I read Sarah Lacy's new book Brilliant, Crazy, Cocky: How the Top 1% of Entrepreneurs Profit from Global Chaos (URL), several weeks ago. It has been simmering in the back of my mind; my attention turning back to it again and again in light of recent events and the role of social media in unseating societal structures throughout the Middle East.
Brilliant, Crazy, Cocky is an excellent book. She takes you around the world in her travels to emerging countries. You feel like you are in the room (...or village hut) with her as she interviews these brave and risk-loving entrepreneurs. You get a real feel for the struggles their countries face, the real hardships the people encounter, AND, more importantly, how these key people are revolutionizing their corners of the world by solving real problems. Paul Carr has done an excellent job of highlighting a few of these personal stories here: [...].
The key idea is that entrepreneurs in emerging economies are, and will increasingly be, huge forces in revolutionizing our global economy. Lacy starts off by illustrating how the Valley has lost its way by becoming too risk averse. She then shifts, through several poignant narratives, to highlight how entrepreneurs around the world are strikingly different in their ambition, heart, and risk. They experience the world fundamentally differently. They have lived with little, survived in war zones, and escaped genocide. They know what it feels like to struggle and are not afraid to return or to continue to struggle. Consequently, they can take big risks. They have little fear.
Global entrepreneurship is hugely powerful. Lacy writes, "High-impact entrepreneurship can do what aid, military intervention, traditional diplomacy, and revolutions can't. Every country knows they want it..." It isn't about the developed world vs. the emerging world. It isn't about taking sides. It is about taking a meaningful, collaborative stance. It is about companies and investors moving beyond their comfort zones to help these ventures grow and expand. It is not an either/or situation (either we win or they win); rather, it is a both/and situation. We both win. Lacy, ever the business reporter and information synthesizer cannot resist coming to this conclusion. Interestingly, it is almost like the data forced her to see it. In her epilogue she writes:
"This book began as a study in one thing: greed-based entrepreneurship in places emerging out of chaos and giving rise to enormous Greenfield opportunities the Western world no longer has. The last thing I wanted to write was another book about global politics or feel-good social entrepreneurship. But over the course of my reporting, the topic of emerging market entrepreneurship became too big to be just about greed and fear. It was also about the wonder of technology and making the world a better place. It was about the ambition and ego and vision of a class of founders who wanted to topple the status quo for fun, for money, and for the little guy."
Michael Horn ([...]) and I agree that Sarah is one of the brightest people out there. She clearly sees and gets things way ahead of the curve. I think her take in this book is spot on. I fear, however, that most people will not realize it until it is too late. They'll miss investing their time, energy, and money in collaborating with these folks. I don't want that to happen to us ([...]). I hope we are smart enough to take what she has said to heart. After all, big risk, big ambition, and big heart sound like the same ingredients needed to transform education.