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TECH TALK: Of Blue Oceans and Black Swans: An Entrepreneurs Life

May 22nd, 2006 · No Comments

As an entrepreneur, I have always bet on futuristic ideas. Most of the times they have not worked out. But that hasnt stopped me from making the bets. That is the only way I know how to create new businesses. Until recently, I didnt have a name for it. Now, I can term it as blue ocean strategy. The theory is easy to understand, but building a blue ocean business is tough. When one is trying to create a future that doesnt exist, skeptics abound. This is where an entrepreneur has to keep the faith. There will be many testing moments through the venture the entrepreneur has to face up to them with confidence.

I write this because we are facing similar situations in a number of companies I am involved in. I have faced it a number of times before also. Till a venture takes off, it requires immense belief in the vision to live through the daily challenges. And if a venture is not taking off, it requires great courage to accept failure and move on in life. Either way, the entrepreneurs life is about making difficult decisions and walking an often lonesome path.

This May, I completed 14 years of my return to India after a stint of just under four years in the US. This period has been punctuated with many experiments as an entrepreneur. It has been mostly about trying different things most of which have failed for various reasons. There has been once success in IndiaWorld. The life I lead is mostly in the future imagining tomorrows world and trying to create it. The present has little relevance.

This is not easy. Most of the time, I end up losing money. These are relatively small amounts of money I do not make bets which can wipe me out financially. I believe in making a few bets on what tomorrows world will be and hope that the companies I am involved in can execute well enough to not just make that future a reality but also be big winners. I didnt have a name for this approach till I read Nassim Talebs book, Fooled by Randomness. And then a phrase came to me I am a black swan entrepreneur.

Just like Nassim Taleb, who bets on extreme events as part of his investment strategy, I am betting on extreme ventures. These ventures are not about incremental change, they are about disruptive innovation. And as we were told again and again, most new ventures and products fail. But a few do succeed. Just because many new initiatives may have failed in the past, it does not mean that the next initiative will also meet the same fate. This is similar to seeing white swans. Just because one has not seen a black swan, one cannot conclude that it does not exist.

Combine the ideas of blue ocean strategy and black swan entrepreneurship, and it provides a new way of looking at the world around.

Tomorrow: Bets and Card Games

Tags: Tech Talk

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