I am an entrepreneur since I was a freshman in college. I went to UCLA, Los Angeles and I studied Electronic Engineering and Computer Science. And I never knew what meant to be an entrepreneur but I just always was an entrepreneur. So I figure it would be fun if I come back to an engineering school to talk about the traits of what makes an entrepreneur an entrepreneur. It’s not just entrepreneur but a great entrepreneur. So I’m going to talk about what those traits are.
So the first is about purpose. Purpose is a very straightforward concept, it’s about meaning, it’s about why we’re here, what we believe in, and it’s about being passionate about that. I’ll start with Uber’s mission：“Transportation as reliable as running water, everywhere for everyone,” very straightforward.
That’s what we do every day. You know what Uber is when I say that, but what does it really mean and what is our purpose that comes out of it? Uber’s number one cultural value is what we call “celebrating the city,” everything we do is to make cities a better place, in a lot of ways we feel like we are architects in helping make the cities of the future. When it comes to transportation, what does that mean? That means you can get around your city of the future efficiently, you no longer have to see traffic like this, and traffic ultimately goes away. Why? Because when you push a button and a car comes. That car is serving 30 other people that day. And so instead of 30 people owning 30 cars, you have one car that’s serving 30 people and you have far fewer cars on the road.
We have another product called UberPOOL, so that when you push a button and the car comes, you open the door and you get in the car, and there’s somebody else already in the car, because they’re taking the same trip at exactly the same time. And so now you’re taking two people that would have been in two separate cars, and they’re now in one car. But because of the maths, because of the algorithms, because we are matching very efficiently, it’s just as convenient for both riders, and it’s far cheaper. So, the city of the future might look a little bit more like that, than some of the traffic that I ran into in Beijing earlier today.
To create the job opportunity is the other part about what Uber brings to cities. When we partner with folks who own these cars, they are then able to make an income, where maybe before they weren’t. And today, in China, we are creating approximately 100,000 new jobs every month. Why? Because people have a need to get around their cities. And so, in cities around the world, as well as in China, we are creating massive job opportunities that make a difference for how people make a living, how they earn income, and how they produce and contribute to society.
2. Where’s The Magic?
So the second principle, or the second trait of a great entrepreneur, or a great company is you’ve got to be able to find the magic, you’ve to got to be able to make magic. What is magic? I don’t know if you guys have seen an old movie, called Pulp Fiction. You should check it out if you haven’t seen it. But basically, in that briefcase, you’ll never find out throughout the movie, but anytime somebody sees it they just stop in their tracks, their eyes get big, because there’s something magical about what’s in that briefcase, something that captures people's’ imagination, something that inspires everybody who sees it. And so when you are creating your companies, and they’re going to be lots of companies created by those of you who are here tonight, think about that kind of notion, that kind of thing that is magical and inspires beyond what people could imagine.
Now magic is this sort of a high level concept, but I started thinking about what magic really was. The way we think about it at Uber is, magic sort of comes from a few different places. One of those places is time. If you can give people more time back, you can give them more time in their day than they expected, you’ve done something magical. If you can bring calm or serenity to how they live, or how they get around the world, you have done something magical. If you can make your customers a great sense of joy, then you’ve done something magical. And lastly, if your customers have made more money at the end of the day than they did at the beginning of the day, and to a degree that was unexpected, or the more your customers are able to save, you’ve also done something magical. Now if you can do all of them at the same time, and by the way, at Uber we feel like we do all those, then you really can astonish people, you really can inspire.
Now we see magic in the products that we use. This is a patent application from Steve Jobs, which was actually issued in 2006. This patent application was filed in 2005.It was almost identical to what I’m carrying in my pocket today. So at the time, when he came up with this, he was so far-forward thinking about this becoming an inspiring reality. And it’s important we see these things in our life everyday. Sometimes, it’s a big idea. Sometimes, it’s the craftsmanship that make it really refined, simple and elegant. Steve Jobs with the iPhone, does both.
The other types of ideas, you have heard a lot of Airbnb. Now you can go on a website, find a crazy house like this in Greece, and stay there. Something in the world you would never find otherwise, and change your experience when you travel around the world. That, in it’s own way, is a magical experience. But when it comes to magic sometimes it’s just hard to define, but when you see it, you know it.
This is the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, where Uber is headquartered, where I have lived for the last 10 years, one of the most famous bridges in the world. when you are on this bridge - you know that you are on something special. People who get near this bridge, they can’t help but take a picture of it. Now, we have two bridges in San Francisco, the Golden Gate Bridge, which is on the North, but on the East, we have the Bay Bridge which is not magical, right? I can get across the Bay just as well on this, but it’s just not magical. And so sometimes beauty is part of the things when you’re making magic. Beauty is a big part of it.
3. What’s Hard about It?
You can make something magical, something inspiring, but if everybody can copy it, it loses its magic. You have to do things ultimately hard, which means not everybody can do. There are things really hard.
This is a car from Uber’s Advanced Technology Center in Pittsburgh. We’ve partnered with CMU – Carnegie Mellon. And what this car is doing is creating a 3D map of the world. What does that mean? It means when you look at a street, you have a 3-dimensional model what the street looks like. Because, ultimately, you might want to send a car through it without a driver. That’s hard, right? But there are a lot of things, sometimes, you don’t see the hard. When you use your iPhone, you don’t know all the technology underneath which made it work so elegantly, ,made the battery last 2 hours instead of 1hour. A lot of interesting science and math underneath makes these things difficult.
This is a map of New York, the way Uber sees New York. And the colors are basically showing where demand at that moment in time. What Uber has to do is to make sure there’s a car three minutes away from you wherever you are in the world. We have to predict demand ahead of time. We have to know where people are going to open up the Uber app before they do. If you say this is a map of New York, there’s some curve of demand that sits over it. It’s not simplistic. We have to make sure the supply, essentially the cars, are molding toward where the demands are going to be, and the curve of supply looks like what demand is going to be before it’s there. How do you do that? Well, it’s hard.
This is a map I pulled from online a social graph of an individual person on LinkedIn. How do you make it so that I’m introduced to the people that I’m supposed to be introduced to? The people I need to meet can make my business better? It seems simple enough when I go to the website and it recommends people that I should connect with, but there’s really hard math to make that work. And by the way, if you do that well, nobody is going to beat you in building that kind of network.
One of those things that Xiaomi does is, they made something beautiful, that works like an iPhone, but only a fraction of the cost.
4. Perception VS Reality
Another thing that entrepreneurs have to be good at is understanding the difference between perception and reality. Perception is what most of the world thinks is true. Reality is what is true. Sometimes they’re the same. If I ask 50 people what two plus two is, most people, especially at this university I hope, will say it’s four. But there’s a whole host of questions that when you ask people what the answer is, their answers might be very similar, but it might be very different than what the reality is. And so great entrepreneurs are able to determine when perception is very different from reality. We should be looking for those moments, and those places, and those times, when people think things are one way but it’s actually another. And the bigger the distance is between perception and reality, the bigger the opportunity is for the entrepreneur. And so you have to get really good at seeing the difference. And by the way, you have to be right. Because it could just be that what everybody’s perception is actually is reality, and you’re seeing it differently and you’re the wrong one, and you’re going to fail as an entrepreneur.
But what happens is in an entrepreneur’s life, in an entrepreneur’s daily activities, we are confronted with a hundred decisions that we have to make and our decisions have to be focused, deadly focused on reality. And we get particularly excited when what we believe is reality is different from what everybody else thinks. And when that happens, it can be confusing to folks, but when you know you are right, you need to be willing to stand out and do something different than everybody else that’s out there. And this is an Albert Einstein quote, which I think is appropriate. “The one who follows the crowd will usually go no further than the crowd. The one who walks alone is likely to find themselves in places no one has ever been.” If you are particularly gifted at seeing the truth, you also have to be gifted at walking alone – if you want to be an entrepreneur. And so, if it’s a kitten, you’re going to act differently than if it’s a lion. If everybody sees this as a lion, they’re going to run away. But if you actually, because they may all be looking at the mirror, but if you see the kitten, you better be right, because if it’s a lion your hand is going to get bitten off.
Now sometimes, you can look at a situation and see risk the same as somebody else. Your perception may be reality, but if you’re able to manage that risk in an expert way, different than anybody else, then you may be able to do things that nobody else can do. I look at this cable wire over the abyss and I’m like “Oh hell no.” But this person can just do it. And so the person who can walk across something like this can do things that the average person can’t, even though they see the same things in front of them. They’re able to traverse that risk in an expert way that gives them an advantage over everybody else. This guy can walk across the river, when everybody else is stuck on the one side. And you see these situations in everyday life, you see these situations in everyday entrepreneuring.
5. Analytical and Creative Cross
So the next one is what I call the analytical and creative cross. What does that mean? Most of us here are engineers, we know what it means to be analytical. We know how to put machines together, take them apart, and put them together again. We know how to code in ten different languages and when a bunch of toothpicks drop on the ground we probably know how many toothpicks just fell out of the container. We just have an analytical mindset. But that’s not enough to be an entrepreneur. To be an entrepreneur, you also have to have creative instincts. It’s not enough to know how to take apart a machine and put it back together again. When you’re an entrepreneur you have to create a whole new machine that nobody else has seen. And that machine has to inspire others. And that takes creativity. This is a machine called the Babbage engine. It was actually the first computing machine ever designed. It actually wasn’t made for a hundred and fifty years after it as designed, but it was the first computation machine ever designed. We know, we probably could figure this kind of thing out, we’d double click on a few of these things, but we would get it, but that’s not enough. The creative instinct has to be in there. And so to give you an example at Uber, every day we push a button and we get a ride, that’s what we do, and that’s what our customers do. But one day a year, you push a button and an ice cream truck comes and delivers you ice cream. Now it’s really hard to make that happen, but it starts with a creative impulse that inspires. And so what do we do in basically 350 cities around the world, we deliver ice cream at the push of a button. At Hangzhou, we were actually delivering ice cream via drone. So you push a button, we know where you are because we have your location, and then a drone flies to you and drops off the ice cream. There’s some engineering there to make that work. But it inspires people at the same time, and that’s how entrepreneurs succeed. And so what we try to do at Uber is we of course try to find all kinds of situations where everybody at the company can come up with an idea like this and make it a reality, because we need entrepreneurs within.
6. Going to Market
So you can have great ideas, you can be creative, but then there’s sort of like the business hustle. You’ve got to be able to bring something to market. And there’s, in Silicon Valley, what’s called growth hacking. You have to know, how do we find a way to make something viral? How do we find a way to make an idea or a piece of content or a video or a product or an app, how do we find a way to make it so that the person who gets it loves it but then shares it? How do you make it viral? And there’s a science to doing that. But of course you also have to find the creative side of it too. So, working with the people, the celebrities, or other ideas, that just catch fire, is part of how you get things to market.
7. Enjoying the Ride
I’ve been an entrepreneur since I was 18, that means I’ve been entrepreneuring for 20 years, and most of that time I was failing. At my last company, I would call 100 people a day, and I would get 100 no’s. And you do that for 6 or 7 years straight, you’re talking about hundreds of thousands of people saying no to you. So you have to believe in your purpose, and you have to believe so much that every day, even when you get the no’s, you’re still enjoying every moment. And so that means when you’re on the field, no matter what’s happening, you have a love for what it is you do. You have a love for the game itself, even when you’re losing. Because, by the way, most of entrepreneuring, usually, is losing. But you are not a failure if you keep getting back up.
8. Champion’s Mindset
What I call the champion’s mindset, is about overcoming adversity. A lot of people, when they think of the champion, they think of Yao Ming, or they think of Lebron James going in for a dunk, but that’s not what being a champion is about.
Putting everything out there, to win no matter what. That is what it means to be a champion. If you think of our sports stars, and all the success they have. But real champions in life, real champions in entrepreneuring, have to be those that who, when confronted with adversity, get back up and put everything they have into getting to the finish line. And it inspires when you see it, and that comes back to not just your own self-fulfillment, but it’s an example that you show for the whole team. So most of my entrepreneurial career has been with six people in a room for years, hearing No a lot, see a lot of adversity, but loving every day. Then, when you get to something like an Uber, when there’s huge success, around the world, and now we’re at 4000 employees, I bring that to what I do every day. And that inspires the team that I work with, and honestly, when I look at my team, I see them doing this too. That makes us strong, and it makes the whole thing worthwhile.
So anyway, those are my eight traits of great entrepreneurs. I hope some of you will become great entrepreneurs in future. Thank you very much.