Entrepreneurs: Seeing What Isn’t There

Posted by Chuck Kocher
On February 23, 2015

Entrepreneurs-seeing-what-isn't-thereWe tend to look at entrepreneurs as people of great vision. That’s probably true at some level, but it’s not the whole story. In a recent post, Amy Wilkinson, Author of The Creator’s Code: The Six Essential Skills of Extraordinary Entrepreneurs, focused on a different characteristic of successful entrepreneurs: They see what isn’t there. I’d encourage you to read Amy’s entire post here, but let me highlight a couple of key points.

Wilkinson focused her observations on two extremely successful entrepreneurs who have this ability to see what isn’t there: Jack Ma of Alibaba, and Elon Musk of PayPal, Tesla, and SpaceX.

When Ma was in the US on business in 1998 he was intrigued when he saw online search. Curious to try it out, he typed “beer” into the search engine and the screen was flooded with sites from around the world. But there was not a single site from his home nation of China. He modified his search and typed in “Chinese beer,” only to turn up zero results. China’s small and medium-sized businesses were not there—and that represented a huge opportunity.

Of course it took much more than just recognizing the opportunity for Jack Ma to be successful. And it didn’t hurt that Yahoo (recognizing what Ma had discovered) pumped in $1 billion dollars to Alibaba in 2005. But it started with Ma seeing what was missing.

Elon Musk took a different look at things as well. He noted that people’s main objection to electric cars was the fact that batteries were extremely expensive. What was missing was a more affordable battery.

At the time battery power cost approximately $600 per kilowatt/hour. That was too expensive. But when Musk did some math regarding the components that go into making batteries, he discovered that the cost was about $80 per kilowatt/hour—much more affordable. So he started making them himself (and improving them).

Again, there’s a lot more to the Tesla story than just revolutionizing the way batteries are supplied. But it began with Musk seeing what wasn’t there (an affordable battery) and moving to meet that need.

Look at your industry—or even your corner of your industry. What’s missing? What isn’t there? Can you step into a space that other’s can’t even see, yet—and turn the industry on its head?

You might not be the next Jack Ma or Elon Musk—but then again . . . you might be. I can’t see, yet. I’m still working on this “seeing what isn’t there” thing!