What are creative disrupters?
Discussion about Creative Disrupters: Entrepreneurs Converting Ideas into Dollars
Creative disrupters are a rare type of entrepreneurs, living on the creative edge. They are visitors from the future, living among us here and now. They have an optimistic passion for an idea that borders on the embarrassing and a restless urge to make a difference in the world. They bring us innovations that will have a deep impact on how we live, work, and think in the decades ahead.
In 1989 Tim Berners-Lee sat down in the European Particle Physics Laboratory (CERN) in Geneva to invent the World Wide Web. When Berners-Lee started working on his Web project, there were about 800 different computer networks plugged into the Internet and about 160,000 computers filled with information. He invented a “Web client that allows a human to read information on the Web.” It solved incompatibility among all the different servers, computing systems, and infrastructures.
Shawn Fanning, the creator of Napster, appeared on the covers of Time, Fortune, and BusinessWeek before he could legally buy a beer. In 1994, John Doerr, a venture capitalist at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, met a twenty-three-year-old Marc Andreessen, who confidently declared that “his Mosaic software would change the world.” Their company, Netscape, went on to a record-shattering initial public offering in 1995. Like Edison in search of the electric light bulb, seeing only a better way to illuminate a room, these creative disrupters are a rare breed of entrepreneurs, living on the creative edge. Most often, these brilliant “entrepreneurial-engineers” look to technology to solve problems in ways that “unlock value.” They are visitors from the future, living among us here and now. They have an optimistic passion for an idea that borders on the embarrassing and a restless urge to make a difference in the world. They bring us innovations that will have a deep impact on how we live, work, and think in the decades ahead.
The Mythic Quest of the Entrepreneur
MIT professor Edward Roberts studied MIT graduates who had gone on to start technology-related businesses. He discovered that the most successful ones did not seek “some intangible objective.” They were not interested in devising brilliant ideas that only other brilliant people like themselves could recognize. In fact, they wanted to create something “significant and tangible” and did not want to go after it if it was not a challenge.
Joseph Schumpeter recognized this too. In his 1949 classic, The Theory of Economic Development, he proclaims, “The entrepreneur-innovator’s motivation includes such aspects as the dream to found a private kingdom, the will to conquer and to succeed for the sake of success itself, and the joy of creating and getting things done.”
Charles Van Doren accurately profiled Columbus. In his book A History of Knowledge, he writes, “Brilliant as he may have been, and mad as well, Christopher Columbus was one of the most remarkable men who ever lived. He never turned aside from the opportunity of wealth, but wealth was not what he sought, what he was willing to give his life for. What he sought was eternal fame, for he knew, as perhaps no one else realized in his time, that the discovery of a New World would bring him that.”
A New World Is Discovered on the Internet
In the winter of 1993, Marc Andreessen and Eric Bina posted the first version of Mosaic, a Web browser they developed for the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) at the University of Illinois. They eventually made two key changes. They added graphics to what was otherwise boring text-based software, and more importantly, they translated the software from so-called UNIX computers to the Microsoft Windows operating system. Within a few weeks, tens of thousands of people had downloaded copies of it. By spring 1995 more than 6 million copies were in use on 85 percent of the computers surfing the net around the world.
Before Netscape’s Mosaic “you had to be a UNIX hacker” or a “computer nerd” to access the Internet. Andreessen’s intent was “to make all the resources on the Internet available with one click.” In December 1993 The New York Times described Mosaic as “an application program so different and so obviously useful that it can create a new industry from scratch.”
It’s About the Money Too
Entrepreneurs also want to be “rich.” Out of the richest one percent of Americans, more than nine in ten are entrepreneurs who made their fortunes themselves. In 1996 when Microsoft’s stock soared by 88 percent, Bill Gates made nearly $11 billion on paper, or about $30 million per day. He was earning about $347 per second; he could buy a Honda Accord every minute. At the end of December 2000, Gates was worth about $55 billion, or about $200,000 for every living soul in the United States. On Fortune’s list of “Richest Under 40” for 2002, eight of the top ten were entrepreneurs. Number one was Michael Dell, worth $16.49 billion. Others were Pierre Omidyar of eBay worth $3.82 billion and Jeff Bezos of Amazon.com worth $1.66 billion.
The old line with investment bankers on Wall Street is, “When the ducks quack, you feed them.” Never was the quacking louder than during the race to go public in the late 1990s, and the ducks got fed as the IPO markets heated up. Netscape proved that dot.com ventures were good investments, and its skyrocketing IPO triggered Wall Street’s five-year dot.com mania. As Michael Lewis wrote in The New Thing, Netscape’s IPO made 1980s’ Wall Street seem like a low-stakes poker table.
On August 9, 1995, the IPO shocked the world as the company’s stock price opened well above its strong $28 offering price at $73, surged as high as $75, and closed at $58. (Three months later it was at $140.) Closing at a market value of $1.07 billion, it was one of the most successful IPOs in the history of the U.S. stock markets, and that’s before it had made even one dollar in profits. The fifteen-month-old venture’s IPO made the front page of The Wall Street Journal: “It took General Dynamics Corp. 43 years to become a corporation worth today’s $2.7 billion. It took Netscape Communications Corp. about a minute.”
Their Gift to the World
Wendell Dunn, professor of entrepreneurship at the University of Virginia’s Darden Business School, believes that “entrepreneurs are in it to prove a point.” Steven Berglas, instructor at The Harold Price Center for Entrepreneurial Studies at UCLA, has devoted a career to understanding what makes serial entrepreneurs tick. He found they “leave as many intellectual and creative entities for others to derive developmental opportunities from as possible.”
After a ten-year period of teaching and studying entrepreneurship at Harvard Business School, Amar Bhide concluded that “it takes a really extraordinary individual to build a promising company—extraordinary in terms of someone who has an almost maniacal level of ambition. Not just an ambition to make a comfortable living, to make a few million dollars, but someone who wants to leave a significant mark on the world.” As technology guru George Gilder describes it, “Because an entrepreneur can never be sure of a return on his investment, starting up a business is like offering a gift to the world, in the hope, but never the certainty, that the gift will be reciprocated.”
Tim Berners-Lee’s invention of the Web browser has forever changed the shape of modern life, altering the way people do business, entertain, and inform themselves. His invention is often compared to Gutenberg’s printing press, Bell’s telephone, and Marconi’s radio. Time magazine hailed him as one of the 100 greatest minds of the twentieth century, saying, “He took a powerful communications system that only the elite could use and turned it into a mass medium.” More than 375 million queries are made each day on the Internet. Google alone responds to more than 200 million search queries per day in 74 languages from 100 different countries. Tim Berners-Lee chose not to profit from his invention. In April 1993 CERN declared that they would not charge a royalty on the Web protocol and code created by Berners-Lee.
It was his gift to the world!