The Other 99 Percent: Entrepreneurs


In my recent piece Reengineering Capitalism I highlighted a phenomenon that the global entrepreneurship ecosystem is paying very little attention to: Over 99 percent of entrepreneurs who seek funding get rejected. Yet, the entire world is focused on the 1 percent that is “fundable.”

The media, when pitched a startup story, is interested in who funded the venture. They seldom ask how much revenue the company has or if it  is profitable.

Incubators take pride in how exclusive they are and how many “deals” they “reject.”

Angels and VCs, of course, discard most of their “deal flow.”

And entrepreneurs? They seem to have confused the definition of entrepreneurship altogether. Entrepreneurship, they mistakenly believe, equals financing!

This is wrong.

There are numerous stories of successful businesses that have been built without a penny of outside financing. I want to share with you some wisdom from the heroes of the other 99 percent. They live in a world of entrepreneurs who enjoy their freedom and are not looking to sell their businesses or take them public. You could say these businesses are built-to-enjoy, as opposed to built-to-flip. Needless to say, outside financing, by definition, requires an “exit,” and for most businesses, that means a sale to a larger company.

But the entrepreneurs I will introduce you to today are not interested in selling their companies. They just want to continue doing what they are doing: building value.

Meet Girish Navani, CEO of eClinicalWorks, a super-successful healthcare IT company based in Boston. He has never taken any funding but has built a $100 million-plus business by delivering value to customers.

Girish says, “I don’t foresee leaving the company for at least 10 years. I would like to leave it a private company with no external investors and absolutely no thoughts whatsoever about Wall Street. I am having fun and take great pride in my freedom. There is no reason I would give that up. We are a cash flow positive company. We have recurring revenues and no debt. We have a large customer base that is growing exponentially.” (You can read Girish’s full story here.)

Meet Andrew Fox, CEO of ClubPlanet, a $30 million-plus nightclub ticketing services company that is also 100% founder-owned. Andrew loves nightlife and says, “The business is very successful and has a lot of room for growth. I think that we have a lot of suitors out there who mention really ridiculous numbers at times. This is such a great lifestyle business that I don’t know if I could ever sell it. All of my previous businesses I built to sell, but this time around you might find me right here in thirty years. I hope by then it is $300 million a year. Based on our growth trajectory, we are seeing really good signs of improvement. (You can read more of Andrew’s story here.)

Then there is the oft-cited Sridhar Vembu, who has turned all tables with Zoho, a $100 million-plus SaaS company that … Next Page »

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Sramana Mitra is the founder of One Million by One Million (1M/1M), a global virtual incubator that aims to help one million entrepreneurs globally to reach $1 million in revenue and beyond. She is a Silicon Valley entrepreneur and strategy consultant, she writes the blog Sramana Mitra On Strategy, and is author of the Entrepreneur Journeys book series and Vision India 2020. From 2008 to 2010, Mitra was a columnist for Forbes. As an entrepreneur CEO, she ran three companies: DAIS, Intarka, and Uuma. Sramana has a master’s degree in electrical engineering and computer science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Follow @sramana

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