The Bright Ideas Finale – Inspiration, Courage, and Stamina

The Bright Ideas Challenge was born out of a conversation that I had almost exactly a year ago with Nigel Kirkpatrick, the CEO of Grow Wellington at an event designed to address the problem of how to better commercialise IP coming out of our region.  Mark Clare helped whip the original concept into something that might have a chance of working, and Mary-Anne Webber and her team at Grow Wellington turned that bright meta-idea into a great competition that brought out the best in just about everyone who was involved.

I was invited to give a keynote speech at the finale event, in which the winners were announced.  A number of people have asked me for a copy, so here it is for your reading and viewing pleasure.

Inspiriation, Courage and Stamina
Speech to Finale of Bright Ideas Challenge
16 Nov 2010
Dave Moskovitz

Thank you to everyone who has been through the Bright Ideas Challenge cultivating that rare mix of INSPIRATION, COURAGE, and STAMINA to take your bright idea from just being a vague notion in your head to something you’re willing to expose to others, and ultimately build a business around.

My name is Dave Moskovitz, and I’m the Chairman of WebFund, a seed investment company and incubator for online businesses. We aggregate ideas, people, and resources to build online businesses that are ready to scale globally.

Many of you have come a long way, a very long way from where you started, and have begun to explore the limitations as well as possibilities in your bright idea, in the environment around you, but most critically within yourselves. For it is you, in the final analysis, who will ultimately win the accolades of success, or bear the stigma of failure for your own ideas and their ensuing businesses.

So good on all of you for having a go, taking risks, putting yourselves out there, and strutting your stuff to your friends, strangers, and anyone who might listen. In my experience, people can find it hard to take risks – after all, if you take a risk, it means you might fail, and if you fail, you not only lose something, but you end up looking silly as well. Right? Well, not necessarily.

That depends on the type of risk your taking. If you’re taking a blind risk against enormous odds, then that’s probably just plain stupid, unless the potential payoff is enormous or the likely outcome of not taking the risk is as bad or nearly as bad as the outcome of failure. On the other hand, if you’re taking a calculated risk, and you have an “unfair advantage” or can somehow manipulate the odds in your favour, then taking that risk can be the smartest move you’ll ever make. The best and brightest ideas have the best chances of beating the odds.

But failure is not necessarily a bad thing, if it is the result of a calculated risk and you’ve given it your best shot. In fact, at WebFund, one of our criteria for investing in an entrepreneur is that they’ve experienced failure as well as success – we want to work with people who know how to recover from setbacks. Walter Brunell is attributed to have said that “Failure is the tuition you pay for success”. And often, a failure is really success in disguise. Take the examples of Post-It Notes (glue that failed to stick very well), Penicillin (a contaminant that caused bacteria to fail to grow quickly), or Columbus’s failure to find India – he got America instead. The trick is to be able to pick yourself up from failure, and recognise the lessons that failure is attempting to teach you.

Now in tonight’s finale, there will be only one winner. The last thing we want is for everyone who didn’t collect the grand prize to think that they’re a failure. Far from it. The real winners in this game are not the people who win awards and prizes, and the real judges in this game are not in this room tonight. No. The real judges are collectively called “The Market” – your customers, and the real winners are the ones who can build their ideas into thriving businesses that bring benefits to themselves, their shareholders, their employees, to our region, and to the whole country. It’s too early to know who the real winners are, so even if you didn’t take out a prize tonight, you still have the stunning opportunity to show everyone how great your customers think you are, and win the real game. So how well you can please your customers will ultimately determine your success. And you are the only ones in control of that!

As entrepreneurs, you’ve taken a really important first step – transforming your idea into a business. So to paraphrase Winston Churchill, tonight is not the end, nor even the beginning of the end, and it’s possibly not even the end of the beginning. It’s another step along the hard-slog road to success. You’ve already demonstrated INSPIRATION, COURAGE, and STAMINA to get you this far, and you’re going to need a lot more of all three to get you through the forthcoming roller-coaster ride that is running a start-up. I know that many of you have what it takes, and where you take your Bright Ideas from here will speak volumes about the people behind those ideas. Ie You.

One of the best things about living in Wellington is our highly connected community; we have huge amounts of “social capital” here. People in Wellington go out of their way to help each other. There are so many different groups involved with helping people bring their bright ideas to fruition, and many of them will be working with you in the future to help take you to the next stage, and make your ideas successful. Guy Kawasaki describes a word in the Yiddish language, farginen, which is the exact opposite of envy, what happens when you can celebrate others’ accomplishments as though they were your own. Rabbi Nilton Bonder further explains that “every time we are able to celebrate someone else’s happiness, we will, by definition, have greater reason to celebrate ourselves. In this way, we can widen our chances for enjoying life, freeing ourselves from the imprisonment of our own luck. Farginen sets up networks of confidence that enrich life.” Wellington has these networks, in spades, and it’s an excellent substrate on which to build the society of the future, right here. Big ups to Grow Wellington for leading by example. We know the end result will be a region that we want to live in as we contribute to and draw strength from its success; a region from which we can have global influence for good, through farginen.

So this, then, is the job of everyone in this room: to come up with bright ideas, to develop them, to try them out, to not fear failure and learn to recover from things that didn’t go the way we wanted them to, to be generous when we ourselves are successful, to rejoice in the success of others, and no matter what, to keep on trying. And with our individual and collective INSPIRATION, COURAGE, and STAMINA, we can bring success to ourselves, and those around us.