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Lesson #2: “You are nuts and you should be proud of it”
Hawkins warns entrepreneurs not to take the safe route, not to do something so similar to another company that they will wind up competing for market share, for capital, or even employees. "That's the part of the business world that I call the dog-eat-dog part of it," he says. "It's not a lot of fun. If you can stay away from that part of it, you're much better off."
That, however, is where having the big idea comes into play. "You have to be doing something very different from what everybody else is doing, hopefully different from what's ever been done before - something that nobody's thought of yet."
Hawkins' big idea came from his time working at Apple. "I had the opportunity to work with these incredibly brilliant software engineers. And I appreciated the fact that these guys thought like artists, and they acted like artists," he says. "That's not how people at that time thought about engineering of any kind. And that's really what I wanted to do is to bring that level of recognition to it."
"I thought, ‘Okay, what's going to be my edge, and how am I going to define what I'm doing differently?' Once I had that key idea of the software developer as an artist, once I had that idea, a whole bunch of other ideas flowed from that, because I realized that I need to go study the music industry, I need to study the book publishing and Hollywood and figure out how they do things, why they do them that way, and then I need to borrow, and rearrange, the things that they're doing to fit my industry so that I can invent and create this new industry."
Despite it being a riskier path, Hawkins says it is also one of the most rewarding. When he first formed Digital Chocolate, he was one of the first executives in the industry to talk about mobile games in a social aspect. "It was such an alien idea and I could tell people were uncomfortable with me talking about it," he says. "I was John the Baptist, who maybe got my head cut off."
But only a few years later, with the likes of Facebook and other sites that have "delivered on that concept of social value," Hawkins says he was proven right. "I have a tremendous amount of patience and willingness to look many, many years ahead, and plan and wait for things to work out."
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