Sunday, August 10, 2014

A Retraction: Want to Start a Breakfast Nook or Open a Coffeehouse. Go for Broke!
Sunday, August 10, 2014

A Retraction: Want to Start a Breakfast Nook or Open a Coffeehouse. Go for Broke!

I'll speak for myself, although I know there's a community mindset that feels the same. That is, young people today have limited life experience and so if they are entrepreneurial they tend to want to create breakfast nooks or open a coffeehouse. My common joke has been "they want only help us order bubble tea faster." (Bubble tea being a popular drink in Taiwan as well as many parts of the world).

Well. I apologize. I am truly sorry for belittling the efforts of such young entrepreneurial spirits. I strive to improve and be more open to all sorts of entrepreneurial ideas.

This retraction has been some time coming.

Jibao's Chloe, Diane, Tony and Augus having brunch at a popular NTU hang out - 3 Owls Cafe
貓頭鷹文創 3owls c@fe

First, my own focus has been on SaaS (now everyone calls "Cloud Computing") and B2B (Business to Business) services. In essence, I've generally been involved in solving key business challenges and have been marketing, selling and servicing such services for more than a decade. Thus, admittedly, I'm much more of a B2B person, rather than a B2C or even C2C. This bias I freely admit. To paraphrase a professor of mine from the University of Hawaii, Idus Newby, "That's my point of view".

Second, at a recent breakfast event early this year, attended by a dozen or so venture capitalists and entrepreneurs, one of the VCs asked just such a question of the attendees, "Why are young people only interested in opening breakfast nooks or coffeehouses?" I think, like many attending the breakfast, I believed he was implying that many young people haven't had sufficient experience in the world, and thus, tended to come up with fixes or improvements with things they are familiar with. This was not how one of the attendees understood the statement. Whether the statement had been misunderstood, or an astute attendee had understood the implied meaning of the statement, the result challenged my own fundamental biases.

This question/statement triggered a rather visceral reaction by a fellow entrepreneur who challenged the VC who had posed this question. The entrepreneur asked, "Have you ever operated a business before? No? Where do you come off? Who do you think you are discouraging a young person from opening a breakfast place, because that's just what I did when I was 18 years old. Its a great learning experience." Yes, eventually tempers cooled and apologies were made, but it struck a nerve with me. Have I been too judgemental and even been petty in suggesting that there was no place for young entrepreneurs to help us order bubble tea faster? Open a coffeehouse? Serve breakfast? Yes, I had fallen into the same line of thinking of writing off young entrepreneurs as this VC had inadvertently suggested. Shame on me.

Finally, in a recent breakfast meeting with a friend who also happens to be a partner at a Private Equity firm, he reminded me, perhaps its just about "creating value." I took this to mean that it doesn't need to be earth moving change or global mission, but perhaps if you could create an add-on service that people found valuable, that would be just as worthy. Therefore, isn't it enough for an entrepreneur to want to provide something of value - even if its "just" a breakfast nook or coffee shop?

Think about it. We all need our caffeine and breakfast IS the most important meal of the day. I vow not to be in a rush to judge. I strive to be an opening for all things entrepreneurial.