I define an entrepreneur as someone who wants to fix a problem, rather than wait for someone else to fix it for them. That’s it.
I was never trying to get started in business. I was still in the military, working at the pentagon. I was just trying to and from work as efficiently and as quickly and as easily as possible. Where I lived in Washington, DC was 5 miles away from the pentagon. I could drive to work, I could take a bus to work, I could take a bus to the metro, I could ride with a friend, I could have my wife drop me off at the metro, I could have a friend drop me off at work on his or her way. In other words, I had so many different options, but I knew that each one of them came with a cost. In other words, I needed somebody to compare all of my options and just tell me the optimal solution every day. I went looking for that website but nobody put together what RideScout has done today. So, I just started to try and invent it.
Some people golf in their free time, but back then, I set to try and solve this problem by myself. Along the way, a friend of mine, Craig Cummings, heard me one day talking about it at a party. He immediately had the idea to turn it into a company. I thought to myself, “Dude, I don’t know the first thing about starting a company and by the way, I’m still in the army.” He said he would help me start it and if this works out, you can retire.
I liked that idea so much. I started doing my own little research. In that time, I picked up a book called “The Intelligent Entrepreneur” by Bill Murphy Jr. As I was reading the four stories that he profiled, I realized that the interviews, the decisions people made and the way they talked, that felt a lot like me. It’s like putting on an old sweatshirt that just feels right. I called Craig back and said, “You know what? Let’s try it.”
The most surprising thing is how hard it actually is to convince people that what you’re doing is a good idea; convincing investors, volunteers, employees, and most of all customers and potential clients. One thing that I convinced myself when I was designing RideScout was that “Of course this was going to be perfect, this was going to work, and everyone’s going to want to use it. The first day that I unveil it, I’ll have 100 million subscribers, and poof! We’ll be done.”
Well it didn’t happen at all like that. It took me forever to find the right people to help me build it. It took me even longer to find the right people to invest in it. And it still does, to this day, take a while to convince people that by looking at all their options for mobility, they will be better off in the long run. At the end of the day we are all creatures of habit.
I would tell budding entrepreneurs the following:
1. Start now
2. Don’t quit your day job. You have to pay the rent somehow.
3. Quit now. What I mean by that is if you are not serious about it, if you are not absolutely committed to see it through to the end, then don’t even start. Why waste 6 months of your time if you are only doing it half-heartedly. If you’re only partially convinced, then just quit and wait until later, until you are convinced that whatever you’re doing is going to be fantastic. That is the only thing that saved me in those really dark hours, in those really late nights. I remember standing in Fredericksburg, Texas at an art festival underneath a tent that was being poured on by rain and mud, giving a presentation with a laptop and a projector on a folding table that was starting to tip over because one of the legs was caught in the sinking mud, for four people. Four people total in the tent listened to me talk about RideScout. Talk about discouraging. Those are the days that if you don’t love what you’re doing, you’re going to give up, you’re going to lose faith, and you’re going to quit. And entrepreneurs, entrepreneurs who are ready, don’t quit.