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I am one of the founders of Passbase. Like many other entrepreneurs, we believe our vision is bold. Our goal is to create a secure, privacy-driven, and efficient future; we want to help people take back control of their personal data while solving the trust issues businesses face when it comes to customer identities.
We know that while the trust-privacy paradox is difficult to resolve, it is at the heart of a secure digital future. We started our journey helping companies improve identity verification and compliance with smarter identity verifications, facial recognition and database access.
I believe that as an entrepreneur, you are never done learning. I don’t think I’m an expert on anything; I understand things as I go. But there are 4 important things I learned along the way that I know motivate all entrepreneurs with big visions. Aligning with these will help you build your own business.
1. Know that your environment resembles you
You may never know firsthand that you’re cut out to be an entrepreneur, but usually there are signs. As a child, I was a “builder”, always stacking Lego blocks. I started my first business when I was ten years old, reselling gum bought in bulk at Costco for a profit. After college, I interned at Google and worked there for 5 years, first in finance and then in the R&D division of GoogleX. This is where I caught the “entrepreneurial bug”. I wanted to step onto the playground and build something in the real world myself. And from what I understand, our tolerance for risk tends to decrease with age as our responsibilities increase. So, if I wanted to take the plunge, it was better to do it sooner. As I went, I met the co-founders of Passbase soon after; we found each other – the right people, in the right place, at the right time – and we never looked back.
What I know for sure is that I think the way I do because I’ve absorbed the best ways of thinking from the best minds in the world. The other “X” employees I worked with were brilliant people who were developing technologies that will shape our future. Some of them had even built massive businesses before. My job was to help them develop their go-to-market strategies, financial models, and investor/customer relationships; I learned from them how to turn a crazy idea into something viable that the market considers highly.
On your journey to becoming who you are meant to be, your environment shapes you more than you realize. I think it matters even more once you’ve chosen an entrepreneurial path. As an entrepreneur, you quickly learn that you are going to make mistakes again and again. There is no place for the ego. So instead of trying to always be right (which you won’t be), I would say try to be less wrong and keep looking for ways to be better. It will serve you well.
Related: 4 benefits of finding a mentor
2. Be prepared to adapt
Many entrepreneurial ventures start the same way – as side projects on nights and weekends, and with lots of Ramen noodles. Ours too. When I first met Mathias and Felix, the co-founders of Passbase, we were building a completely different solution – a mobile crypto exchange product. Our user base was growing exponentially, but as we grew, we found that we were having two specific issues that no one was able to help us with. We needed to be able to identify users with a high degree of compliance assurance. And we needed to be able to make that identity information easily and securely “usable” on our network. The more we looked at the problem of identity, the more we saw how important, exciting and important it was. We saw a future we could help create: a seamless customer experience where everyone is able to prove who they are, backed up with relevant and symbolic information, to any business, without the proliferation of their personal data. .
I see a lot of entrepreneurs worrying about their “big idea”. They do not provide a pivot. For me, the real litmus test is not so much having the best idea as having a team interested in solving complex problems well. As a result, I consider my primary responsibility to be able to recruit the right people and help them grow and develop their skills. As an entrepreneur, staying married to your first idea can lead you to building something that you think is great, but doesn’t necessarily offer market value. More often than not, one great idea sparks another, and then another. Always seek more problems to solve and more input from a smart team – that’s the real process. This is what I encourage you to prepare for.
Related: How thinking like a designer can unlock organic growth
3. Focus on helping others (even if it’s on the sidelines)
In our current capacity, we equip companies with tools that facilitate a great relationship between product, engineering and compliance. But it also means that we are “boring” people, helping from the sidelines.
If, in your entrepreneurial journey, you imagine an immediately glamorous future where you are always at the forefront, know that this is not necessarily how it happens. If you’re anything like us, you’ll be enablers – empowering your customers from the shadows. Your work will allow your customers/partners to speed up what they are doing. And as your space evolves and becomes more mainstream, there will be more demand for what you do. You just have to be really passionate about helping others.
Related: Customer Service Lessons from the World’s Most Loved Companies
4. Stay focused on a (big) problem that deserves solving, even if you work on it bit by bit
The digital identity of customers has been a problem since the advent of the Internet. We’re heading into a digital world, but a big part of it is trust. And trust is deeply tied to identity. Ensuring that the party on the other side of the web interface is the right person is a deeply complex and ever-changing problem. On the one hand, there is a huge gap between each person and their digital selves. And on the other hand, the more companies know their customers, the more they trust them and can serve them. We know that a privacy-driven but transparent future for businesses will not be built immediately. But it’s a problem worth solving, and it’s the backbone of everything we do.
Resilience and evolution are at the heart of the entrepreneur’s journey. So I would encourage embracing the athlete mindset like we tried to do. Love your sport, for fun. Your desired result probably won’t be instantaneous, but eventually you will win.