Riz Virk is an entrepreneur, angel investor, bestselling author and founder of Play labs @ MIT.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
On July 4th, we celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence, a statement by the 13 American colonies that they would no longer consider themselves under the rule of the British Empire, and that they would “rule themselves” as the United States of America (the constitution would come much later).
At the time, declaring independence from the biggest empire on Earth (its King and its Army) was no small feat and wasn’t without risk. They knew that this could (and did) start a war, a war that could end badly. Or, they could go on to create an experiment that was unique in human history and could become the most powerful nation on Earth.
Since I write about startups, it’s only natural that I’d think about what a Declaration of Independence might mean to the potential entrepreneurs.
Entrepreneurship and startups are part and parcel of what has come to be known as the American Dream, and immigrants have come from all over the world to pursue this dream — ranging from Andrew Carnegie to Elon Musk to Arianna Huffington and Liz Claiborne and Sergei Brin (the co founder of Google). If you count children and grandchildren of immigrants, you widen the net to include most home-grown entrepreneurs, including Walt Disney and Donald Trump’s family too!
For an entrepreneur (as well as for the founding fathers), declaring independence can be exciting, empowering and a little bit scary at the same time. Starting out on your own is no easy task, and it might feel like sometimes the might of the great empires of the past are arrayed against you. Like the founding fathers, you might even be a subject (err, employee) of one of these great big empires that seem to have all the money in the world.
But the call of independence, that you can be your own boss, you can determine your own future, is no trifle to be ignored. I liken it to the “Call of Adventure” that many heroes in first hear, then ignore (the “Refusal of the call”) because going on an adventure might seem too dangerous or inconvenient. There are many reasons not to start off on your own — namely financial stability, security for your family, fear of failure or humiliation, as well as fear of the great “Empire” that you were previously part of.
You can bet the colonists thought about independence a long time before they actually signed their John Hancock’s to the piece of paper on July 4, 1776 (incidentally, the reason we use “John Hancock” to refer to a signature is because Boston-based John Hancock signed his name really large on the Declaration of independence so that King George would be able to easily say it). In the end, they felt the call was too strong to ignore, and that they would be better off governming themselves instead of playing by the rules of the “Old World”.
This decision created a spirit of entrepreneurship in America that, like democracy, has been one of the lights that has spread around the world. Here, it doesn’t matter who your father or grandfather was (in fact, many of the most successful people’s families were dirt poor and came here with nothing). You don’t need any “titles” nor do you need to have gone to the best schools — What matters is that you have an idea and you are willing and able to “cross the threshold” and begin your entrepreneurial journey!
So, for everyone who has thought “I can do it better myself!”, this Independence Day is for you. If you’re thinking of taking the leap, if you want to be your own boss, if you want to take off the shackles of the “empire” you are working for … then you’ll be following in the footsteps of many, may noteworthy, including the Founding Fathers of the USA.
This Independence Day is for you! Happy July 4th!