The Duty of Entrepreneurship
Today, the acquisition of Olapic by Monotype has closed. And I believe it’s healthy to pause, contain the excitement of the future to come, and reflect on what we’ve done in the past 6 years: the tears and sweat it took to grow a top notch team, the ambitious goals we set and accomplished, the mistakes we made — and learned from.
Early on we (Luis, Cabo and myself) agreed we would earn our right to be entrepreneurs: we would earn our salaries, and we would prove it could be done. It may have been as much a proof for ourselves than for our potential investors, but for more than 2 years we built a product, hired our first employees (and paid them), got our first customers, raised a seed round, all before we got our own salary. We felt we could not possibly deserve the money of our investors (and in turn, that of their investors – pension funds, college endowments, etc.) unless we had earned our right to get paid. Despite our college and grad school degrees, despite our previous corporate experience, despite our personal level of indebtedness.
Still to this day, I believe the hardest thing we’ve done so far is to create value -from nothing- to be able to pay that first salary. It’s been a truly humbling experience, and one that I wished everyone negotiating a salary went through.
During those first years, I learned about the support, compassion, and tireless cheers coming from my cofounders, closest relatives, and friends. And as the stakes to deliver got (even!) higher as some invested in the company, our “right to be entrepreneurs” morphed into duty. A duty to build the company how we felt was right, to gather the courage to make the mistakes necessary to learn and explore new and better ways of doing things.
During this journey we did what we thought was right:
- We invested in young, inexperienced, passionate people, brave enough to join equally inexperienced companions -us-, and strengthened our commitment to make this journey a unique career experience.
- We poured our souls into a product that truly delivered long-term value, that cut through the noise and flashiness of short-term coolness, and earned, once again, the trust of our customers which, in turn, privileged us with access to their consumers.
- We bet on people from all backgrounds and countries, a truly diverse melting pot, recognizing talent fairly and at par. And worked hard on creating a sense of union with no borders across a handful of geographies.
- We embraced our ignorance, and sought advice from the experienced: from customers, from advisors and investors, and from our own employees. We’ve learned so much.
And often people would ask me: Why? What’s your purpose?
Our hope is that our employees, our customers, and our investors see, in Olapic, a company that was and is run not only differently, but better. With hopes that they will pick what we do well, learn from our mistakes, and apply it elsewhere. That those few that, in turn, start new ventures look to us as a source of inspiration. That those that leave Olapic to work at other companies, take with them our own in-house brewed best practices.
And that’s why I’m personally excited about this next phase of Olapic within Monotype. The learnings we will harvest, and the ability to build a bigger and better company, opens a unique opportunity for the entire Olapic family. I expect our employees and our customers to have an even brighter future than we could have provided on our own.
I’ve been told I like to please people, and it’s probably true. I recognize that not everyone is going to be happy about their individual situation. Some will strongly believe they deserve more, or ascribe different weights to what matters, than what we believe. It’s been a month of reflection and introspection, and making some of the toughest decisions we’ve had to make to date, always maximizing the benefit of the whole. Yet, I will personally embrace the criticism with hopes that, if nothing else, it pushes someone to say, “I can do better, and I’m going to prove it to you!”
And when/if that happens, with all my true and heartfelt encouragement I’ll say, “Go for it!” and feel an incredible amount of pride because what we set out to do is finally starting to become a reality.