Brad Feld

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Great Entrepreneurs Believe in Karma

Apr 01, 2009

I met with an entrepreneur yesterday that I hadn’t seen in a few years.  I originally met with her about five years ago when she was starting her company.  She’d been a very successful executive at a large company and had decided to jump into the entrepreneurial game and re-invent herself.  Her business has grown nicely – and profitably – without having raised very much money. 

We mostly just caught up on how things have been going (we email back and forth periodically, but it had been a while since we had met in person.)  After about ten minutes, she asked if she could tell me a story about the first time we met.  Always game for a good story, I said sure.  It goes something like this.

I was introduced to you by someone I had met with who was a close friend of yours.  He suggested that I get together with you and made an introduction.  After I set up the meeting, I went online to learn more about you.  After poking around for a while, I suddenly got scared – I had no idea why I was going to meet with you or why you would bother meeting with me.  I didn’t want to blow my one meeting and waste your time.  I told this to the person that introduced us and he said “don’t worry about it – Brad will give you 20 minutes of his undivided attention and something good will come out of it.”  So I went ahead and met with you.

I was really nervous.  I was uncertain what to talk about and just starting telling you about my business idea.  You gave me some reactions and a few pieces of advice and as some point said “I bet you wonder why I am meeting with you.”  I had no clue, said so, and you responded, “I believe in karma.  When I was starting out as a first time entrepreneur a bunch of experienced people helped me, gave me advice, and just spent time with me with no particular expectations on their part, except to be helpful.  I’ve never forgotten that and want to pass it on.  I have no idea what will come of this conversation, but if I’m helpful to you, you can pay me back by being helpful to another first time entrepreneur after your become successful.” This has stuck with me from the very beginning of my business and I repeat it often.

This story made me smile a huge smile.  I remember all of the entrepreneurs that helped me early in my career, including guys like my dad, Gene Scott, Helena and Chris Aves, Stewart Forbes, and many others.  Whenever I help someone like the entrepreneur above, I’m paying others back for helping me.

Many of the great entrepreneurs I’ve met believe in this and practice it.  It’s not altruistic nor is it selfless as there are huge emotional returns from watching other people – who you’ve helped early in their entrepreneurial career – be successful.  If you are a multi-time entrepreneur, I encourage you to consider a daily (or weekly, or monthly – whatever works for you) karma break to help someone that is just getting started.