How Being an Outlier Set Me on My Entrepreneurial Path
Innately, I’m an outlier who habitually questions why things are the way they are. That wasn’t encouraged when I was young living in a remote village in India. There the culture urges conformity and a strict “listen, don’t ask” protocol.
My outlier nature thrived when I immigrated to the Big Apple in the 1970s. The New York public school system encouraged questions and creative thinking. My outlier nature was set loose for a future when I would become a serial entrepreneur.
Outliers are natural entrepreneurs. They build solutions when they can’t find answers, embrace the unexpected with enthusiasm and unearth possibilities from the unknown.
Outliers seek answers when they’re not satisfied with what they’ve been given. If they can’t find what they’re looking for, they build it. That’s how innovations emerge. Five years ago, the business communications industry lacked a cost-effective, accessible collaboration solution that offered face-to-face engagement. Collaboration tools only offered audio and Web based capabilities at the time. Alagu Periyannan and I anticipated high demand for an interoperable solution for an increasingly mobile and remote worforce. We embarked on a journey to build Blue Jeans Network, intending to democratize video conferencing. Today, Blue Jeans Network has captured nearly 35 percent of the video conferencing services market and connected millions of participants together.
Outliers make effective leaders. Instead of fearing change, they embrace it with open arms. During studies for my master’s degree, I accidentally sat in on a computer science class thinking it was my math course. The lecture was so intriguing that it propelled me to switch my degree from mathematics to computer science halfway through my program. Following my instinct and taking a leap of faith helped me find my passion in technology.
In business, the unexpected comes up daily. Everything moves a mile a minute. Leaders must be agents of change who make changes that steer the company in the right direction. We implemented a policy when we started Blue Jeans that prevented staff from booking conference rooms. The goal was to promote punctuality, the theory being get there on time or there won’t be a room. As the company grew, and meetings needed to be more structured and predictable, we dropped the policy. Changes are needed tp yield positive outcomes. The bottom line? It's OK to be an outlier. Outliers are more adaptable to change and the world needs them to continue building, innovating and solving the problems ahead.
Related: Richard Branson on Embracing Change