneur who recently received millions of dollars of seed capital for his startup. Soon after, he was featured in Forbes 30 under 30. And then soon after, he dumped my friend.

Still, we watched how Ted was doing from afar (because women can be Joe Goldberg like that), via the lens of his tweets and IG stories. It all happened too fast, but he was keen at replacing all the old things in his life for shiny new ones. Ted replaced his old girlfriend (my friend) for an IG influencer / fitness model. He replaced his Toyota for a Maserati. And he was no longer rooming an apartment with three other dudes, but livin’ it up in a four-bedroom suite up in Santa Monica.

One day, all of a sudden, Ted disappeared in the social media universe… He just deactivated everything–and with that, our main source of entertainment, gone. Just like that, in a couple of months, Ted’s startup folded and along that–millions of dollars worth of seed capital.

I don’t know how venture capitalists pick their VC investment portfolio, but now we wonder how much due diligence is really done over what’s coming out of charismatic mouths. Essentially, everyone only wants to hear what they want to hear…

The entrepreneur’s energy is infectious, agreed. Everyone loves a wizard and loathes the prophet; a preference over silvery tongue and sweet marinated words versus constant warnings of doom and failure.

Yet another example is the infamous Elizabeth Holmes, founder of Theranos and acclaimed to be Forbes 2015 youngest and wealthiest self-made female billionaire. She dropped out of Stanford to pursue her startup. She looked like a promising, brilliant entrepreneur. Theranos had a valuation of $9 billion–only to be worth zero dollars the following year after revelations of fraud. Her company’s claims on the technology were revealed to be false and misleading, leading to her ultimate demise. Fortune named her ‘World’s Most Disappointing Leaders’.

The scariest part is, the world is just as fickle. One day you’re a billionaire and the center of the universe. The next day, you’re worth nothing.

Because the truth is, the world doesn’t revolve around you. The world pivots, too.

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