10 Ways To Be Your Own Boss

The folks at Behance and Cool Hunting asked me to talk at their 99% Conference a couple months ago. The 99% conference is aimed at creative professionals and is focused on Edison’s “99% perspiration.” 

And in the spirit of how to get your ideas to happen, they asked me to talk about entrepreneurship and the myriad ways you can “be your own boss.” There are way more than 10 ways you can do that, but I only had twenty minutes so I focused on 10 of them. The point being that “You don’t have to be Twitter or Foursquare to be your own boss and do what you’re passionate about.”

Here’s the talk

#VC & Technology

Comments (Archived):

  1. Julien

    Broken link 🙁

    1. fredwilson


  2. Carl Rahn Griffith

    A Twitter friend of mine (@littlelaura) rather delightfully – and aptly – describes it as being ‘Free Range’ 🙂

  3. Julien

    Aren’t more and more companies moving the “federation” or “project” model? This brings flexibility and, as you pointed the modern way of life (ubiquituous and “cheap” transportation, connected software… etc), it doesn’t seem to affect productivity that much to be “distributed”.

  4. kidmercury

    i love it when people talk about how entrepreneurs are crazy people. i know i definitely got that one covered! 😀

    1. Mark Essel

      If kookiness and success are at all related in startups (and I hope they are), you will have a wonderfully wealthy future.

      1. kidmercury

        i don’t know if success in startups is correlated with kookiness, but success in life certainly is, at least for me.

        1. Mark Essel


  5. Dave Pinsen

    Didn’t you give a similar talk elsewhere a while back (in Miami?). Nice job with it though in any case. I found it interesting that your conclusion was similar to the spirit of David H. Hansson’s in this talk of his, from a couple of years ago (even if you come to it from different paths): http://www.omnisio.com/v/ZW4WTUGdjhG/david-hein

    1. fredwilson

      The talk in Miami was a 10 themed talk as wellTop 10 features of web services

  6. David Semeria

    That was good Fred

  7. Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry

    Love this talk. Got a haircut the day before?I think it’s absolutely great and essential to show that there are many, many ways to be your own boss, outside of the VC-backed startup.This ties into the nature vs. nurture debate. Even though it might take a special kind of individual to be a Bill Gates or a Steve Jobs, I believe every single person on earth has it in them to be an entrepreneur within one of these 10 categories.

  8. RichardF

    go on you can admit it…. you posted it up in flash so that iphone users couldn’t watch it didn’t you? I was sat in Starbucks and thought I’d watch it as I grabbed a coffee – have to wait until later now.

    1. maverickny

      Hah, I did the exact same thing!

    2. Dave Pinsen

      If it will make you feel any better, I’m working on something just for you iPhone users (and I don’t even have an iPhone).

      1. RichardF

        Dave – I thought you were going to find a way for me to watch flash on my iphone!However I like your app – will it work with the European markets?

        1. Dave Pinsen

          You might have to talk to Steve Jobs about that. :)Thanks for the kind words about the app. It won’t work on European markets (though if there’s demand, we could always build a version for that), but it will work on European stocks that trade in the U.S. and have American options traded on them (e.g., Nokia, BP, Deutsche Telecom, etc.).

          1. RichardF

            Shame…..I heard Steve wasn’t taking calls about Flash at the moment for some reason.

      2. Matt A. Myers

        I love the logo. 🙂

        1. Dave Pinsen

          Thanks, Matthew. I actually need to find someone to adjust the colors on it so it shows up better on the iPhone store, but I like it too.

    3. fredwilson

      That was not a political statementBut it might as well be

      1. CJ

        I liked this comment from my iPad. Irony?

  9. maverickny

    Crazy is about right and the statement about people being addicted to a salary is very true.

  10. aminTorres

    Am inspired! thanks for doing this.

  11. Mark Essel

    One of the tricks to building your own dream job is deciding which customers you absolutely don’t want to have and who you want to provide the most value to. I want to build tools that aid creative thinkers with a heart of gold. Pattern matching a personality and philosophy to a product which amplifies these traits is nontrivial :).

  12. Mike

    Listening to a great talk while watching USA in the World Cup and fielding emails from my development team…I’m definitely not foursquare or twitter, but am still having a great time doing something I love.

  13. Fernando Gutierrez

    There is something about talking about being your own boss that I don’t like. Many people talk about it because they are sick of their current boss because he makes them work. But they don’t understand that once you don’t have that boss and set up on your own, you get a lot of new real bosses. Clients, providers and even employees demand from you much more than what any boss with a sign in his door has ever demanded. That’s not bad if you love what you do, but it has to be taken into account.

    1. Aviah Laor

      maybe “having a core group of people you choose to work with” is better?

      1. Fernando Gutierrez

        Yeah, I like that more, although I admit that talking about being your own boss can be easier because it’s an established concept.

        1. Aviah Laor

          Yup. There is “being your own boss” and “being your own boss with $10M in your bank account”. Two different things.

  14. Aviah Laor

    Great. Real inspiration.Reminds me yesterday poem: alone, with a partner, boutique, small service company etc.If you have enough people to finish a pie – you are good.

    1. fredwilson

      I love the line in that poem about finishing the pie

  15. Waheed Barghouthi

    thanks for sharing it

  16. Jared Franklin

    I posted a link to a great paper on what makes entrepreneurs entrepreneurial at http://jaredfranklin.com/po

  17. Jared Franklin

    I posted a link to a great paper on what makes entrepreneurs entrepreneurial at http://jaredfranklin.com/post/711516523/what-ma…Three points that I loved are:1. “While casual reasoning focuses on expected return, effectual reasoning emphasizes affordable loss” – page 52. “Ready-fire-aim” instead of “Ready-aim-aim-aim-aim” – page 63. “…the future is not “out there” to be discovered, but that it gets created…” – page 7

  18. Fred T

    “The three most harmful addictions are heroin, carbohydrates, and a monthly salary.” -@nntalebDefinitely would go for the word “crazy” – as how some friends and family see it. However you would like to run your company, it all comes down to what Napoleon Hill refers to as his “mastermind group”. Creativity arises from the right set of minds coming together – can also be done in Matt drudge’s case and quintessential entrepreneurial personality while tapping into a superconscious source.

  19. RichardF

    Enjoyable and entertaining talk Fred. I very much liked the “bad code” story.


    Thanks Fred. Inspired an Aha moment. I like the idea of being in and helping others by fostering a boutique economy.

    1. JLM

      The boutique concept is very interesting to me on a number of different levels.First it feels like the way that truly great craftsmen plied their trade — an apprenticeship to learn their craft and then literally hanging out their shingle to ply their trade once they had become craftsmen and ultimately master craftsmen.The master craftsmen then took on new apprentices and the trade or craft self perpetuated itself by the next generation of craftsmen learning from the MASTERS of the craft.

      1. COMRADITY

        I’ve been out of the loop until this morning, but have been very entertained by your repartee, monsieur!It IS a great continent. Soy Americana! (and I mean “america” the continent)K–

      2. Tereza

        I”m a big believer in the apprentice/master/journeyman approach. And using it in the context of a boutique — which means there’s a focus on something, and also a quality implication.The only thing is that boutiques generally don’t scale. I supposed in VC like USV in a sense they do because it’s a financial firm. But most boutiques do not.There are probably times in our lives when scale is important and less important and at any juncture you have to decide if you care about scale or not.

        1. COMRADITY

          Here’s an example of a boutique economy with scale.There are 12,000 music store/schools in the US. 75% are independent “boutiques”, or 9,000. The owners and staff have deep knowledge and passion about music that isn’t in a book or on the internet. That’s a precious, inaccessible resource to anyone outside of their retail trading area. They each have about 10,000 on their customer lists. That’s around 90 Million.Just one example.K—

          1. Tereza

            Thanks K. What you’re describing is a number of boutiques who collectively have scale. The point I was was trying to make, as I’m looking at it from the eyes of the business owner or the VC, is that it’s very difficult for one of those stores to have scale. There is a natural limit to how big any of those boutiques could be.For VC funding, they would necessarily have to demonstrate a different level of scalability per business entity.

          2. COMRADITY

            I certainly understand why VCs like the Facebook model. If you can attract millions of eyeballs quickly, it’s easy to imagine how quickly you can exit for with a high multiple. But what if you can erase the “natural limit to how big any of those boutiques could be”?Facebook, like Google, offered a free utility to attract millions of eyeballs. Recent reports are that they generated $800 Million in revenues last year on 500 Million unique visitors. That’s $1.60 “Average Per Capita (APC)” per year.Since I’m assuming that Facebook’s revenues are advertising, here’s an apples to apples comparison to the industry gold standard. The 2010 SuperBowl viewers were over 100 Million. Now let’s estimate that there are 25 :30 spots per hour, for 3 hours, or 75 spots selling for $3 Million. That’s $225 Million or $2.25 “Average Per Capita (APC)”.It may not be surprising that the SuperBowl still commands a premium over Facebook of 1.4 to 1. In fact, some may be surprised that the relative difference is so small. And VCs may be just happy with that.But think again. What if you analyzed the “Revenue Per Minute (RPM)”. There are only ever going to be 525,600 minutes in a year. How you take advantage of them says a lot about the scalability of your business model.At $800 Million in revenues in 2009, Facebook generated about $1,500/minute.The SuperBowl Advertising Revenues at $225 Million were $1.25 Million/minute.A harsh analysis would be to ask – how does Facebook scale past the $1,500/minute? And the SuperBowl is a 3 hour event, how do you maintain that RPM past those 3 hours?I know the answer to the SuperBowl. Those are just the ad revenues. The licensing revenues (which extend throughout the year) are more than the ad revenues and more than Facebook revenues.I have a hard time imagining how Facebook grows the RPM. Especially since they seem to be diluting their consumer franchise to generate these revenues.In contrast, with each new revenue stream (e.g., video games, fantasy games, etc.), the NFL intensifies individual teams’ consumer franchises. And not just for the benefit of the original team owners. This system rewards the talent on the field and all the boutique licensees, too. I don’t know how many jobs have been created by the NFL, but it would be an impressive track record. (Buffalo, NY’s economy benefits a lot from New Era, the family owned “boutique” hat company.)The NFL model doesn’t just make a lot of money, it shares the wealth with all the contributors, it grows the intensity of the consumer franchise instead of “milking” it. And it creates a lot of jobs. So that’s the model I believe in. I understand that there are still egos and issues, but there is always something bigger than “me” to bring some order to the chaos.I believe there’s an enormous resource of untapped “talent”, passion, and knowledge base – along with intense, active customers – in the “boutique economy” of “cultural communities”. And I think the NFL model offers a way to scale it up, for all participants’ benefit.Maybe this thinking is too rationale. Or maybe it’s crazy to ignore the way VC’s look at scale and follow a different path?Katherine Warman Kern@comradity

  21. rrstevens1

    Great post!

  22. paramendra

    It is interesting you should start with a comment left at your blog.PS. Where’s the embed button? I did a post on Karp yesterday. This video could look good at the bottom of that post.

      1. paramendra


    1. fredwilson

      Not just any comment

  23. Tereza

    A few thoughts.(1) Once you’ve been your own boss and tasted autonomy, it becomes hard to be someone else’s again. Or, you get very picky about who you’d want to work for. No impossible, just hard. You have to feel they’re smarter than you…and/or it has to be someone who gives you the autonomy you need to set your priorities.(2) Pick a partner very carefully. Some work, some don’t. And you learn a lot about yourself and what you need in a partner along the way. And you get better at it, as you go.Good partnership requires complementarity and importantly, symmetry. Do you have the same work ethic? Are you on the same time schedule, both on a daily basis, and vis-a-vis time horizon of when success needs to happen? Do you have the same needs for money? If someone really needs money and the other does not, that can create an unseen but pernicious dynamic.Everyone has a ‘chip’ on their shoulder, something that pisses them off and drives them (but in the wrong situation could be an achilles’ heel). This is not a bad thing, in fact it’s good. But are your “chips” aligned? You need to want it similarly badly. (not sure that’s English but hopefully you catch my drift).Also some places partnerships fall down is that the skills are complementary, but asymmetric…one is much better at what they do than the other is in what s/he does, and yet they’re 50/50. That’s tricky. It may sounds strange, but it could be useful to be similarly clueless, or similarly experienced in their respective disciplines. If one partner is always telling the other what to do in a finger-wagging way, that gets old, it’s not a partnership and eventually someone’s gonna walk and there will probably be resulting baggage too.But that’s just my outsiders observation. 😉

    1. Matt A. Myers

      I’d want to and would need to work with someone first before I could make them a partner. They’d have to be as Fred described a friend, and they’d have to be very talented and have a wide array of abilities – have a good heart, be a good learner, be grounded, and love to love life.I think at least a few people here would be good candidates. 🙂

      1. Tereza

        That is wise. You really never know til you’ve tried it out.

        1. Matt A. Myers

          That’s what she said!

      2. Mark Essel

        Aligned motivations, complimentary styles.

    2. Mark Essel

      One addition to your first point (solid comment T)”You have to feel they’re smarter than you.” For working for someone else I’d add wiser or more experienced or even a complimentary skill set. Not every boss has to top your smarts, they just need to have mastered their own style of smart. Who could be smarter than you Tereza :D?A growing level of autonomy (scaled up with experience) should be a given in most work environments.

      1. andyidsinga

        I really like this thread… all of my best bosses have been like this. They are utterly respectful, share an incredible amount of the power vested in them and take the largest burden of responsibility when things don’t go right 🙂

      2. Donna Brewington White

        “they just need to have mastered their own style of smart.”This is really wise. .I suspect that when someone tells me in an interview that they like to surround themselves with people who are are smarter than they are, what they are often saying is that they want to surround themselves with people who are smarter in different ways than they are or have — as you put it — a different style of smart.By the way, when someone says this, it generally signals to me that I’m talking to someone who is pretty smart — not to mention confident in a true sense.

  24. Chris Ryland

    Great talk, Fred!As my own boss for 20+ years in a boutique software house, I can only say, Amen.

  25. Right Insurance

    No readable version?

  26. Cynthia Samanian

    This post couldn’t have hit my Google Reader at a better time. As a student heading into an MBA program this fall, I’ve been losing some sleep these days thinking about my career. Do I continue along the “safe” career path with the lucrative monthly salary, or do I muster up the courage to pursue my passion in entrepreneurship? This talk, along with other blog postings & videos, is helping me find my way.Also, what resonated most with me were the concluding thoughts about how you can define what entrepreneurship looks like to you, through location, team, etc.Thanks for a great video, Fred!

    1. JLM

      Do not worry about anything. By the time you get out of business school there will be no safe career paths available.

      1. ShanaC

        What’s the logic?

        1. JLM

          In 3 years, the country will be in open rebellion and the revolution will be underway. Me, I hope to be commanding a corps — two tank divisions and a mountain division — in the Rockies.But, hey, I could be wrong. LOL

          1. ShanaC

            Ok- how do you know of such things?

          2. kidmercury

            now that’s the spirit! 😀 i hope to assist your efforts by providing you and your corps a sound virtual money supply in accordance with the constitution to finance your operations, provided you and your squad are obeying the constitution.

        2. Tereza

          Worrying suggests there’s a choice. No choice — no worries. You’ll just do.

          1. ShanaC

            I prefer that answer.

      2. Cynthia Samanian

        Haha – believe it or not, that actually makes me feel MUCH better 🙂

  27. Kartik Agaram

    The difference between the last 3 wasn’t very clear to me. We typically think of all 3 as startups. Could you elaborate on the taxonomy of startups?

  28. Sfraise77

    Excellent speech!The addiction piece is awesome, I’ve said for a long time that there are two types of people in the world; sheep and wolves. The sheep cling to safety and simply follow, they’re content to depend on others for a monthly pay check and to let the wolves lead them. One sure fire way to know a sheep is when you hear a person say “you have to do it this way, or you can’t do it a different way because they say…”. Put a sheep in a leadership position and they’ll have a panic attack or simply sit there unsure of which way to go. When the sheep has a good idea they say “it’s too hard, someone like me could never do that, if it was really a good idea I’m sure someone else would have already been doing it”. The sheep has no problem letting that good idea just drift away.The wolves have that special fire in their belly that keeps them constantly hungry. A wolf is constantly looking at things and thinking of ways to improve them. A wolf is never satisfied with depending on someone else for their living, and simply go crazy if they can’t take charge of a situation. You can always tell a wolf when you hear them say “Who the hell is ‘they’ and how the hell do they know?!” When the wolf has a good idea they say “if it wasn’t hard everyone else would be doing it which gives me the perfect opportunity, someone will eventually do this so why not me right now, whatever obstacles get in the way I’ll find a way to hurdle them”. The wolf will toss and turn and never get one bit of sleep until he starts working on making that good idea a reality.There is absolutely nothing wrong with being a sheep or a wolf, one can’t exist without the other, My dad’s a sheep, worked in the same factory for 40 years, does things the way they’re “supposed” to be done according to “they”, and is happy living that life. I’m a wolf, I personally would go insane living that life. But sometimes the sheep get a little jealous, these are the people that call wolves “dreamers”, and often say things like “quit fooling around with that nonsense and get a real job, you’re never going to make it as a (whatever it is your trying to accomplish)”. Jealous sheep WILL get you down, irritate you, and distract you from your goal. These people know that they will never succeed at anything important and misery loves company, wolves need to just see these people for what they are and blow them off. Even after you’ve succeeded the jealous sheep will say things like “enjoy it while it lasts, it’s bound to run out” or “everyone gets lucky once in a while”. A true wolf in these situations would simply respond “if it runs out I’ll do it again”, or “add a little luck to my skills and I’m unstoppable”.

    1. Mark Essel

      The world is not so binary, although I appreciate your analogy. At any moment, on any decision you can lead or follow. The most gifted leaders know when to defer to experienced and trusted experts. Empowering those around you to own their decisions and work is a winning business culture.

      1. Sfraise77

        I think you miss the point of the wolf analogy.It’s not that a wolf type personality never follows, the very nature of a wolf is to run in packs with one alpha leader. However, the difference between a sheep following and a wolf following is that if a wolf thinks he can do a better job he vies for the leadership position when he thinks he has a chance. The sheep never will.

        1. Mark Essel

          I like the added explanation of wolf packs much better.

        2. JLM

          I love the wolf analogy. It is a wonderful construct upon which to project human concepts and it is easily understood by many.I also like the familial sense of the pack in which there is a patriarch/alpha male/leader of the pack.

    2. Tereza

      Are people born as sheep or wolves, or do they evolve into one or the other?

      1. JLM

        Every person has within themselves just about the same basic code. It is the developmental experiences we have along the way which awaken the spirit.We are all ordinary people sometimes called by circumstances to become extraordinary. Having drunk from that cup, we always ask — hey, are refills free?Literally to the point that we become unrepentingly intoxicated. Remember that no drunk has ever voluntarily gotten off the wagon as it is moving; it is the day after when the wagon has stopped that repentenance sets in.The world has no shortage of problems looking for a solution — witness the current debacle in the Gulf. And the world has no limit to the opportunities for entrepreneurs.I like Fred’s talk very much because it expounds upon both the raw sense of entrepreneurship — which I am on record as describing as a disease or curse, take your pick, which you cannot really cure once you have been bitten — and the manner in which we organize our affairs to mine that particular curse.The 3- or 4-legged stool of entrepreneurship, native curiosity, leadership and lifestyle (organizational comfort) are what is driving many things today. It is all the product of a free society and the free flow of capital within that society.It’s just like murder — means, motive and opportunity.Is this a great country or what?

        1. fredwilson

          JLM – do you think the creative juices that flow from true entrepreneurship can flow in a society that is not free (like china)?

          1. JLM

            The thing about China is that they have only been crazy communists since 1949 and that Hong Kong continued to be an outpost of capitalism — the flame never went out. And, in fact, it burned quite bright in Hong Kong. When the Chinese got Hong Kong back again they reinfected the balance of the country.This stands in stark relief as compared to Russia where the flame was snuffed out because they could not bridge the time period from the inception of the craziness of communism in 1917. The flame died out.That is why the first entrepreneurial endeavors in Russia were “criminals” — why? Because they were involved in ORGANIZED crime and had the capital and structure to re-discover entrepreneurship.I think that the Chinese today — within 100 miles of the coast — are more entrepreneurial than any other country including ours and I think the bad Chinese cannot reverse the trend. Though don’t kid yourself, the bad guys are still in charge and they are still dangerous witness the silliness w/ N Korea.The greatest entrepreneurial magnetic force is the evolution from the dirt floor to indoor plumbing and much of China is still in that mode. Once you are comparatively weighing the difference between the “big new house” and the penthouse, the force is not so strong.Another observation is that China continues to have a state sponsored effort to educate Chinese primarily in this country and education is the great leveller.

          2. Tereza

            A bunch of my relatives stayed in the Old Country. Czechoslovakia was totally democratic/capitalist before the Commies. So there was memory of the previous time, and some people were able to hold onto it for 40 years. But those that did did so very much despite the system and under great risk.The majority learned how to tolerate the system, and would do things like build a country cottage with a kickass garden, or take up painting or some other random pastime to absorb their brainpower and so they wouldn’t go crazy.When I was there 1992-5 it was right as things were drastically changing. There was a stark difference between, say, age 30+ and below. The emergent conventional wisdom was that young people were more adaptable to the new system. There was definitely some truth to that.For a 30+ to get a good job in the new system they had to have proven ‘resistor’ pedigree from the dark days. The trick was that for you to have survived that system you may not have a paper trail, as it might have been your death sentence before. There is and was some odd cronyism around these resistors (‘chartists’). All a bit convoluted.But many extremely good at circumventing systems.There is an expression “podvratny zivel” which means “subversive element”. It was a Communist label meant to be negative (and punishing) but if you were one it’s a source of pride. Personally, I love the term and use it.My description would be that you have a lot of very, very good athletes who are very tough and hungry, but they’ve been playing a different game. The challenge is they need to learn the entrepreneurial one.

          3. COMRADITY

            Really interesting insights Tereza.think there are some implications for this “continent” (as JLM has referenced the Americas in several comments here) in the next 20 years.I do think that there are subversive elements (in the good way you describe above) waiting for the tide to come in.Katherine Warman Kern@comradity

          4. Tereza

            What scares me about China is the one-child policy which has prompted selective termination and abandonment of female offspring and the resulting gender imbalance. It is not 50/50.The Little Emperors, as they call them, are coming of age and will face a shortage of potential mates.Young men, fighting over a limited supply of young women. Dangerous.

          5. kidmercury

            one child policy is coming here to the US too, china is just the testing ground. the first step towards one child policy here in the US is the carbon tax, carbon tracking, and this whole culture that CO2 emissions need to be reduced. guess who emits CO2? well, since CO2 absolutely has to be reduced (even though the scientific evidence suggesting this is far from definitive), guess we have to reduce the sources of CO2 as well……the eugenics agenda is multifaceted, though. the GMO food causes sterility, though it can take a few generations for that to kick in.i doubt the globalists will succeed in their agenda, but that is their admitted agenda, and they are on the trajectory to executing it.

          6. Fernando Gutierrez

            Another bad thing about the one child policy is that they will have a really unbalanced and old population in a few decades. Maybe they don’t retire early as we do (or did), but still it can be a huge problem.

          7. Dan Sweet

            “The greatest entrepreneurial magnetic force is the evolution from the dirt floor to indoor plumbing and much of China is still in that mode. Once you are comparatively weighing the difference between the “big new house” and the penthouse, the force is not so strong.”I disagree with the last half of this statement. Much of China has a very post-colonial bent and while the West is often reviled, the prosperity is still exalted. The Chinese that I have seen experience the most material success almost immediately lift their sights higher. That said, this often looks more like ambition and work ethic than creativity. More creative work tends to come out of the wealthier classes that have grown up with more and haven’t spent a lot of time questioning where they will live or where their next meal will come from. I still remember a mid-twenties professor of mine at an inland Chinese University in 2003 explaining the rapid pace of Chinese economic development to me. “We used to have stools but now we have chairs with backs.” followed by “as a child I would get to eat an egg once a year at Spring Festival, now we can have eggs and meat all the time.” People have experienced a dichotomy this extreme in their standard of living are unlikely to take lots of creative risk or do much beyond stick to the rat race and comparing bank books and cars with their peers.I expect we’ll see a lot more creativity flowing out of China from the younger generation that is/has just grown up relatively privileged.

          8. JLM

            I am not sure that there are sides to be “taken” in this discussion but what you have written seems to be in complete support with what you say you disagree with. Or perhaps I do not understand it.There is a meaningful difference between being creative and entrepreneurial.The Chinese business ability to replicate anything given a good enough exemplar may be quite entrepreneurial while being devoid of even a scintilla of creativity.Look at the experience w/ knock off Honda engines.

          9. Dan Sweet

            Not taking a “side”. I just said I disagree with the 2nd half of your statement that I quoted. 1st half: Poverty is very motivating – Agreed. 2nd half: The “magnetic force” moderates when people reach some level of success – Disagree. I haven’t found that to be true in my experiences in China.We are on the same page with the whole “work ethic and effort is not equal to creativity” bit though.

          10. JLM

            I would likely place a bigger wager on the second leg than the first globally — not just in China.Much the same way that one might debate that there are damn few “second acts” in life, one does not become a conservative unless one has something to conserve.More than a few new novitiates in the VC business are successful entrepreneurs who having reaped the whirlwind want protection from the storm while keeping just a bit of someone else’s skin in the game.Ross Perot takes huge risks, bottles lightning and then keeps almost every penny of his personal wealth in Treasuries while dabbling with VC and everything else interesting he bumps into including running for President a couple of times. Kid from Texarkana has the biggest estate in Bermuda and a huge, huge yacht all paid for and not a drop of debt.So yes, a spot of success may take the razor sharp edge off the killing tools?

          11. kidmercury

            as the US is not a free society — the constitution has basically been overthrown via the patriot act and other forms of unconstitutional legislation — and as it still has some creative juices flowing, i think yes, the creativity needed to spur entrepreneurship can be found in societies that do not grant their citizens basic rights independent of government. of course, maximum creativity comes from awareness, so a willfully ignorant society will find itself less creative than a society that seeks a higher consciousness.

        2. Matt A. Myers

          Canada’s a great country too. Just saying.. 😉

          1. JLM

            Canada is NOT a great country. No way!Canada is a freakin’ FABULOUS country.Canada has the best banking system in the world and has dodged every bullet absorbed by the US and Europe as it relates to banking excesses and vices.It is a truly marvelous country with the undiluted French influence of Montreal, the far eastedness of Nova Scotia and the cosmo Vancouver — where I will be on business in a couple of weeks.So, Canada “great” — not so much.Canada freakin’ fabulous? Oui!Plus Sid the Kid and the beer?I move that Canada, the US and Mexico merge and create a single country based upon Molson’s, oil and breakfast tacos. All of which we seem to have in abundance, right? Is this a great continent or what?

          2. Sfraise77

            Don’t forget my all time favorite Canadian creation…..The Trailer Park Boys!

        3. kidmercury

          it’s only a great country if the constitution is obeyed. so, to answer your question, no, it’s no longer a great country. perhaps we can restore it to being one, though. and of course, any conversation regarding the alleged greatness of the united states would not be complete without noting that 9/11 was an inside job. 9/11 being an inside job is not a constitutional use of government, and not a way that a great country and a free society behaves.

          1. Sfraise77

            But how is 9/11 related to the dooky Mr Mackey found in the urinal in the boys bathroom?

          2. kidmercury

            Prior to 9/11, mr mackey could not be arrested without warrant and detained as a prospective terrorist for non-violent behavior in a urinal. Now he can.

      2. Sfraise77

        I think we all have the ability to be both at birth, and it’s the sums of our experience that pushes us one way or another. However I think we are born predisposed to be one or the other.An example would be you have two people the same age, grew up in the same neighborhood, exposed to the same environment. Let’s say both grow up in a verbally abusive home where both are told they are worthless and will never amount to anything throughout their childhood. However one gets that fire in his belly and sets out to prove them wrong, while the other accepts it as truth and lives his life accordingly.What makes one person in that situation rise up and use his experience to fuel his success, while the other simply succumbs?

        1. JLM

          If they read extensively and develop a sense of the larger world out there in the great beyond.If a coach, priest, nun, rabbi or teacher takes an interest in them personally.If they stumble on to a mentor who imparts a sense of value to their lives.This is a perfect example of why just a smidgen of kindness is important and how the smallest charitable act we may personally make can have such a profound impact on someone’s life.Be that person.

    3. JLM

      Uhhh, Sfraise 77, not to be too provocative but maybe Dad is not really as big a “sheep” as you might think, no?The fathers of wolves are wolves. Though they may pose as sheep. Every wolf does not get the chance to run with the pack.Years ago, I used to walk w/ my Mother to church and she would pray fervently in the manner that only an Irish Catholic — one of seven girls, mind you — Mom could pray. Mass, novenas, the Stations of the Cross, March Madness (ok, I’m just kidding about March Madness).I used to sit in the cool of the church and watch Mom praying and ask myself — what the heck is Mom praying for? For so long? So fervently? With such obvious passion? Mom, WTF, over?A few years later, I came home from the Army sound of body with just a few scars — an outcome that you could have wagered on red or black and felt a likely winner, more than a few close calls — and I went to church with my Mom and she prayed as hard as she ever had. Mom? Mom? WTF, Mom?But she had a little smile on her face and suddenly I knew what she had been praying for all those years.I was truly that dumb.Always remember upon whose shoulders you stand and be grateful for whatever comes your way.

  29. ashimo

    Your first quote reminds me of this statement by Foucault:”There is no madness except as the final instance of the work of art—the work endlessly drives madness to its limits; where there is a work of art, there is no madness; and yet madness is contemporary with the work of art, since it inaugurates its time of truth.”(from his doctoral dissertation, submitted in 1958 and published much abridged in 1965 as ‘Madness and Civilization.’)

  30. ShanaC

    Q not answered by this speech- how do these businesses morph into each other?

  31. ShanaC

    Also the story about dennis and naveen make me feel a lot more normal.

  32. Muneeb Ali

    Very interesting list. I think another model is what companies like Google or Meraki followed. You are a grad student and get a stipend on which you can live. You have somewhat freedom in defining the projects you work on. Computer Science is a fairly practical field and your startup can come out of the research you are doing. What’s tricky in this model is investors want 100% commitment before they invest in a grad student’s company, which means taking a leave of absence or dropping out. Ideally, you’ll like to finish your PhD *and* scale the company and this is where things get hard, I think.This model becomes more interesting for social media, because these companies are generally not tech-heavy. It’s not like you are hacking the Linux kernel for 4-years before you launch your product. A few months of coding and using the right tools, generally works. You are your own boss because you are living off the grad school stipend.

  33. aanwar

    Great presentation. Now, something irrelevant to your presentation, I think you look skinnier. 😉

    1. Tereza

      I disagree.It’s not irrelevant.:-)

      1. aanwar

        I guess you are right because part of the speaker’s job is being able to have the charisma and ability to hold the attention of the audience, which clearly Fred possesses.

        1. Tereza

          You have one chance to make a good first impression!

    2. fredwilson

      Favorable angle and lighting. My weight has not varied more than 3-4 pounds in the past decade

  34. cyanbane

    “Knowing that your not going to grow…”I could listen to the 2 min after that expanded for another 20 min talk.

  35. Donna Brewington White

    Inspiring talk Fred. It’s helpful to be able to look at an array of models attached to real life examples. Lots of food for thought. Can you hear my brain humming?Thank you.

  36. Aruni S. Gunasegaram

    Interesting talk. I agree about the mad/genius traits of most entrepreneurs. I could relate to several things you mentioned. I’m curious as to whether at this point in life you would consider foregoing a monthly salary to start something new?

  37. andrewscott5

    I would love to be my own boss but I’m just too scared and worried that I’ll procrastinate. I always flirted with the idea during my young days but now, since I’m older and more scared, I’m terrified of failing and screwing up my life. My fiancee encourages me to one day and hopefully I will.What if I get a $50 million fine for co-mingling too? 😉

  38. Nathan Dailo

    Hi Fred, this is great. Is there a way I can download it for offline use?

  39. Kyle Moore

    I enjoyed this talk. What I take away from it is to go after your idea and there is some kind of structure that you can make work. Now I just need the guts to give up that monthly salary. Thanks

  40. Jgg2012

    Cool !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  41. Brian Willingham

    Excellent speech!As the founder of a “boutique” private investigative firm, being your own boss to me was more about having my own choices on how I want to live my life and choosing how I want to work with something that I love to do. With the Internet and all of the tools available that reduce startup liabilities for small businesses, the worst that could possibly happen is that I would have to go and work for someone else…and even that is not so bad. It’s challenging, but the rewards of my labors far exceed the potential pitfalls.

  42. iamronen

    I realize I’m late to the party (maybe talking to myself) … but anyways …I would focus on how to make the transition from where a person may be now (being a “payroll addict”) to where that person wants to go (being “your own boss”) … this may be a gradual process of discovery …You can start by choosing payroll jobs/positions that carry you forward – giving you (in addition to a salary) experience in tools and skills you may need down the line, meeting people you may want to move forward with, engaging customers, etc. There is less space for this kind of exploration when your are “your own boss” – so getting there prepared (or at least better prepared) is helpful … It’s kind of like the investments in your portfolio that are not financial successes – they are still valuable experiences.I also think that by exploring and making a gradual transition an individual may have a better at arriving in a “your own boss” setting that best suits them (instead of theoretically guessing at what might work best).

  43. Aaron

    This blog is the best thing I have on the internet.

  44. Mark Essel

    What takes me a hundred posts to dig into you bang out in a comment. Nice Charlie.If you ever want my “more involved” look at this statement, check the inspiration and leadership tags on my blog. + HUGE like