A new book by Sarah Lacy argues that the U.S. should heed entrepreneurs pushing Big Ideas in developing countries, from China to Brazil
In her new book, Brilliant, Crazy, Cocky: How the Top 1% of Entrepreneurs Profit from Global Chaos, former BusinessWeek staff writer Sarah Lacy shows how similar entrepreneurs in Brazil, Indonesia, and Rwanda are to their kin in India, China, and Silicon Valley. She vividly illustrates how the American Dream has become America’s most significant cultural export. Each of these countries faces different obstacles and is taking a different path to economic success. But in every case, it is the entrepreneurs who are propelling their nations forward.
Lacy started her book by writing about Marco Gomez, a Brazilian enterpreneur. she then tells a story of Indian entrepreneur Rajiv Mehrotra. both of them are now successful and have contributed a lot to the development of their countries.
Then there’s Martha Tilaar, whom Lacy dubs the Oprah of Indonesia, who began her cosmetics, beauty salon, and spa empire decades ago, when hardly any cosmetics companies were in Indonesia, for few saw the promise of selling beauty in the world’s largest Muslim country. Tilaar used some of Indonesia’s 30,000 indigenous herbs and spices to make beauty products specialized for Indonesia’s tropical climate. Aside from building a $50 million business, Tilaar has trained and supplied jobs to thousands of Indonesian women, many of whom had few options other than working in the sex trade.
All these entrepreneurs, and thousands more whom you find in every country, have something in common. They are all:
- Brilliant in being able to see opportunities that others don’t see. They have a vision of how they can solve big problems.
- Crazy enough to start something that is both risky and disruptive. Most startups fail, everywhere. That’s the nature of entrepreneurship. In Silicon Valley, failure is a badge of honor; so it’s O.K., and you can try again. In most other places, if you fail, you become a social outcast and are never given a second chance; there is no safety net.
- Cocky in believing that they can change the world and build a billion-dollar company.
As Lacy writes, these entrepreneurs have an “internal compass that they listen to rather than the world.” They ignore what the world tells them and do what their instincts say.