Dean Rohrer

Start-Up Soup

Building a company is a lot harder than having a good idea, for it requires attracting people and organizing them to work together. That fact is lost on too many Internet "entrepreneurs" nowadays, who sell themselves to Google, Facebook, and other large firms before they have created real companies.

NEW YORK – Last month I was in Kyiv, speaking at a conference focused on entrepreneurs. I wanted to give a talk that would be of general interest but also concrete. So I started with one of my favorite parables.

It is a familiar folk tale. A confidence man shows up in a village with what he claims is a magic stone. Put the stone into a pot of water over a fire, he says. Then just add a few ingredients – maybe some vegetables, some ham bones from yesterday, a few spices – and you will soon have a delicious, life-giving soup with magical healing properties.

Of course, this man is a trickster; the point of the story is that his magic stone is just a plain old rock. To modern eyes, however, he is an entrepreneur. His “magic” stone is perhaps the germ of an idea, a product concept, or a marketing innovation. The entrepreneur takes the stone and adds ingredients (commodities or software), attracts people, gets them to work together, and perhaps tosses in a pinch of branding. The result is value where before there were only unexploited resources.

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