Every domain has its heroes. In Greek mythology, the heroes were warriors that prevailed over monsters and pleased the gods. In Roman times the heroes were Generals that helped conquer the known world. To Shakespeare the heroes were the virtuous lovers who would die for love. Politics has its heroes (fewer in modern times). As do comic books, Hollywood and professional sports.
In my world of fast-growth startups and venture capital, the heroes are the founders. There is simply something magical about a person deciding to spend all her time, energy and resources pursuing a vision that most people consider crazy. That simple act of a founder deciding “I’m 100% committed” is the catalyst that inspires others to rally and makes great companies possible. Starting with little but an idea, founders begin a long road to creating value and hopefully building an important company. It is the commitment of the founder, way more than the idea, that makes a startup possible. There are few roads as challenging as creating something from nothing and few that are as rewarding.
When I was thinking about starting my first company in 1999, I was 23 years old and knew very few young and successful founders. I was unsure if my ambitions were way out of line with my capabilities. I cannot say for sure where I found the confidence, but I give some credit to two role models who at a distance inspired me. Interestingly, I never spoke to either of these people about starting a company, but simply knowing that they were my peers, had taken the leap, and had success gave me the confidence to quit my job and pursue my vision. By saying that I was 100% committed, I was able to rally support from co-founders, advisors, and ultimately customers and a company was born.
I’m introducing a new speaker series called Founder Dialogues to feature successful founders as the heroes that they are. I hope that Founder Dialogues will help inspire new founders who have the vision and energy to build great companies, but need to see role models and understand their stories to see what’s possible. I hope it will help current founders to persevere through tough times. I hope it will help founders with some early success to be more prepared for the road ahead.
Founder Dialogues will be a Cambridge-based event series open to the public. At each event, I will interview a great local founder who built an important company from nothing. We’ll explore what made them entrepreneurs, how they got conviction, the challenges, the near death experiences, and the advice they have for others interested in following their footsteps.
My first guest is Tim Healy, the CEO and Founder of EnerNOC. Tim is an extraordinary entrepreneur. Tim became an entrepreneur in his early twenties as a co-founder of Student Advantage, which eighteen years later remains a leading media and commerce company focused on the higher education market. In his early 30s, Tim co-founded EnerNOC, which uses demand response to help commercial organizations use energy more intelligently and generate cash flow by reducing consumption during peak grid usage. Today EnerNOC is a public company with nearly 400 employees generating almost $200MM a year in annual revenue and has approximately a $750MM market cap. Not bad in less than 10 years.
I hope that you’ll join me at 5:30 P.M. on April 12th at the Regatta Bar at the Charles Hotel in Cambridge to hear more about Tim’s entrepreneurial journey.