Natural-Born Entrepreneur

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Natural-Born Entrepreneur
by Dan Bricklin
Reprint r0108b
HBR Case Study r0108a
What a Star –What a Jerk
Sarah Cliffe
First Person r0108b
Natural-Born Entrepreneur
Dan Bricklin
Different Voice r0108c
Is Success a Sin? A Conversation
with the Reverend Peter J. Gomes
In Praise of Middle Managers r0108d
Quy Nguyen Huy
The Superefficient Company r0108e
Michael Hammer
The Weird Rules of Creativity r0108f
Robert I. Sutton
What You Don’t Know r0108g
About Making Decisions
David A. Garvin and Michael A. Roberto
We Don’t Need Another Hero r0108h
Joseph L. Badaracco, Jr.
Best Practice r0108j
Sustainable Growth, the DuPont Way
Chad Holliday
Tool Kit r0108k
Distance Still Matters:
The Hard Reality of Global Expansion
Pankaj Ghemawat
September 2001
was lucky. No doubt about it.
In 1979, when my partner, Bob
Frankston, and I created VisiCalc, the
first electronic spreadsheet, we didn’t
realize it would jump-start the
personal computer industry–let
alone revolutionize the way
businesses kept records and
tested financial scenarios.
In the midst of my studies
at Harvard Business School,
I had grown more than a
little frustrated by having
to manually calculate and
recalculate every single
change on a spreadsheet
as I worked through a case
study. There had to be a
better way, I figured, so I started designing
a computer program to address
those inefficiencies. I described my idea
to Bob Frankston, whom I’d met as an
undergraduate at MIT, and he
agreed to try to turn my
primitive prototype into a
working program. After
toiling for several months
in the attic of Bob’s home,
we had a hunch that we
might have something big on
our hands. The rest of the VisiCalc
story is replete with the usual
twists and turns – not to mention
some very difficult downturns. But
that cool little software program
is still regarded as the first killer
Copyright © 2001 by Harvard Business School Publishing Corporation. All rights reserved. 3 by Dan Bricklin
First Person
His most famous invention, the computer
spreadsheet, changed the course of business.
But to this entrepreneur, it was no big deal.
He was just doing what came naturally.
app of the PC industry, and, much to
my surprise, I have had to get comfortable
with being famous as “the father of
the electronic spreadsheet.”
Some 20 years and four start-ups
later, I still get my jollies the same way:
by creating tools that solve people’s
everyday problems. I like to think these
are tools that speak to people’s needs,
whether for expressing a personal passion,
such as publishing digital photo albums,
or for solving a practical problem,
such as automating the small-business
budget or prototyping a piece of software.
Times haven’t always been easy.
I’ve lived through a lawsuit, layoffs, two
acquisitions, and a failed start-up. (Let’s
just say that I won’t be endowing any
university buildings or faculty chairs
anytime soon.) But life as an entrepreneur,
professional tinkerer, and technology
and business commentator has
brought me many joys.
Aspiring entrepreneurs and business
executives frequently ask me what I’ve
learned, especially now that the notion
of being an entrepreneur seems both
glamorous and, every once in a while,an
effective method for getting rich. I’ve
done a lot of thinking about that question
recently, and although I don’t have
a complete answer, I do know that unless
you find your true calling and love
your craft, the risks may outweigh the
rewards. Sure, training, talent, and that
most elusive component, good timing,
are essential. But they are not enough.
You need to have a true passion for what
you’re doing.
You also need humility.We’re coming
out of a time – the dot-com era – when
many entrepreneurs have lost all sense
of humility. They’ve come to believe
that the lessons of the past no longer
apply and are, in fact,...
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