I consider entrepreneurs to be true visionaries because they see things others may have never dreamed possible. These inspiring trailblazers not only identify an unmet need, they also tap into the public zeitgeist and the innate desire people have for feeling connected and creating impact. I’ve always been fascinated by the reasons why entrepreneurs start their companies and how enterprises with a strong purpose succeed, when so many others fail.
Some answers appear in the recent Harvard Business Review study, The Entrepreneur’s Purpose, which quantifies the combined accomplishments of the more than 9,000 EY Entrepreneur Of The Year® winners during the 30-year history of the program. The winners have a lot in common, regardless of whether they founded a huge, lasting company like Google or Oracle, or a younger upstart like Loot Crate or Blaze Pizza.
Let’s start with the obvious. As Thomas Edison famously stated, “Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.” Successful entrepreneurs are persistent, and many of them are serial entrepreneurs. In fact, 46% formed at least two companies before winning the Entrepreneur Of The Year Award and 36% founded eight or more different enterprises.
Most notably, companies with a strong sense of purpose perform better than their competitors. While the success stories of entrepreneurs are often glorified, these entrepreneurs aren’t in it to become famous — they have a strong purpose that drives them. They genuinely wish to make the world better. Often, their purpose is simply to solve a societal problem or fill an unmet need.
For example, Michael Dubin, recognized an unaddressed problem. Why should men have to track down a store clerk and wait for a cabinet to be unlocked to buy a razor? He designed a solution: Dollar Shave Club, where men could subscribe to a plan that regularly delivers razors directly to them ― without them ever stepping foot in a store. Dubin’s vision, combined with grit and a solid business model, helped Dollar Shave Club grow in four years from a studio apartment enterprise to the number two seller of razors in the US. Dubin recently sold his homegrown enterprise for $1 billion to Unilever.
Heal, which provides on-demand doctor house calls for adults and children, is another purpose-driven company to watch. Founder and Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Renee Dua, saw a clear and unmet need for easy, affordable, high-quality health care for busy families — so she created a mobile app to fill this gap. Dr. Dua and her husband were inspired to create the service after spending countless hours in the emergency room when they couldn’t find a pediatrician who was available to treat their sick infant son. Propelled by this strong sense of purpose, they are virtually changing the face of health care as we know it.
HopSkipDrive was also conceived to address a very real, significant need that resonates with busy parents around the world every day — who’s picking the kids up from school? Founded by three working moms with eight children and 17 extracurricular activities between them, HopSkipDrive is an on-demand ridesharing app staffed by vetted drivers that was created to help parents find a reliable, safe, easy way to transport their kids from school to soccer practice and everything in between. Purpose is at the heart of their business model and thousands of families across California are already on board.
Simon Sinek, visionary thinker, author, EY Strategic Growth ForumTM keynote speaker and a supporter of our Purpose-Led TransformationTM work, makes it clear that the why of your business, the purpose for its existence, is a key driver of multiple business success metrics. Moreover, purpose-driven leaders make the greatest impact in their organizations and in the world.
If you know a remarkable leader and inspiring trailblazer who deserves to be honored as an EY Entrepreneur Of The Year candidate in 2017, including yourself, visit www.ey.com/eoy to learn more, nominate an entrepreneur or submit an application.
Scott Porter is an Advisory partner at Ernst & Young LLP in Los Angeles and the EY Entrepreneur Of The Year® Greater Los Angeles Program Director. He works with public and privately held companies in the Media & Entertainment and Technology sectors and has more than two decades of experience leading complex projects and integrated global teams. As the Program Director for the Entrepreneur Of The Year program in Greater Los Angeles, Scott helps to identify and celebrate game-changing entrepreneurs. As the world’s most prestigious business award for entrepreneurs, EY Entrepreneur Of The Year celebrates those who are building and leading successful, growing and dynamic businesses, recognizing them through regional, national and global awards programs in more than 145 cities in more than 60 countries. For more information, to apply or to nominate an inspiring entrepreneur, please visit www.ey.com/eoy.