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Great Expectations: Creating Entrepreneurial Success

If past experience is a guide, most of us will never actually try to get a new venture off the ground. What holds us back? Why don’t we strive and achieve greatness? Most important, how will you buck the trend?

We’ve mentioned a few times the experiences of co-author Jon Burgstone, whose first entrepreneurial success came after he teamed up with a business school classmate named Asif Satchu. Together, Burgstone and Satchu started a company that they called SupplierMarket, which became the first Internet marketplace for custom-made manufactured parts.

Neither Burgstone nor Satchu came from great wealth. They weren’t the sons of world-class entrepreneurs. They had no greater advantages than most of their peers. So how did they convince themselves that they deserved to achieve outsized success?

The answer is great (and perhaps even absurdly unrealistic) expectations of themselves and those around them. There is one moment in particular that Burgstone talks about, when he had to reinforce his expanded expectations to fill the field he was playing on. Just a few months into their venture, he and Satchu had the chance to seek investment from Sequoia Capital, a renowned firm that had previously invested in companies including Atari, Apple, Cisco Systems, Electronic Arts, and Oracle. Though Burgstone and Satchu had celebrated many short-term wins in their company’s short history, pitching Sequoia meant they were suddenly thrust into a big game in the major leagues.

As Burgstone sat in the conference room waiting for the investor meeting to begin, he realized that Sequoia rarely seemed to invest in things that don’t make money. The meeting table was old and chipped. The walls were decorated with free posters bearing the logos of the firm’s biggest successes. He wondered about the source of the vaguely musty odor he smelled.

Suddenly it hit him: The beat-up old chairs they were sitting in? They were likely the same ones Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak sat in when they first came to Sequoia. The 1970s-era table?  It might well have been the one where Larry Ellison sat when he came to raise money for Oracle.

Burgstone’s heart raced faster. He felt pangs of doubt. Who did he think he was? He was just 18 months removed from being a twentysomething engineer at Ford. His company was still an unproven idea. He and Satchu hadn’t paid themselves a penny in salary. There wasn’t even a website yet at

Burgstone heard the voice of reason in the back of his mind: What gives you the right even to aspire to this?

He and Satchu exchanged silent looks. Did they really think they were going to follow in the footsteps of people like Jobs and Ellison? Burgstone’s palms sweated. He heard the firm’s partners as they approached in the hallway.

What makes it so hard to believe?

An entrepreneur needs to solve customer pain, offer a compelling value proposition, sell, build, lead, and pursue a balanced life–but he also has to believe. He has to embrace the attitude of entrepreneurial inevitability that we explained back at the start of this journey.

For all our talk about creative destruction, entrepreneurship often doesn’t intuitively feel sensible on an individual level. Setting out on your own is the exact opposite of what most people will advise you to do. It’s not reasonable…

Read more: Jon Burgstone and Bill Murphy, Jr., Inc


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