This post is dedicated to all the entrepreneurs who believe that changing the world involves more than a new way to sell to consumers.
John Ericsson was a mind-boggling entrepreneur 150 years ago; one of the few modern entrepreneurs on the same level is Gary Cola.
Ericsson designed up the Monitor, the iron-clad vessel that helped win the Civil War, but doing so was a long way from smooth sailing.
Ericsson’s design was groundbreaking and some of its concepts are still in use today, such as the revolving turret for its cannon. Before the Monitor, he shopped his ideas around and was turned down by many “investors.”
He finally responded to a NYTimes ad from the Union Navy that ran for six days, “…for a two-masted ship “either of iron or of wood and iron combined,” with a delivery date for the plans of less than a month.
Ericsson met the deadline, but the reaction to his plans was as far from positive as you can get.
“Take the little thing home and worship it,” one board member said disdainfully, “as it would not be idolatry because it was made in the image of nothing in the heaven above or the earth below or the water under the earth.”
But that didn’t stop Ericsson, who looked for and found an evangelist in no less than President Lincoln.
To understand just how unique Ericsson’s vision was, consider this,
“What makes the Monitor so remarkable is that she’s almost a stealth vessel because all the systems except the ordnance are below the waterline. Keeping the engine safe from attack was a big breakthrough. Not only did Ericsson create this radically new type of vessel, but his designs were so nearly flawless that foundries and contractors from around the Northeast could fabricate the parts, and they all fit together when the ship was assembled in Greenpoint. It boggles the mind.” –Anna Holloway, curator at the Monitor Center.
The Monitor was built in just 118 days, was made almost entirely of iron and had an armored revolving turret that held two cannon.
I’ve talked with many entrepreneurs who get discouraged because their idea isn’t software, isn’t social and doesn’t involve the Net.
Yes, there may be scoffers; yes, it may be harder to get funded; yes, it may be difficult to hire, but that doesn’t mean you should stop—it can be done. And if (when?) you get discouraged read again the stories of Ericsson and Cola and take heart.
Which do you think will be remembered 150 years from now?
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons