To be a successful entrepreneur, you need the right role models. You need people you can look up to in the hope of learning from their successes, but also (more importantly) from their failures. Choosing a role model is a topic for another time, but suffice it to say that you want someone with experience. You want some of this experience to be with success, but you want just as much, if not more, to be from failure. This is why there are no better role models than a serial entrepreneur.
Serial entrepreneurs are individuals who have overcome the hurdle of starting one company (a hurdle most never overcome) and have gone on to found a variety of others. Some of these companies may have succeeded, many may have failed, but in the end these serial entrepreneurs have come out on top. In this article, we'll explore what a serial entrepreneur is, as well as what four famous (or not so famous) serial entrepreneurs can teach you about how to reach business success.
What Is a Serial Entrepreneur?
A serial entrepreneur is someone who starts multiple new businesses over the course of their career. They tend to be curious, driven, and uninterested in resting on their laurels. But, not all the businesses that serial entrepreneurs start are huge successes.
Indeed, many of the businesses they found may be failures that fade into obscurity. But what sets these founders apart is their tenacity. Serial entrepreneurs keep trying, iterating, and doing what it takes to find an idea that does work (and execute it to financial success).
What Four Serial Entrepreneurs Can Teach You About Building a Successful Business
Now that you understand what a serial entrepreneur is, we can move on to an examination of what you can learn about business from the careers of four serial entrepreneurs. Some of these entrepreneurs are famous, household names. Others, however, are more obscure. All, however, have experienced immense financial and professional success in their entrepreneurial efforts and present examples worth learning from.
1. The Samwer Brothers
Alexander, Marc, and Oliver Samwer are among the less well-known entrepreneurs on this list, though you've likely heard of the companies on which they've built their success. The brothers are the founders of Rocket Internet SE. Based in Germany, this company has an unconventional business model. Instead of creating businesses founded on new ideas, the Samwer brothers create clones of existing businesses in markets where they don't have a presence. For example, in 2008 Rocket Internet founded Zalando, a European online clothing, shoe, and apparel retailer based on the business model of U.S. company Zappo's. The brothers are also known for CityDeal, a clone of Groupon that they founded in 2010 sold to Groupon for $170 million just five months later.
Lessons: The Samwer brothers' success (Forbes estimates each brother to have a net worth around $1.2 billion) is evidence that you don't need a unique idea to create a successful business. Ideas are cheap; what separates dreamers from entrepreneurs is the execution.
2. Elon Musk
Elon Musk is the founder, CEO, and lead designer of SpaceX; co-founder, CEO, and product architect of Tesla, Inc.; and co-founder and CEO of Neuralink. You may also have heard of another company he founded: PayPal, for which Musk received $165 million after it was acquired by Ebay in 2002.
Lessons: What sets Musk apart is his relentless curiosity. He's currently CEO of space travel, electric vehicle, and neuro-technology companies. As though that’s not enough, he is dabbling in plans to revolutionize public transportation and infrastructure. While most of us may not aspire to make humans an interplanetary species through Mars colonization, Musk has a lesson for all of us about being interested in a lot of different things and letting those interests lead your entrepreneurial pursuits.
3. Wayne Huizenga
Wayne Huizenga just might be the ultimate billionaire serial entrepreneur you've never heard of (though we bet you've heard of some of his companies). Companies he's founded include Waste Management, Blockbuster Video, and AutoNation. Forbes reports his current net worth as $2.3 billion, and even at age 73 he continues his entrepreneurial pursuits.
Lessons: Huizenga's success shows that there is money to be made in markets that aren't sexy. Tech companies get all the press, but Huizenga made his first billion dollars collecting trash. So if you're searching for a business idea, take a page from Huizenga's book and consider the opportunities that exist in less glamorous industries.
4. Omar Hamoui
Omar Hamoui's entrepreneur story is one of experimentation and perseverance. He founded a variety of mobile internet companies, none of which saw any success. But then, while pursuing an MBA at The Wharton School in 2005, Hamoui created Admob, one of the first mobile advertising platforms. Though started as a side project, the company gained enough traction that Hamoui dropped out of Wharton to pursue Admob full-time. After receiving offers from the likes of Steve Jobs, Hamoui eventually sold Admob to Google in 2009 for $750 million. He is currently a partner at the venture capital firm Sequoia Capital.
Lessons: Hamoui's story shows that you never know which projects will succeed. What began as a side project while pursuing a more conventional business path turned into the company that would guarantee Hamoui's financial success. So, if there's a side project you've been wanting to pursue, go for it! It's unlikely it will turn into a $750 million company, but it could still lead to exciting opportunities.
Start Your Entrepreneurial Journey
We hope the stories in this article have given you some inspiration for your own entrepreneurial pursuits. Remember: all serial entrepreneurs had to start somewhere, no matter how successful they may be today. So what are you waiting for? Take the first step! And if you’re looking for further inspiration (that you can hang on your wall), then we recommend you check out our Letterpress Manifesto.