Inspirational People

by Alex Duncan  |  July 9, 2011 – 2:46 pm


On Friday we had the first ‘founders stories’ session and heard the two co-founders from another team tell their very personal stories of how the came to be doing what they’re doing. I’m obviously not at liberty to share other people’s stories, suffice to say it was a fascinating session and gave me deeper respect for the two people in question.


The guy in this picture is Levy. He’s from Hangzhou and although only 27 runs a couple of schools providing extra tuition and coaching to high school students to try and help them get into university. I find Levy particularly intriguing, unlike so many ‘entrepreneurs’ you meet he doesn’t talk about money or even that much about his company. Instead he speaks about a problem he sees, an underlying fundamental shortcoming of the education system in China. There is a wonderful frustrated energy about the way he talks. You get the feeling he’s not doing this for himself, he’s doing it because he has to, because it needs doing and he’s full of ideas to make it happen.

Hearing Levy talk reminds me of one of my heros, Jamie Oliver. Although he probably wouldn’t call himself that Jamie is the same type of entrepreneur, in his 3 series, School Dinners and Food Revolution I & II he first takes on School Dinners in the UK, before heading across the pond and trying to do a similar thing in the US. Anybody who watches Jamie’s shows cannot fail to be inspired by his persistence and dedication as road block after road block is thrown in his face. Jamie too, like Levy is thoroughly pissed off and he’s pissed off that other people aren’t more pissed off too.

If I was an investor I think above all people I would put my money on people like Levy, people who are pissed off about the way things are and will walk through fire to make a difference. They’re not in it for a year, 5 years or even 10 years, they’re here to stay until the job is done, they don’t care how or who, it just has to happen. I think to survive and be successful as an entrepreneur you need this kind of dedication, you need the problem you’re trying to fix to be at the core of your being. It doesn’t have to be a huge problem, but I think it helps if it is, because if it’s a crippling, lives at risk problem you’re trying to solve it’s easier to get pissed off. When people are pissed off they might not think quite so clearly, but they take more risks and do crazy, out of the box things just to make sh*t happen.

Anyway, I’m greatly looking forward to other founders stories sessions, good to be surrounded by inspiring people.