The most successful founder in history Bill Gross
Business, Leadership
September 23, 2019

The most successful founder in history - Part 1

Bill Gross on how he became the most successful founder in history

Are you a manager, an artist or an entrepreneur? Determining your business identity is key to finding fulfillment in your work – and in your life. For Bill Gross, it was also the key to making billions and becoming one of the most sought-after serial entrepreneurs on the planet.

In this podcast, you’re going to hear the top three things Bill has learned as a serial entrepreneur that will help you embrace innovation, get your timing right and inspire your staff to work harder.

Who is Bill Gross?

Bill Gross is an entrepreneur who has started and exited from seven companies valued at more than $1 BILLION each. He is truly one of the greatest entrepreneurs of all time – yet he came from humble beginnings.

Bill’s first job was selling candy at the bus stop in junior high. At age 15 he started selling solar devices through the mail, advertising in the back of Popular Science magazine. Then he started making speakers, paying his way through college. When he graduated, he used his remaining profits to buy a $5,000 PC and wrote a software that was acquired by Lotus for $10 million.

This pattern of success isn’t luck. Bill looks for opportunities that are BIG and broken and then brainstorms technology solutions to fix them. Twenty-five years ago, he started Idealab – a company that Tony Robbins is involved with today.

During its more than two decades, Idealab has incubated over 150 companies, created more than 10,000 jobs and had more than 45 successful IPOs and acquisitions. Bill Gross and his management teams have started and exited from seven companies valued at $1 billion each, and their latest venture, Energy Vault, just secured $110 million Series B funding from the Softbank Vision Fund to further its aim to eliminate our dependence on fossil fuels. Energy Vault also won Fast Company’s 2019 World-Changing Ideas Awards in Energy.

Bill creates a new company idea every single day – and what’s even better is that he’s making an incredible impact on the world.

Lessons learned by Bill Gross

Every successful person in the world has experienced failure – often on a massive scale. Bill is no different. Five out of 12 Idealab startups failed in the first year because they didn’t get enough investment, and in total 60 have failed. Bill isn’t shy about sharing his failures, as he’s always found a way to turn his setbacks into successes and learn valuable lessons along the way.

In that first year, he learned the power of story. He says, “We couldn’t come up with a story that was strong enough to help them raise additional money.” Other big lessons he’s learned include the need to find contrarian ideas that you know to be true but that no one believes yet – and the realization that being too early with an idea is even worse than being too late with it.

Bill quotes Ray Dalio: “The consensus is already priced in. To be a great investor or inventor, you have to bet against the consensus and be right.” You must fully embrace radical innovation – not just having an idea that improves on others, but that changes the game. He also suggests entrepreneurs who are ahead of their time do their best to conserve cash and wait it out until the marketplace and demand can catch up with their innovation.

Bill also knows that he has not gotten where he is by being an island. He learned early on in his career that you need a team of talented individuals to help you achieve success and that the best way to unlock human potential is to get your team thinking like owners. This is why he advocates giving stakes in a company to as many of the employees as possible to create an organizational culture where everyone gets to share in the upside of success.

Bill Gross on how he became the most successful founder in history
Part 1

[01:00] Tony’s introduction of Bill Gross
[04:55] Journey started selling candy at the bus stop
[05:20] Made $400 selling candy in junior high school
[05:50] Bought a shop smith tool to make new things
[06:43] Buying gasoline during energy crisis
[07:18] Bill’s early interest in renewable energy
[07:48] Started first company selling solar kits at 15
[08:07] The major tenet of mail order: Test everything
[09:10] Bill makes speakers in college
[09:43] GNP loud speakers pays his way through college
[10:08] Bill gets a $5,000 PC to computerize his business
[10:29] Made natural language program to make it easier to use Lotus
[11:00] Lotus acquired company for $10 million
[11:35] Bill moves to Boston to work for Lotus
[11:59] Bill’s inspiration to create educational software
[12:40] Bill starts Knowledge Venture in 1991
[13:20] Sold Knowledge Venture for $90 million in 1995
[14:08] Netscape IPO brings pportunity to talk to 30M people on internet
[15:02] The to start Idealab technology incubator
[15:30] Providing equity to employees unleashes potential
[16:01] Bill has first 12 ideas for companies
[16:40] 7/12 companies raise enough capital
[17:30] Painful lessons learned over 40 years
[17:51] Wrong timing for Evolution Robotics
[18:31] Company pivoted, and sold to iRobot
[19:00] Dream to build ergonomic vehicle to save fuel
[19:50] Starting Picassa, which sold to Google
[20:43] eSolar and GoTo – solving pain points
[21:15] The inefficiency of banner ads
[21:55] The idea of pay per click
[23:15] Lesson 1: You need to find a contrarian idea that’s true
[24:53] Lesson 2: The importance of timing
[25:49] Your timing is only right if your idea is accepted as self evident
[26:03] Example of
[26:59] Being way too early is worse than being too late
[28:00] Uber had to wait for something else to happen to exist
[28:38] Lesson 3: Don’t be dilution sensitive
[29:20] Choose the best investor, not the highest valuation
[29:34] Invigorate your staff by sharing equity

Listen to part one of the podcast above to hear Bill talk about his many successful companies and the lessons he’s learned from starting seven companies that eventually reached revenues of over $1 billion. Bill is an incredible mentor and expert, providing valuable wisdom that goes against the grain, like “You want to choose the best investor, not the one that gives you the highest price.” Don’t miss part two, where Tony gets an opportunity to interview Bill on finding the truth that others do not know, his advice on raising money and what he would like to be remembered for.

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