Ben, nice job with this!
During a 2010 barnstorming tour of the East Coast, Ben wound up at the wedding pictured here in Dracut. He is the guy immediately to my right, though he looks way better in the TIME profile, hyperlinked one paragraph up.
There is a Guardian article that recently came about about Ben and his site, change.org. One of the interesting "takeaways" from that article is that although the site was launched in 2007, it underwent two seismic evolutions since then -- first, to take it more towards activism content involving bloggers and discussion forums, as opposed to a standard social media profile w/an activist focus; and the second, major one, which was towards a petition-focused site.
The petitions have really taken off, to say the least, and the rest, as they say, is history.
If Change.org hadn't adapted in the direction that it needed to go, however, it could've been just another Silicon Valley bust story. That's important. Yes, there's such a thing as 'dumb luck' but this isn't that, or anything close...it's about having a vision but also paying keen attention to your surroundings, making the needed course corrections, and then having enough grit to see them through.
I think lots of entrepreneurs have vision, and lots have grit. Far fewer have their antennae properly tuned to what's going to matter down the line, and what could make the difference between swimming and sinking.
Vision, by the way, doesn't have to mean you're fixated on a single great idea.
Last week, Patrick Murphy and I got to meet Desh Deshpande. (Theresa, thanks for the intro!) He made some really interesting points in a very short amount of time about the value of for-profit organizations in the *social good* realm, the importance of the new crowdfunding legislation, and the way entrepreneurial hubs can be created with talent that already exists in an area (rather than the hub having to be set up to then draw talent from outside-in). There was another salient point he made that really hit home for me, and it was about would-be entrepreneurs not needing to have The Single Big Idea in their head before getting started. In other words, if you're drawn to the energy and excitement of start-ups, you can get into the realm, and THEN apply your own energy and talents to the ideas and projects that come up that excite you. The Big Idea doesn't have to precede everything else.
I liked that because I felt like it sort of validated my *plan* or lack thereof. I want to be part of the start-up community, whether that's the Merrimack Valley Sandbox crowd, the Kendall Square crowd, or the Totten Pond Road crowd....or anywhere in between. I just don't have a single big idea. Or technical skills. Or an Engineering degree.
I think there's also an application to change.org. It didn't START as a petition-based site, but it was started by someone with an extremely rare combination of intelligence, ambition, and charisma who was keen enough to realize where to take it when he came to the fork in the road.
And, I might add, someone with the willingness to work every night until collapsing face-down in his laptop at 3 a.m., only to wake up a few hours later to start the whole process again.