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  1. 1. T he history of business has been shaped by Herewith are a handful of entrepreneurs. Are these great entrepreneurs. In fact, entrepreneurs the only ones who deserve to be heralded here? No and their companies have shaped the way we way. But this is a great start for any list of start-uplive today. While every generation, and every country, legends.has its own spectacular success stories and rolemodels, the innovators below have had a profound Richard Bransoneffect on our work, play, travel and even grooming. Firmly believing that one should say “yes” to Resilience, audacity, marketing savvy, a opportunities, Richard Branson (1950–) began awillingness to take risks, the ability to sell, an school newspaper at age 17, opened a discountunshakeable belief in their own talents and an mail-order record company with a friend when heincredible capacity for sheer hard work – these are was 20, established a record shop on London’sjust some of the qualities that entrepreneurs Oxford Street and launched a record label namedpossess. But the one quality that unites them all is Virgin. Those early ventures have expanded into apersistence. Few of the entrepreneurs listed struck major international conglomerate of some 350gold at the first attempt, many not even at second companies with combined sales of $8 billion.or third. Undaunted, they carried on. Whether it’s Virgin’s enterprises include hotels, fitness clubsbuilding teams, scraping together finance or (Virgin Active), books, software production, and filmspotting an opportunity that others have overlooked, and video editing. There are also Virgin Holidaysentrepreneurs live to bring their vision to fruition. and Virgin credit cards. One of the best-known ¡© 2006 The Author | Journal compilation © 2006 London Business School Business Strategy Review Winter 2006 83
  2. 2. ¡ companies is Virgin Atlantic Airlines, a long-haul William Crapo Durant transatlantic carrier, aiming to provide value-for- The world’s biggest automobile company, General money flights on transatlantic routes. There are now Motors, was not founded by a mechanic or engineer, cut-price airlines, such as Virgin Blue in Australia. but by a brilliant salesman, William Crapo DurantSpecial Entrepreneurship Issue In the U.K. there are Virgin Trains. The company (1861–1947). Durant started in business by claims its pay-as-you-go mobile phone service has rescuing the local waterworks in Flint, Michigan. By become the fastest business ever to reach $1 billion his thirties he had made a million dollars from in revenue. selling a revolutionary two-wheeled horse carriage. The driving force behind Virgin’s growth is In June 1905, sensing the way the industrial winds undoubtedly Branson’s continual interest in learning were blowing, he threw in his lot with a company new things. “I keep a notebook in my pocket all the called Buick that manufactured a new kind of time,” he says, “and I really do listen to what transport – the automobile. people say . . . . Good ideas come from people In 1908, Durant collected a disparate group of everywhere, not in the boardroom.” auto companies to form the General Motors Company. Then followed a series of highs and lows. Walt Disney Through poor financial management Durant lost Budding entrepreneurs can take comfort from the control of General Motors in 1910. Undeterred, in knowledge that even one of the greatest 1911 he started another legendary US auto Resilience, audacity, marketing savvy, a willingness to take risks, the ability to sell, an unshakeable belief in their own talents and an incredible capacity for sheer hard work – these are just some of the qualities that entrepreneurs possess. entrepreneurs of the 20th century did not find company, the Chevrolet Motor Company; incredibly, immediate success. It was only after a in 1917 he again wrested control of General Motors. disappointing venture, Laugh-O-Grams, which ran Sadly for Durant, the buzz of trading on the stock into financial difficulty, that Walt Disney exchange and other risky financial manoeuvring led (1901–1966) struck gold with his animated to his ejection from General Motors in 1920. As one characters. Even then the world-famous mouse last roll of the dice he founded Durant Motors in might never have been born, had it not been for a 1921, but the Wall Street Crash finally put paid to disastrous business meeting in which Disney lost his business as well as his personal fortune, and he control of his character, Oswald the Rabbit, to a was forced to file for personal bankruptcy. competitor. Legend has it that it was on the train In many ways Durant was the archetypal journey home after the meeting that he had the idea entrepreneur. He loved the deal; he loved selling; he for a cartoon mouse – called Mortimer. Luckily his loved making things happen. His management style, wife intervened, renaming the mouse Mickey. however, was autocratic, dictatorial and problematic Disney went on to become an icon of the 20th when he was trying to move his companies from the century and an American folk hero. His talent, and start-up stage. Durant’s life exemplified the ability to bring out the talent in others, propelled tightrope entrepreneurs walk between success and him from small-time cartoonist to owner of a film failure. It was his maverick streak that made him a studio and entertainment empire to dispenser of brilliant entrepreneur and led to the creation of the Disney magic to the world. During a 43-year career largest automobile manufacturer in the world, in Hollywood, Disney and his studio won 48 General Motors. And it was the same maverick Academy Awards, seven Emmys and a host of other streak that finally bankrupted him. awards. Disney pioneered the cartoon as an entertainment medium with full-length cartoon George Eastman features like “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” George Eastman (1854–1932) was the man who and “Dumbo” and later produced family film brought photography to the masses. Like many great favourites such as “Mary Poppins”. One of his most entrepreneurs, Eastman was a combination of enduring legacies is the project that occupied him inventor and salesman. “You push the button, we do during final years – the futuristic EPCOT centre. the rest,” was the catchy slogan he came up with to 84 Business Strategy Review Winter 2006 © 2006 The Author | Journal compilation © 2006 London Business School
  3. 3. seduce a public who saw photography as a blade packaging, he became world famous and hiscumbersome process, involving large complex image became a symbol of quality. Unfortunately,machinery and undertaken only by professionals. the Wall Street Crash of 1929 took its toll, robbingThis was true, until Eastman got involved. him of his personal fortune. But, although his later Special Entrepreneurship IssueEastman’s vision was a little more user-friendly, and entrepreneurial efforts came to nothing – attemptsa little more modern – a camera in every house. to extract oil from shale, for example – his legacy Through a combination of scientific discovery and lives on in the company that brought us Right Guardmasterful marketing, Eastman invented a pocket deodorant and the Fusion razor with five and the film it used and sold it to anastounded American public. Coming up with the Akio Moritaname Kodak for no other reason than it sounded The celebrated Japanese entrepreneur, Akio Moritagood, Eastman expanded his photographic empire (1921–1999) started with a $500 loan and a smallfrom one assistant to more than 13,000 employees, telecom company, the Tokyo Tsushin Kogyo, whichand from one small room to the 55 acre and 95 he co-founded with partner Masaru Ibuka. He endedbuilding Kodak Park Works in Rochester, New York. his career as head of the electronics giant Sony. AHe was also an enlightened employer who world away from its best-known products, Morita’sintroduced innovations such as employee ownership first success at the company was with a stove forschemes into the workplace. cooking rice. What followed was a stream of innovativeKing Camp Gillette electronics products – the cassette tape recorderThe man who shaved a nation, King Camp Gillette and magnetic recording tape (1950), pocket radio(1855–1932), the US safety razor entrepreneur, (1957), the world’s first all-transistor televisionmade a fortune from improving a mundane, (1960) and the first home videotape recordereveryday product. Before Gillette applied his razor- (1968). When he noticed that young people likedsharp mind to the problem of male grooming, listening to music wherever they went, he inspiredshaving involved cutthroat razors or unsatisfactory the company’s designers to develop a new product,stick razors that were as liable to injure as to shave, the Walkman, launched in 1980. In aespecially if used on the latest transport technology characteristically idiosyncratic move there was no– the train. market research to back his hunch. “The public Taking some advice from another entrepreneur does not know what is possible. We do,” saidwho had made a fortune from the cork bottle Morita.stopper, Gillette developed a simple razor with In 1958 Morita, a proponent of globalisation,replaceable blades. So confident was he in his idea helped to push through a name change for thethat in 1901 he formed the American Safety Razor company – Sony, taken from the Latin word forCompany and persuaded investors to back him sound, sonus. “We wanted a new name that couldIn 1958 Morita, a proponent of globalisation, helped topush through a name change for the company – Sony,taken from the Latin word for sound, sonus. “We wanteda new name that could be recognised anywhere in theworld, one that could be pronounced the same in anylanguage.”before he had a commercial product. The investors be recognised anywhere in the world, one that couldwere not disappointed. Gillette’s savvy marketing be pronounced the same in any language,’’ saidskills pushed up sales from 51 razors and 168 Morita.blades in the first year to 250,000 razor sets and Having built Sony into a multibillion-dollar100,000 blade packages by 1905. company, Morita, now a billionaire himself, resigned Much of Gillette’s success was down to pure force as president in 1993. His reason: to spend moreof character. He was one of the first businessmen to time indulging in pastimes such as scuba diving,exploit the cult of personality and the corporate skiing and tennis, all of which he started when overbrand. By printing his reassuring face on the razor the age of 50. “I consider him one of the people ¡© 2006 The Author | Journal compilation © 2006 London Business School Business Strategy Review Winter 2006 85
  4. 4. ¡ who brought Japan back from where it was in the tech start-up in a garage, Hewlett-Packard has 1940s and created a new industrial concept,” grown from a two-man partnership selling Henry Kissinger said of Morita. oscilloscopes into a $90 billion company selling a range of products from laser printers to PCs.Special Entrepreneurship Issue Pierre Omidyar A Stanford University electrical engineering French born Pierre Omidyar (1967–) is the founder graduate, Packard worked for General Electric of one of the Internet’s most enduring dot-com before forming a partnership with fellow Stanford businesses, eBay. As a computer science graduate, alumnus Hewlett. Packard turned out to be a Omidyar is well equipped to understand the natural manager who was ahead of his time. He technology. Crucially he also possesses a clear discarded the traditional hierarchical top-down understanding of the power of the Internet to management structure in favour of a flatter change the nature of markets, allowing the structure with an emphasis on teams and the equivalent of the village market – where producers sharing of information and ideas. It may be common and consumers deal directly with each other – to practice in corporations today, but when Packard exist on a global scale. instituted it at Hewlett-Packard it was revolutionary. He used that insight to create the online equivalent of Aladdin’s cave, a business where Arthur Rock valuable first-edition books, jewellery, toys and Without the venture capital industry there would be grand-master oil paintings jostle side by side for the no Internet, e-business, information revolution or collector’s attention. eBay started life as a humble new economy, as we understand them today. And homepage in September 1995; in fact, the name there might be no venture capital industry were it eBay stands for “electronic Bay Area”, a testimony not for Arthur Rock. to eBay’s parochial origin. In September 1998 the Son of a shopkeeper, the astute Rock, a Harvard company had its IPO with the share price reaching Business School graduate, provided early-stage $53.50 on the opening day. Since then eBay’s finance for some of the cornerstone companies of market cap has topped $56.4 billion. the technological revolution. His lucky break was to Unusually for an entrepreneur, Omidyar be in the office of Wall Street investment banking recognised the need to bring in professional firm Hayden Stone when a letter arrived from a management at an early stage, appointing Meg young research scientist looking to develop a new Whitman as CEO in 1997. Today Omidyar takes a invention – the silicon transistor. Rock thought it back seat, leaving the day-to-day management of was worth investigating and flew out to the West eBay started life as a humble homepage in September 1995; in fact, the name eBay stands for “electronic Bay Area”, a testimony to eBay’s parochial origin. In September 1998 the company had its IPO with the share price reaching $53.50 on the opening day. Since then eBay’s market cap has topped $56.4 billion. the company to Whitman. He and his wife Pam Coast. He recommended backing the young founded the Omidyar Network in 2004 to foster scientist, Eugene Kleiner, and Fairchild self-empowerment across economic, political and Semiconductors was born – the technological gene social realms. pool from which much of the new economy evolved. Rock founded his own venture capital company David Packard on the West Coast and financed Bob Noyce and It might easily have been Packard-Hewlett Gordon Moore when they left Fairchild to found emblazoned on computer equipment around the Intel. Then, after a speculative trip to the San Jose world. It would have been if Dave Packard Homebrew Computer show, he backed two young (1912–1997) had won the coin toss with partner computer enthusiasts who were demonstrating a William Hewlett to decide which name would come mock-up computer. Their names were Steve Jobs first in their partnership. It was 1939, and one of and Steve Wozniak – and their company was Apple the few wrong calls Packard ever made. The original Computing. 86 Business Strategy Review Winter 2006 © 2006 The Author | Journal compilation © 2006 London Business School
  5. 5. Rock has been asked countless times the secret Robert Edward Turner IIIof spotting the entrepreneurial talent of the future. After a difficult beginning to his career following hisIs it luck – or a good understanding of technology? father’s suicide, Ted Turner (1938–) showedNeither, he says. According to Rock it is about resilience and determination as he went on to Special Entrepreneurship Issuelistening to others, having a diverse range of interests improve his father’s business and help create the(not just technology), and above all possessing the largest entertainment and media company in theability to read and understand people. These qualities world, AOL Time Warner. Following his appointmenthave made Rock the entrepreneur’s entrepreneur. as president and chief operating officer of Turner Advertising Company in 1963, Turner blazed a trailDavid Sarnoff of acquisitions, mergers and channel launchesIt is no exaggeration to say that David Sarnoff across the corporate landscape of America. A UHF(1891–1970) is largely responsible for the modern station, professional sports teams including themass-market entertainment industry. Born in Atlanta Hawks and Atlanta Braves, Headline News,Uzlian, Russia, Sarnoff immigrated to the US as a TNT, Sports South, The Cartoon Network, Turnerboy in 1900. By 1930, he was president of the Classic Movies, New Line Cinema, and many moreRadio Corporation of America (RCA), the company enterprises were brought under Turner’s control asthat popularised radio as a form of entertainment he built his company, Turner Broadcasting System,broadcasting to homes across America. into a media giant. Sarnoff was no technological whiz-kid, but like all Then in 1980, Turner launched CNN (Cable Newsgreat entrepreneurs he recognised the potential of new Network), the first 24-hour news channel. Thetechnology and understood his market. Much of his reviews were scathing. A 24/7 all-news networksuccess was due to the genius of inventor Edwin H. would never work, critics said. But Turner provedArmstrong, who produced a series of groundbreaking them wrong. “I am the right man in the right placeinnovations in radio technology. Sarnoff’s genius at the right time,” he said. “Not me alone, but allwas securing a deal with Armstrong that gave RCA the people who think the world can be broughtfirst rights to any of Armstrong’s inventions. together by telecommunications.” CNN was a hugeFurthermore, Sarnoff, realising the importance of success, revolutionising the news industry. Itintellectual property rights, tied up all the patents. cemented Turner’s place in the pantheon of The media pioneer went on to introduce television the US public in 1939. And in a masterstroke, Turner has used much of his wealth in the publiche opened up the patents for television technology, interest, becoming one of the US’s most influentialensuring that there would be a market for his philanthropists. Most of his philanthropic activity iscompany’s programmes. Secure in the knowledge directed through the Turner Foundation, the Nuclearthat he, as much as Disney, had changed the world Threat Initiative, and the United Nationsof entertainment, Sarnoff handed control of RCA to Foundation, which he supported in 1997 with ahis son Robert in 1965. donation of $1 billion over 10 years. I Steve Coomber ( writes for The Times, CEO, Finance Director Europe and a number of other publications. He is co-author of several books, including Architects of the Business Revolution. London Business School Regent’s Park London NW1 4SA United Kingdom Tel +44 (0)20 7000 7000 Fax +44 (0)20 7000 7001 A Graduate School of the University of London© 2006 The Author | Journal compilation © 2006 London Business School Business Strategy Review Winter 2006 87