I didn't used to be an entrepreneur.
My first contact with entrepreneurism was at Quasar Northbridge, which we moved to become Quasar Perth, and then upgraded to become Zone 3 Perth. A number of the directors were rather entrepreneurial, and periodically hatched a variety of schemes, such as turning the site into a nightclub once a week, during what would otherwise be the site's busiest time; and a scheme called "Dial-A-Beer".
But there was little danger of my catching the disease.
Then I worked for P&C Micro's, and then for Ultrazone. Ultrazone was where I really started to catch entrepreneurism myself. At Zone 3, the principal business was selling 20 minute laser tag games to our customers: simple, pre-defined low-dollar transactions. But at Ultrazone, the principal business was selling and supporting equipment. Each transaction was worth tens of thousands of dollars, and there was huge scope for sorting out complex deals which benefited all parties. I was immersed in the ambiance of entrepreneurial to-ing and fro-ing, and became accustomed to it. The fact that Ultrazone occasionally changed business plans and revenue models was probably a factor, too.
The big step came when I and one of my co-workers began to hatch a scheme to re-use some old Zone gear that was sitting on the shelf in Ultrazone's store-room, to run games for the local Parks and Rec people, who ran all sorts of recreational events for kids. We would build a temporary arena out of tarpaulins stretched over PVC pipe frames, run games for a few hours, and disassemble it for storage again. We would hire people to run it for us. We would buy a trailer to store it in.
Like most entrepreneurial efforts, it never got past the planning stage. We wandered around a giant hardware store looking at parts, we messed with spread sheets to see how the numbers would work, but it all came to nought. The problem is that for a business to succeed, many elements must all fall neatly into place; when any one won't fit, the plan won't work.
In this case, the bad fit was our own time, because Ultrazone changed its business plan again, and we both became key players in the New Thing. The new New Thing was Cogo, a completely fresh electronic amusement concept. Well, not completely fresh -- the concept had been tried a decade or two before by a company called Crystal Maze, who had had moderate success with it, and we figured that technology had moved along far enough that everything that had gone wrong for them would go right for us. I wandered around the Internet looking at parts, we messed with spread sheets to see how the numbers would work. And it all came to nought. The money ran out and the project was canned.
But it has left its stamp upon me -- I am now an entrepreneur. Every time I see a business venture of any kind, I mentally rough out numbers to see how their revenue works, I look to see if they are promoting themselves sensibly, whether they will suddenly find themselves obsolete. And hopefully, this will come in handy in my next scheme, which is electric fencing.
No, that's not a fence that zaps cattle, it's electronic scoring gear for people engaged in whacking each other with pointy sticks. One of my friends sent me an email in which he claimed that he could build a box that did the job of our fencing club's present electric gear, but much cheaper. I responded by telling him that the parts he wanted to use were very last century, and that we should do it with a different piece. He responded by modifying my design so that it could be done in a chip half the size. We incrementally improved the design and changed the specification, managing to go in a complete circle -- we came back to the same specification we'd been at a couple of weeks prior, but with much cooler technology. We got the club interested, they agreed to fund the prototype, and right now I have several software development tools open on my computer's desktop, and a prototyping board on my real desk's top. We'll develop the prototype, and if it works as well as we hope, sell several units to the club. If it works extremely well, we'll sell it to other clubs, use the weak Australian dollar to sell our boxes internationally at half our competitors' prices, develop a more featureful version, and generally engage in world conquest.
Entrepreneurism is contagious, and as far as I know, once you've caught it, there's no cure.