Ride the Wave

In the course of your career or start-up, nothing is more powerful than catching a big wave at the right time. I was reminded of this as we celebrated the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9th.

I was 16 and living in (West) Germany when the wall was torn down. The reunification that followed less than a year later brought tremendous optimism to Germany. The combined country was suddenly 20% larger and there were opportunities everywhere to turn around the East German economy that had been so badly managed for nearly 50 years.

I was still in high school at the time, so this wave came too early for me to catch, but many Germans took advantage of the opportunity and did very well for themselves.

Luckily enough, a much, much bigger wave came only a decade later…the Internet. The timing was perfect: I had just finished my PhD and was about to start a good corporate job. I looked around and saw all the enthusiasm surrounding this new technology. Start-ups were leveraging the Web to create completely new businesses. I needed to be a part of it.

Practically overnight, I decided to forego the safety of my corporate job offer and just a few weeks later, I started a company with four other founders (this was JustBooks, which later became AbeBooks and is now a part of Amazon).

It’s fifteen years later and I am still riding this same wave, although it has since morphed from the Web to Mobile. I may be an investor not an entrepreneur now, but I recognize that my opportunities today are a continuation of that first wave years ago.

If you see a big wave coming your way (or out on the horizon), don’t hesitate to swim out to it. Big waves don’t come along too often in your lifetime and they have the power to change everything.

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