By Lara, Sep 4 2014 09:28PM
To add to my guest-blogging portfolio (ooo get me), I've started writing for http://www.escapethecity.org/. It's great because it means I now get to warble on about travel, adventure and entrepreneurship. I know a bit about the travel part and Im working on the adventure and entrepreneurial bit, having met some very exciting people through Escape the City's Founding Membership project (more to follow on that).
In the mean time, check out my www.alastairhumphreys.com blog post here http://blog.escapethecity.org/2014/07/29/notes-night-evening-alastair-humphreys-adventurer-author-entrepreneur/
and my write-up on Colin Pyle. Trailblazers, the pair of them.....
How to build a life around entrepreneurship and adventure
Last night, the Escape School welcomed serial starter-upper Colin Pyle to talk about his many business ventures and travelling adventures. Like so many Escape speakers, his bio is massively varied and has transpired out of spotting opportunities, throwing himself into interesting things and using a healthy dose of hustle on the way.
Pyle has always had an entrepreneurial spirit, starting a foreign exchange business straight out of college after training in finance. In the first three months Pyle didn’t close an account, but then the business grew and he was able to sell it on for a healthy wedge (luckily just before the crash). He was keen to point out that the realities of starting a business mean that “you will fail, but that shouldn’t put you off.”
After selling up, Pyle realised he “had a good chunk of cash but hadn’t lived” so forged a plan to motorbike around China with his brother. Failing to get sponsorship to fund the journey, “BMW were like, who the fuck are you guys”, the brothers ploughed on regardless, and filmed the trip as they went along. Their 65 day adventure was eventually picked up by the Travel Channel and earned them a Guinness World Record in the process.
Although he still hasn’t made the money back, Pyle wasn’t put off.
“Travel is entrepreneurial. I figured if I could smuggle a bike part into China via Canada and Tibet, I can deal with anything.”
I loved Pyle’s advice to “use the gaps”. When you have a break between jobs or are moving onto something else, use the time in between to do something else. You never know where it might take you.
Pyle ended up biking around India next. From India, he considered going back to work with the Travel Channel, but instead started working with language school Mandarin House. “It was a good business and a good market, but I wasn’t passionate about it.” After Mandarin House, Pyle started to consider what it was that drove him to start-ups. Several ventures followed – he set up Lingos, another online language site (where he still sits on the Board), and Silicon Real, a tech podcast, which had its 56th broadcast yesterday.
“I don’t make money on it, but its good fun and I enjoy doing it. I learn something new every week.”
To MBA, or not to MBA
The Esc audience were keen to know how valuable Pyle found his MBA course at Hult International Business School. “Well the president invested $50k into my business, so pretty valuable I guess.” Joking aside, Pyle explained that the true value of an MBA is being able to grow your network globally.” Speaking about his new coffee venture “I now have a group of guys on the ground in a number of countries.”
One of the questions people should ask is whether an MBA will give them something over and above what you could learn on the ground in a start-up over a couple of years. It’s a question of how valuable an MBA is, all things considered.
Pyle’s latest venture Cru Kafe started out when he and some friends saw a gap in the single serve coffee market for a more eco product. Pyle’s drivers are passion, lifestyle and scaleability.
“I like to start something that I can grow to be big. Taking an idea and turning it into a product a year later.”
But it’s not always easy. “It’s very tough…if you are afraid of competition then stay where you are.”
“Some people think of entrepreneurs as rock stars but I hate to glorify it. Starting a business means your highs are higher and your lows lower than those you experience in a day job, but I love it and I thrive off it. You want to get to the point where you can grow a bigger team of people that you can then rely on.”
Pyle’s advice for those of us thinking of leaving the city..
• Take baby steps, but take the first step. Try to do as much as you can while you have a secure pay cheque so that you can hit the ground running. Even though it may sound like Pyle didn’t follow his own advice “I was always planning” and thinking one step ahead. “It can be a fine line. Sometimes if you don’t jump, you’ll never do it.”
• What matters most is how you see yourself. Self-awareness is the most important quality that he sees in successful people. Find out as much as you can while you work – phase it down to 4 days and then 3. Talking about a friend who works for Cru, who has just gone down to a 4 day week so that she can focus more on DJ-ing, Pyle explained that it’s important to give people the opportunity to create their passion. Talking about his friend he said “she knows herself well enough to be great in that market” and it something he has encouraged. (I LOVE this. If more employers understood this, I think that employees would be so much more engaged in everything that they do, within work and outside of it.)
• Don’t be afraid to know that you don’t know what you are talking about. Pyle is currently negotiating with Harrods, but says that “I don’t know what I’m doing.” His solution? “Hire people who know more than you, who are smarter than you”.
• Collaboration is key. Work with someone keen to help you out. You can do it yourself, but it’s lonely.
• Don’t be afraid to ask people for help.
• Be ok with failure. Pyle “failed a thousand times”
• Don’t overplan as you can plan yourself out of stuff.
• Leverage the talents of people around you. Pyle likes saying that he got people ‘smarter than him’ to take stuff on. (I reckon he’s just being modest.)
• Have a ‘Today List’ instead of a to-do list. Maximise your hourly output and aim to get everything on your today list done in that day.
• Jump into anything – you’ll figure it out. Know that there is very little you can’t do.