An Entrepreneur’s Glass

An entrepreneur's glass I’ve been hired by an inventor to lead a project to create a proof-of-concept simulation.  The project description completed, I acquired a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) and distributed it.

Once a party had signed the NDA, I emailed the project description.

Questions appeared in my inbox.

To me, the job of the project leader is to handle management details, oversee the progress of the development and completion of the project, to know experts to contact, to contact them, and to contract with them for answers or solutions.

What was I to do with the questions?

I wrote here that, for the inventor, taking the invention to market requires accepting a less-than-perfect embodiment of the original idea. 

Not being the inventor, the project leader will always have a less-than-perfect understanding of the original idea.

When does a project leader know enough to answer questions without first consulting the inventor?  Using a cost-to-benefit analysis, interrupting the inventor with questions has high costs because of the delays that result.  The cost of mistakenly answering a question, however, could entail greater costs, even jeopardize the whole project.

One month into the project?  I interrupted the inventor and asked some questions.

For the three-page project description, we had selected the few, hot, fundamental coals that fueled the fire of the vision.

The questions re-ignited the great vision, the flames we had left in the fire. 

A conflagration of greatness can erupt from entrepreneurship.  No one close is spared.

I empathized with the inventor during the project description creation phase.  A life’s work reduced to three pages?  It had to feel like slicing away one’s own skin with a carving knife.

During this question-answering phase, I now saw the fate of the project leader hired by the inventor, of the CEO hired by the company founder, of the attorney hired to negotiate venture capital funding.

To the inventor and entrepreneur, the idea is divine.  The implementers of the idea are so profoundly human.

They will always disappoint.

As a 15-month company founder with a divine idea myself, I know the courage required to take that idea to market and to keep muscling through the doubt, setbacks, and rejections.

I now see being a project leader for another’s idea will take courage, too.  At the end of the day, no matter how well the project is executed, the result will not – and truly cannot – fully represent the divine idea.  The implementers will toast success with glasses half full.  The inventor will peer regretfully into a glass half empty.

As a project leader, I go in knowing that, at some level, I will fail.

The origin of the word “courage” is “heart.”

Ironically, as the project leader, then, I have to feel that the inventor and the invention are worth failing for.

The coals are back in front of the NDA-signers, accompanied by a few question-answering flames.

Icing fingers.  Flexing.  Let’s get this done.


Anne Giles Clelland is the founder of Handshake Media, Incorporated, a VT KnowledgeWorks member company.

VT KnowledgeWorks is a unique growth enhancement program open to entrepreneurs in the New River Valley of Virginia and beyond.  Acceleration center and incubation facilities are located in the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center in Blacksburg, Virginia

VT KnowledgeWorks sponsors include Attaain, Inc., BB&T, Handshake 2.0, Harris Office Furniture, Hodges, Jones & Mabry, P.C., Latimer, Mayberry & Matthews IP Law, LeClairRyan, Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) and The Becher Agency (TBA).

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