Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur taxpayers own.
I am one of the founders of Passbase. As is the case with many other entrepreneurs, we believe our vision is bold. Our goal is to create a future that is secure, privacy-focused, and efficient at the same time; we want to help people take back control of their personal data while solving the trust issues businesses face around customer identity.
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 by helping businesses improve identity verification and compliance through smarter identity checks, facial recognition, and database access.
I think as an entrepreneur, you never stop learning. I don’t think he’s an expert on anything; I’m figuring things out as we go. But there are 4 important things I’ve learned along the way that I know drive all entrepreneurs with big visions. Aligning with these will help you build your own company.
1. Know that your environment becomes you
You may never know directly 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 built my first business at the age of ten, reselling chewing gum purchased in bulk at Costco for a profit. After college, I interned at Google and worked there for the next 5 years, first in finance and then in the R&D division of GoogleX. It was there that I caught the ‘entrepreneurial worm’. I wanted to get on the playing field and build something in the real world myself. And from what I understood, our risk tolerance tends to decrease with age as our responsibilities increase. So if he wanted to take the plunge, it was better to do it sooner. As it turned out, I met the co-founders of Passbase soon after; we meet, the right people, in the right place at the right time, and we never look back.
What I know for sure is that I think the way I do because I have absorbed the best ways of thinking from the best minds in the world. The other ‘X’ employees I worked with were brilliant people who created technologies that will shape our future. Some of them had even built massive businesses before. My job was to help them develop their marketing strategies, financial models, and investor-client relationships; I learned from them how to turn a crazy idea into something viable that the market appreciates a lot.
On your journey to become who you are meant to be, you are shaped by your environment more than you think. I think this is even more important once you have chosen an entrepreneurial path. As an entrepreneur, you soon realize that you are going to be wrong over and over again. There is no place for the ego. So instead of trying to always be right (which you won’t), I would tell you to 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. Prepare to adapt
Many entrepreneurial ventures start out the same way: as side projects in the evenings and on weekends, and with lots of ramen noodles. Ours did too. When I 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 scaled we found that we ran into two specific issues that no one could 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’ across our network. The more we looked at the problem of identity, the more we saw how big and exciting and important it really was. We saw a future we could help create: a seamless consumer-facing experience through which everyone can prove who they are, backed by relevant tokenized information, to any business, without the proliferation of their personal data.
I see many entrepreneurs worried about their ‘big idea’. They do not provide for a pivot. For me, the real litmus test is not so much about having the best idea as it is about having a team interested in solving complex problems well. Consequently, I see my key responsibility as being able to attract the right people and help them amplify themselves and their skill sets. As an entrepreneur, staying married to your first idea can lead you to build something you think is great, but doesn’t necessarily offer market value. More often than not, one great idea stimulates another, and then another. Always look for more problems to solve and more input from a smart team – that’s the real process. That 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 are equipping companies with tools that facilitate a great relationship between product, engineering, and compliance. But that also means that we are the ‘boring’ people, helping from the sidelines.
If, on your entrepreneurial journey, you’re envisioning an immediately glamorous future where you’re always front and center, know that’s not necessarily the case. If you’re anything like us, you’ll be an enabler, empowering your clients from the shadows. Your work will allow your clients/partners to speed up what they do. And as your space evolves and becomes more mainstream, there will be more demand for what you’re doing. You just have to be truly passionate about helping others.
Related: Customer service lessons from the world’s most beloved companies
4. Stay committed to a (big) problem worth solving, even if you’re working on it bit by bit.
The digital identity of the customer has been problematic since the advent of the Internet. We are moving into a digital world, but a lot of it is based on trust. And trust is deeply tied to identity. Making sure the party on the other side of the web interface is the right person is a deeply complex problem, and one that continues to change shape. For one, there is a huge gap between each person and their digital self. And on the other, the more companies know their customers, the more they trust them and can serve them. We know that a privacy-driven but seamless business future will not be built immediately. But it is a problem worth solving and forms the backbone of everything we do.
Resilience and evolution are at the heart of the entrepreneur’s career path. Therefore, I encourage you to adopt the athlete’s mindset as we have tried to do. Love your sport, for its sake. The result he desired from him probably won’t be instant, but he will eventually win.