Naveen Jain on Life, Success, and Innovation

“Think so big, so audacious that people will think you are crazy.” – Naveen Jain

Last Wednesday, April 2, 2014, Naveen Jain visited the UGBA193i Business Models and Open Innovation in Emerging Economies class in the Berkeley-Haas Innovation Lab at the Cal Memorial Stadium.

Jain is one of the most successful serial entrepreneurs. He has been crowned “Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year”, “Albert Einstein Technology Medal” for his pioneers in technology, “Most Admired Serial Entrepreneur” by Silicon India, “Top 20 Entrepreneurs”, and “Lifetime Achievement Award” for his leadership in the technology industry and support of other entrepreneurs.

As an entrepreneur and philanthropist, he is driven to solve the world’s biggest challenges through innovation. He founded Moon Express, World Innovation Institute, iNome, TalentWise, Intelius, and Infospace. He is also a regular contributor to the Forbes, WSJ, Huffington Post, and Inc.com publications.

During Jain’s visit, he talked about life, success, and innovation. According to Jain, “Success is about how many lives you can impact positively – and that is the measure of success you can live with.” He stated that it is not about being successful, but about becoming significant.

Below lists three big things Jain describes as the drivers of success in a company:

1. “You should be so obsessed that you cannot sleep or think about anything else than what you are doing.”

2. “There is no detail that is small enough for you not to worry about it. What kills great companies are the details you miss.”

3. “There is no work that is beneath you. If it needs to be vacuumed, it is your job. Any job that needs to be done is your job. Because anyone [or anything] that drops to the floor will kill your company.”

He practices all these in his companies. For example, Moon Express focuses on developing a robotic lunar lander to explore and mine the moon for planetary resources, which Jain believes is key to securing humankind’s future. Mining the moon is such a crazy idea that one has to be intensely obsessed with the idea in order to make it work. That being said, he made a couple more spiels to reinforce his purview of success and innovation.

Jain describes success as a journey, not a destination. Consequently, he says you will hit tons of milestones in that journey. Jain recommends stopping at every milestone to drink and celebrate… then you go back to work. The first time he made a dollar, he did just that. He repeated this discipline over and over until his company eventually made over a billion dollars in revenue, thus enjoying his journey.

Nonetheless, to achieve success, he also suggests aspiring entrepreneurs find business partners so unlike them that it would be difficult to like the guy: “It should be someone who complements you, not friends who are just like you.”

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Naveen Jain and Prof. Solomon Darwin at the IBI Conference Room

Finally, Jain shared his thoughts on innovation. For Jain, innovation is what makes the world go around. Innovation does not have anything to do with invention. Innovation is a state of mind. “Human minds need a box. So think in a different box.”

“Malcolm Gladwell made money writing a book about the 10,000 hour theory,” Jain shares, and then exclaims his disagreement, “By the time someone becomes an expert in his field, he becomes useless in his field. Every incremental innovation comes from experts, every disruptive innovation come from non-experts. Experts are good at telling you about things that will never work. Every breakthrough is brought about by a crazy idea.”

Ultimately, Naveen Jain’s aura of optimism, passion, and dedication have proven to be effective and instrumental to his success. His energy was contagious, and it was a pleasure and honor to have him serve as an inspiration and role model to the students.

“Think so big, so audacious that people will think you are crazy.” – Naveen Jain

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