1492: Conquest of Paradise

This is supposed to be an old movie; it was released in October 1992 for the celebration of the 500th anniversary of the discovery of America. I never heard of it before last weekend though, that I randomly stopped by the video store to ask for any movies related to Columbus, and in general, the preparation of his endeavor to discover “the new world”.

The reason why I was looking for such a movie, is because I kept intrigued by one of the analogies I heard at the Silicon Valley Tour, pointing Queen Isabel of Spain as one of the first Venture Capitalists of the history, when she accepted financing Columbus on his “crazy” project of reaching Asia through a new, never tried before route.

I´m not a movie expert. Also I am aware that movies many times are not as good as books to describe history. Though, I loved the movie … and I think it´s a wonderful piece to use and display, if anyone wants to set up a workshop to explain what entrepreneurship is.

Key moments of the movie to capitalize on:

- The first time, that the project of Columbus was presented to the University of Salamanca, it was harshly rejected. The “experts” did not believe in his not proven, risky proposal, so it did not even reach the stage of being eligible to be presented to the Queen. Even if he had a crisis, he did not stop believing. Lesson: Entrepreneurs never give up. They´ll find many “NO”s on their ways, but that won´t be a reason to quit their dreams.

- He kept fighting, and fighting and despite of the previously described rejection, he reached the Queen. How? Networking … even at that time networking was a key tool for things to happen. A sailorman that knew Columbus and somehow was attracted by his project (and wanted to make part of it), approached him and introduced him to a banker, which had “contacts” with the Queen and was willing to enable a direct meeting with Columbus. Basically, the Queen owed this banker money, so she could not refuse the favor of meeting Columbus. Lesson: Networking matters.

- Columbus was a genuine seller. The movie showed a great first conversation between Columbus and the queen, where you could really see how good he could sell what he wanted to do and how Spain could benefit from that. Beyond that, he was charming enough to make the Queen feel comfortable in his presence, and well, in general, make her just love him. At the end of the day it was clear that the Queen did not necessarily believe in the project, but she believed in him. As a today´s Venture Capitalist would do, Queen Isabel bet on Columbus, she took the risk. Lesson: The entrepreneurs as individuals, their charisma, and their ability to inspire others, is the engine of the entrepreneurial activity. The business is just the platform for the entrepreneur to show its geniality.

- Columbus was a starter. He was maybe the only man of that time that could dare to find the Indies the way he did. But once the “new world” started to be conquered, he showed not to be the best man to rule this new land. The movie shows all kind of crisis he confronted managing the first colonies, even if the Queen upgraded him to Vice-king. I would even say he did not even enjoy running these islands (Columbus discovered first some islands, not the continent), he looked miserable, his heart and mind were focused on moving on, sailing further until he could reach the continent. But he couldn´t, cause the “logic” said that since he was the leader of this new world discovery, so nobody else could be the governor of this new land. Lesson: "There are 3 kinds of people: people that start companies, that grow companies and that run companies - not all entrepreneurs are ready to make this transition".

- At some point of history, nobody recognized and valued Columbus work. The movie shows an amazing scene about this. After the new colonies were “a mess”, under Columbus administration, the high administration of the Kingdom of Spain just decided to send a replacement for him, someone that really had the profile to run the colonies. They did not only decide this without even consulting or announcing Columbus, but parallel to the arrival of the new governor, they arrested Columbus, blaming him for incompetency. The bad news for Columbus were not leaving his position as governor, he textually said “it was a relief for him, because now he was free to sail away and reach the continent”. What broke his heart was hearing that while he was so busy ruling the colonies, the explorer and cartographer Amerigo Vespucci, another Italian, was the first person to reach the continent. When he came back to Spain, all the “flowers” of the new discovery, were given to Amerigo. Colombus was a random person, “the guy that could not rule the new world”, but nobody acknowledged that because of him, this entire discovery started. The movie showed though, that Columbus gained his position back in the history, thanks to his son Fernando, who years after and before his father died, started to write his biography. Lesson: "Humanity/society isn´t many times ready to recognize real entrepreneurship”

Well, Amerigo Vespucci did an amazing thing actually – he demonstrated that the New World discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1492 was not the eastern appendage of Asia, but rather a previously-unknown "fourth" continent - and that was huge. With all the right this new world was called AMERICA. Still while watching the movie, one has the feeling that Columbus should have been the one responsible for doing that … he deserved it.
The thing that makes me happy is that at least my country is called COLOMBIA, in honor to Columbus (in Spanish “Colón”).

Feel free to see the movie review of 1492 at IMD: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0103594/


NETworking or NOTworking? - and other Silicon Valley stories

Taken from gapingvoid.com

I want to start this post highlighting this amazing quote I found recently on gapingvoid.com: "BLOGS AREN´T DEAD, PEOPLE ARE". It´s amazingly simple and logic, but at the same time it was amazingly harsh for me to read it ... "Man it means I´m dead ... my creativity is dead, my capacity to share experiences is dead since I do not blog since a good couple of weeks"

Anyways, after couple of minutes I recivered from my paranoia and well, FYI, I´m not dead!

I was busy doing NETworking, ehemmm, and NOTworking as well!

I was for a week abroad, half of it on a very short vacation and half of it participating in an amazing Immersion Tour of Endeavor in Silicon Valley (SV).

At Facebook, San Jose (CA)

The experience was just amazing, it felt like being in the "mecca" of entrepreneurship and capitalism, well in some aspects, it still is.

We had the opportunity to witness interesting and content-rich panels with all sorts of Venture Capitalists (VCs) of the Bay area that were willing to tell Entrepreneurs lessons on how the industry works and how to raise money effectively.

Another big block of the tour were of course the company visits ... we visited companies that today are icons for all of us, such as Google, Facebook, eBAY, PayPal and Eletronic Arts. Of course we saw what we all expected to see ... "thousands of crazy, diverse-looking employees living in wide campuses within a very unique, free, wild organizational cultures". However even if that was cool, won´t deny, I must say that was not what amazed me the most. What was unique of the experience was reflecting on how small these organizations started (just as any other entrepreneur) and how someone believed in them, invested in them, how the chose the right people to manage and envision the business and ... eureka! how they turned to be what they are now. It was a powerful lesson on THINKING BIG, on TAKING RISKS. Failure is not one of the options, but if it happens, it´s well embraced and powerful reason to stand up again.

At Electronic Arts

Well, since I´m a quotes person, I leave you with some of the most interesting quotes or expressions or terms I heard in the tour from VCs, Entrepreneurs and employees from some SV-based Companies:

  • "In Silicon Valley one new company is born every hour"

  • "We work on technology because we want to change the world" - COO Facebook

  • "Silicon Valley - Wild West approach to risk"

  • "Queen Isabel of Spain - one of the first Venture Capitalists of history" - Bill Draper making the analogy since as we all know the Queen financed Columbus, one of the greatest Entrepreneurs ever

  • "Demographics Vs Psicographics"

  • "It´s not the strongest of species that survive, not the most intelligent, but the ones most responsive to change"

  • "You´re the heart of our existence" - Venture Capitalist Bill Draper refering to Entrepreneurs

  • "Being a VC is all about making money without working. The job is about identifiying great business ideas and put in the right management"

  • "Self-actualization", "Identity refreshment"

  • "VCs serve Entrepreneurs, it´s a service"

  • "I do not do HR, I advice the leaders of the organization to do HR, I empower the business leaders to do their job" - VP HR PayPal

  • "People want to work for winners, people want to for something that is going somewhere" - VP HR PayPal

  • "The culture of you organization tomorrow is who you are recruiting today" - VP HR PayPal

  • "If you are scared with the crisis right now, maybe you should not be an entrepreneur"

  • "There are 3 kinds of people: people that start companies, that grow companies and tha run companies - not all entrepreneurs are ready to make this transition"

  • "5 words an Entrepreneurs does not want to hear from an employee: - IT IS NOT MY JOB - be ready to look for people that are willing to go beyong its resumee"

  • "You do not need to be in high-tech to make a lot of money"

  • "Finding one´s calling by looking at one´s purpose and it´s impact - not at the tasks we do"

  • "The ultimate time to differentiate ourselves (as companies) in the the times of recesion/crisis"

  • "VC money is not a commodity, it comes with a partner that makes it special"

  • "Fun is a very important element when building a culture"

  • "Sucess is failing repeatedly with ENTHUSIASM"

  • "It´s all about IQ that generates IP" - IQ= Intelligent people who generated Intellectual Property!

  • "The (Silicon) Valley isn´t anymore the only thought leader ... we need to re-create the valley in other places"

  • "A great business leader deeply understands the motivations of his/her employees, investors and of course, customers"