As Britain gathered to #WalkTogether in commemoration of the 10th anniversary of the 7/7 bombings in London, U.S. Ambassador,Matthew Barzun convened a cohort ofleading young entrepreneurs in the UK to a morning discussion. In the splendor of the Winfield House Gold Room, Ambassador Barzun quipped that the alliance of youthful disrupters, innovators and founders had gathered to a morning session of therapy. Serendipitously, as special guest speaker Julie Hanna (U.S. Presidential Ambassador for Global Entrepreneurship (PAGE) and Executive-Chair, Kiva) took to the floor,what unfolded was an unexpected, open and cathartic tête-à-tête on the personal, emotional and occasional loneliness that shadows the meandering journey of the entrepreneur.
“It’s deeply personal for me”, says Julie Hanna, “I am an accidental entrepreneur”.
To the most seasoned executive,as to the huddle of youthful entrepreneurs bursting with ambition and multiple ideas to change the universe,Hanna’s unguarded honesty resonated meaningfully as she abridged her rites of passage –those life changing moments that molded one’s character. Picture a family fleeing an Egypt at war during Black September and a young girl never to see her peers again; then a fresh faced graduate alighting in Silicon Valley with a newly minted degree in-hand–a period that triggered an awakening of having lived a life of limited ‘access’; and the executive ascending to positions of leadership –CEO, entrepreneur, investor and more recently PAGE representative – without knowing that success would create a minority spin-off story: that of a successful female entrepreneur in Silicon Valley.
Hanna’s journey is proof of how the experiences of childhood and the happenstances of youth – along a spectrum of wholesome to adverse – may fashion the core values of founders and entrepreneurs. As their startups scale into globally disruptive enterprises,the causal-effect is that these dominant principles become embedded in the company’s culture,creating impact on a progressive scale from the ‘high-positive’ to the ‘low-negative’.One wonders to what extend this assertion holds for those unicorns that are spawning fear and loathing in countries where they are aggressively planting their footprints. Are
the early life experiences of founders also pivotal in modeling the type of disruptive companies that some commentators define as ‘carers’, ‘sharers’ and ‘darers’? Deeper still, can these formative years, which define the values and moral of founders, forecast the culture and ethos of the companies they would later lead – those which are either Mission Driven or Mercenary Driven.
Whatever the responses to these questions, the challengewith which Hannawrestlesis ‘knowing how to remain universally relevant’.The solution isto understand the “WHY”.
Hanna’s early, happy family life which offered limited access, a condition which did not change until arriving in Silicon Valley, compelled a profound understanding that justice = fair access for all. This compelling motivation is born from her work in the technology sector and as an entrepreneur.
‘It is the “WHY” thatanchors the socially conscious entrepreneur in the relentless pursuit to impact the world and creative fair access and opportunity’, says Hanna.
As AmbassadorBarzun widened the discussion, it was evident that the room was inspired. The entrepreneurs’ spoke of their own personal struggles of wearing the public face of success, while grappling with internal issues and challenges, that include: fielding repeated questions on whether they were yet millionaires; learning to listen and find perspective; the solitude of holding on to the bigger vision until teams, investors and partners are fully onboard; the necessity of having to focus on the operational activity,which hinders creative development; and learning to take the path of least resistance since the conduit to success is never according to plan or a rigid path. Hanna advocated that getting too attached to the outcome could send you off course– preferring certainty to confidence in scaling businesses that create greater and enduring social impact. This modus operandi suggests why President Barack Obama appointed Julie Hanna to be Presidential Ambassador for Global Entrepreneurship.
About Julie Hanna:
Julie Hanna is an entrepreneur, investor and advisor to companies and public institutions globally. She has been founder, CEO and founding executive of five successful technology companies in Silicon Valley, giving her a deep understanding of b2b and b2c businesses from startup to scale-up.In recognition of her groundbreaking work and leadership as an entrepreneur and innovator, President Obama appointed Julie Presidential Ambassador for Global Entrepreneurship in 2015. Julie created more than 125 companies with 40 IPO’s and acquisitions and is also an active advisor and investor to high-growth technology companies including, Lyft, Lending Club (NASDAQ: LC), Bonobos, Mightytextand Idealab. Julie is a member of the World Economic Forum Global Agenda Council on Humanitarian Response. She is an international speaker on entrepreneurial leadership and innovation and a guest lecturer at Stanford, Cambridge, and Oxford Universities.
SelectUSA is the U.S. government-wide program to promote and facilitate business investment into the United States. Housed in the Department of Commerce, SelectUSA leads the Interagency Investment Working Group to ensure investors get the answers and assistance they need across the federal government. SelectUSA provides services to international investors of all sizes and U.S. state, regional and local economic development organizations (EDOs). @SelectUSATech is an initiative to support tech and startups scale-up in the United States.
Gus Franklyn Bute is Senior Regional Investment Advisor for SelectUSA, UK & Ireland in the U.S. Commercial Service in London.