Secret sauce. There is a secret sauce for every successful business, particularly in the tech, retail, and consulting worlds. Check out Shawn Agyeman’s clutch piece earlier this year how hackers are the entrepreneurs’ secret sauce.
While it may not be covered in Wired or on Mashable, we all have access to the premiere secret sauce, one that every celebrated business leader applies to the good, the bad, and the crazy. That is persistence.
At Tech808’s premiere in New York City last November, Nihal Mehta, serial entrepreneur, founder of five startups, and Founding General Partner of Eniac Ventures spoke about flipping failure, and how sweet it is on the other side thanks to “the diligent will to persevere.”
Nihal’s business is seed stage investing exclusively in mobile technologies. He has been involved in the mobile biz since the aughts. Nihal’s come-up was rooted in getting information to those who want it with innovation and speed. With Urban Groove, he and his colleague were the nightlife source for people around the world; back in the early 00’s, they would text people with what was happening in the users’ preferred music genres in their cities. This was before Songkick and Live Nation.
With innovation comes challenge, and when Nihal was 22, having created Urban Groove not long before then, he and his business partner filed for bankruptcy. At 22. While that was “probably the most humbling moment of [his] life, looking back, that was the best experience [he’d] ever had.”
Why? How the heck can filing for bankruptcy before you turn 25 be the best experience? Nihal went on to tell his audience, “When you come face to face with failure and embrace it, you feel invincible.” Forget feeling invincible. You are invincible for all intents and purposes. Fasten your seat belts friends; it is about to get really impressive.
Nihal moved to San Francisco where he founded ipsh—named for the sound a record makes when you scratch it—a mobile marketing service that helped brands and record labels reach customers. Having learned plenty from Urban Groove, Nihal used the same tech with ipsh, applying its power this time for B2B: “The quality to persevere, to be resilient is what breeds success.”
In 2003, the company had begun to see how powerful text messaging could be. You will want to watch Nihal’s talk to get the full story from him and suffice to say ipsh worked with Nelly and Madonna. Not too shabby for someone who had filed bankruptcy four years before this. While we came from will always be an important part of us, it is just one element and not the whole person. “Elon Musk was sleeping on his friend’s couch when Tesla went public; he had nothing to his name then. Today he’s worth over $10B.”
Buzzd, Nihal’s next company, engaged socially with consumers before Foursquare did it. It was founded in 2007 and rode the entrepreneur’s roller coaster, failing before being pivoted in 2010 and rebranded as Local Response. Now called QUALIA, it uses social signals to make phone ads more relevant to the user. In addition, it made around $20M last year. “It’s about the vision and the passion when you’re an entrepreneur.” Never truer than when things fall apart. Once that happens, as Nihal said, “You’ve seen the bottom and the rest is just upside.”
When you fail fast, and learn from it, you will then fly huge.
Nihal’s passion is to accelerate entrepreneurs’ dreams and vision and to teach them how to be resilient and persistent. Give him a shoutout on Twitter.
Image credit: CC by Chris Potter