Monday Madness – Scott Belsky (’02), Co-founder and CEO of Behance

Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration” -Thomas Edison

Scott Belsky’s Bio

scott-belskyScott Belsky has committed his professional life to help organize creative individuals, teams, and networks. Scott is the co-founder and CEO of Behance, a company on a mission to organize and empower the creative world. In 2010, Scott was also included in Fast Company’s list of “100 Most Creative People in Business.” Scott is the author of the international bestselling book Making Ideas Happen. He also serves as an advisor and investor in several early-stage companies including Pinterest, Uber, and FiftyThree. He attended Cornell University as an undergraduate and received his MBA from Harvard Business School.

As the final speaker of the semester for AEM 1210: Entrepreneurship Speaker Series, Scott Belsky was met with a room full of anticipation and excitement. Students in the course were required to write a book report on Belsky’s Making Ideas Happenso his audience was already familiar with his methodology and looking to learn more from the Cornell alum. One of Scott’s first piece of advice pertained to figuring out what field you want to work in. Let’s do stuff in the intersection–find the overlap between your interests, skills, and opportunities. Make sure that whatever you do, you are either working within or getting closer to this overlap. 

Next, Scott focused on finding the basis of a company–stating that every business should be intended to solve a problem. His company, Behance, was spawned by his desire to organize the disorganized artistic world. Scott noticed that many of his friends who were artists were constantly coming up with new ideas, but lacked the ability to set those ideas in motion. The initial problem that Behance set out to solve was: How do we get creative people to be more productive? As Scott guided us through the long-term vision, ups and downs, and final outcomes of his company, he imparted onto us invaluable lessons about what it means to be an entrepreneur. 

Takeaways

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  1. We had no idea what the %$&# we were doing However, they were (and continue to be) tenacious learners and fixers.
    • The Behance team embraces and learns from mistakes–but vow to only make the same mistake once.
  2. Initiative > Experience
    • Many start-ups have no choice but to hire people based on their initiative because they don’t have the money to hire people for their experience.
    • After becoming successful, there’s a tendency for start-ups to become resume snobs.
    • Don’t forget that those first hires based on initiative paved the way for your success.
  3. <3 > $ When you love something, it takes care of you.
    • A labor of love always pays off.
  4. Resourcefulness is more important than resources
    • Behance didn’t raise millions of dollars until 5 years into the process.
    • Don’t rely on the excuse “I don’t have the capital”
  5. Creating something from nothing takes (and tolls) your heart, mind, and soul
    • There were many nights where the whole team felt like it wasn’t going to work out. 
    • Every time they typed “behance” into Google, the search rendered “Did you mean ‘enhance’?” It felt like even Google thought they were making a mistake. 
    • Often, it seemed like the company didn’t even exist–first goal: try to exist.
    • Don’t expect starting a company to be easy, but eventually, your hard work will pay off.
  6. When passion is involved, business is personal
    • As an entrepreneur, it is impossible to separate yourself from your job.
    • If you are 100% committed to your business it no longer seems like work. 
  7. The joy of entrepreneurship is relative and has a lot of ups and downs… aspire for a positive slope
    • Expect initial excitement, followed by extreme doubt, and then periodic spurts of hope coupled with troughs of despair.
    • All you can ask for is to follow a positive slope–hope that your ups are higher than your downs.  
  8. Lead by being the wind at the backs of your team
    • As a leader, it is your job to pave the way for your team.
    • You are in control of your destiny, so listen to the needs of the people you work with. 
  9. What you agree to do, do right
    • Scott admitted that he tries to agree to very little–he prefers killing ideas, rather than encouraging them and wasting resources trying to make an abstract idea work.
    • What he does agree to, he commits his all to and strives to accomplish them perfectly. 
  10. Learn to gain confidence from doubt
    • Be encouraged by doubt, not dissuaded.
    • Our society is hypocritical–we shun people who take risks and do bold things before we celebrate them for changing life as we know it.
      • Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and Mark Zuckerberg were all college dropouts before they went on to achieve great things.
    • If everyone thinks you’re crazy–you’re either crazy or you’re on to something. 
    • Nothing extraordinary is ever achieved through extraordinary means. 

Scott’s presentation was worth the wait–he managed to be inspiring but not trite, honest but not discouraging, and funny but not dismissive. His continued success (Behance was recently acquired by Adobe) illustrates how far an entrepreneurial mind and driven spirit can take you. 

Where does your intersection lie?

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Monday Madness is a weekly Monday column featured on talks given by Cornell alums to students enrolled in AEM 1210: Entrepreneurship Speaker Series. Monday Madness is here to offer students thoughtful takeaways from smart and successful entrepreneurs.