I’m convinced that my son, the precocious toddler, will make an excellent entrepreneur. He is one of the most persistent people I know, a trait he gets from his mother. From trying to steal our 90 pound rhodesian ridgeback’s chew toy from her mouth to refusing to be carried anywhere outside, his persistence is something I hope he never loses.
Entrepreneurs need a rejection-proof hide with unwavering persistence because they face rejection at almost every turn. But by no means is the rejection indicative of their ability – quite the opposite.
Great entrepreneurs often see things before others do, and when they innovate the masses are either not convinced, or mistakenly convinced that it’s just another attempt at reinventing the wheel. From customers, to angel investors and venture capitalists, entrepreneurs are thrown rejection in all shapes and sizes.
The one entrepreneur that comes to mind when I think of persistence is Apoorva Mehta.
Apoorva is the co-founder of Instacart – the Amazon.com meets Uber of groceries; and while it has expanded ahead of Amazon’s grocery offering, getting here was no easy ride for Apoorva. By the way, his name in Sanskrit means ‘like none other’.
This unique entrepreneur is the picture of persistence. Apoorva started out at Amazon in the back-end dungeons of programming fulfillment optimization. That lasted a couple of years. He then moved on to Builder of Stuff, a company he tried to get off the ground, but stardom didn’t come with that project. It took another 25 attempts before the rejections and failures relented and left ‘like none other’ at the top of a new niche market.
Apoorva saw the light at the end of the 25th rejection and decided that he needed to be passionate about whatever he did next…
That’s when he kicked off Instacart.
Instacart is an online grocery delivery service that Apoorva co-founded and is currently CEO of. The company was almost an instant hit and the idea, concept and market just clicked with consumers. I view Instacart’s business model as if it is the Uber of groceries. People sign up to shop for other people and other people make grocery purchases on Instacart’s platform. Thanks to Instacart, one of your fellow community members can now do your grocery shopping if you are tight on time or can’t be bothered. No need for large scale distribution centers. Pretty savvy, if you ask me.
Somewhere in his subconscious Apoorva had stumbled upon the right formula for what the market needed. He got to work coding the app that pulls everything together and moved up the execution; but, just when he was seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, Apoorva realized he needed more investment to cross the finish line on this 26th attempt at success.
In the summer of 2012, Apoorva was seeking funding and wanted to get into the Y Combinator tech incubator. But, as things would have it, applications were closed for that year’s summer intake while other candidates were being considered.
Apoorva reached out to as many Y partners as he could, hoping to squeeze into the incubator, but they all told him the same thing. It was one rejection after another, until… he came to the last partner who didn’t say no, sort of. This funder/partner politely told Apoorva that his idea was ‘nearly impossible’.
To Apoorva ‘nearly impossible’ is not a rejection, even though it is intended to be. For him, and those similar (likely to be my son one day), ‘nearly impossible’ is an invitation to try harder because a glimmer of possibility exists. And the mere thought of achieving something that is supposedly ‘nearly impossible’ gets his blood pumping. Instead of sulking and giving in to the repeated rejection, Apoorva sent the potential funder/partner a six pack, using Instacart.
Cutting to the chase, the partner had no clue what was going on upon receiving the beer. But when Apoorva gave him a call, and told him the beer was from Instacart, it all clicked. The funder set up an interview for Apoorva and Instacart with the rest of Y Combinator’s partners and the startup was accepted into the program. 40 million dollars and 17 locations later, Instacart is looking to be the next Amazon. In fact, its more like Amazon + Uber = Instacart.
Being a tech entrepreneur is not about spreadsheets and lines of code. It’s not really about inventing the next gadget, either. It is more about having passion for what you do and not taking no for an answer. If you doubt me, just look at some of the greatest tech entrepreneurs of our time: Jobs, Kalanick, Bezos and very likely to be Apoorva (a.k.a. like none other).