BIg ideas take time: all ideas take longer than you think to germinate and grow. I want things to happen overnight and I keep being reminded that they don’t. A lot of building a business is patiently doing your job while you wait for things to happen.
As a part of my series about “Big Ideas That Might Change The World In The Next Few Years” I had the pleasure of interviewing Ben Lamm.
Ben Lamm is a serial technology entrepreneur dedicated to making the impossible possible. He builds intelligent, disruptive software companies that help the Fortune 500 innovate with breakthrough technologies. Ben is the founder and CEO of Hypergiant. Previously, he was the founder and CEO of Conversable, the leading conversational intelligence platform acquired by LivePerson, the founder and CEO of Chaotic Moon Studios, the global creative technology studio acquired by Accenture and mobile casual gaming company Team Chaos, acquired by Zynga.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you please tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I have been an entrepreneur since before I was legally able to work. I started by outsourcing my chores to my neighbors as a kid for part of my allowance. It’s just something that is in my blood, I guess. So, as a teenager I started to figure out ways to build businesses and for me that just meant companies that were at the intersection of technology trends and consumer needs. I have been obsessed with emerging technology trends my entire life. I built an e-learning business, a video game company, an automated conversational intelligence business and a creative technology studio. Now, I run Hypergiant where we built AI products and solutions for Fortune 500 companies and government agencies.
Can you please share with us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
This one is tough… I feel as though I’ve lived a lifetime during each of my businesses. One story that stands out to me is when I was in Palm Beach for a meeting with Tony Robbins. We were scheduled to meet with him for 30 minutes at his home and that 30 minutes turned into over 3 hours. I was completely blown away by the prepwork he did before our meeting. He is insanely busy yet he found the time to research me and all my previous companies and he was 100% present during the entire 3 hours. And as I left his wife, Sage, came right up to my face and said “If you live too much in the future you’re full of anxiety and if you live too much in the past you’re full of regret. You must live in the present.” It was out of the blue, but really resonated with me and was definitely one of the most memorable meetings in my life. Side note: there were also slides, bowling alleys, candy shops, and more, but that’s for another time. I’m now lucky enough to have Tony as an investor in Hypergiant and advisor.
Which principles or philosophies have guided your life? Your career?
Socrates once famously said “wisdom begins in wonder” and I live by this.
I also practice Shoshin (known as “beginner’s mind”). It is a concept that comes from Zen Buddhism and refers to having a lack of preconceptions about a subject. This way of thinking has me asking “why” to just about everything — and in doing that — I gain a deeper curiosity and a deeper understanding across the board.
Lately, passion, hard work and the ability to execute matters more than any skill or talent. We all have ideas and dreams. The key is working harder than most to bring those to fruition.
Ok thank you for that. Let’s now move to the main focus of our interview. Can you tell us about your “Big Idea That Might Change The World”?
I am passionate about combating climate change so my team created a bioreactor with one secret ingredient: Algae. Research shows that algae production is a highly effective means of atmospheric carbon reduction, outperforming trees by a factor of 10. Since our ability to affect change is driven by our ability to understand our impact, the future of climate change solutions must be highly connected and data driven. Our bioreactor comes paired with a mobile application that provides status of the bioreactor, detects anomalies, and provides current and historical reporting of CO2 sequestration and biomass production. A cloud based infrastructure connects the bioreactors, allowing them to learn from each other, optimize for new environments, and provide global insights.
How do you think this will change the world?
This idea won’t change the world, but it’s ideas like this that will. It’s about the pursuit of science and collection of us all working together that changes the world. My hope is that our bioreactor is just one piece that helps to change the world.
No, we’re up against a ticking clock. I don’t see any drawbacks from inspiring others to change the future and push to solve our biggest existential threat, which is climate change.
Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this idea? Can you tell us that story?
Not exactly a “tipping point” per se… I was reading studies on carbon capture and kept thinking “why isn’t climate change easier?” That’s when we dug into researching algae and how we can use AI to make climate change easier.
What do you need to lead this idea to widespread adoption?
Like everything in life, it takes focus and resources. There are no barriers for the technology — we need folks who have the desire to pursue it and fund it.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
- BIg ideas take time: all ideas take longer than you think to germinate and grow. I want things to happen overnight and I keep being reminded that they don’t. A lot of building a business is patiently doing your job while you wait for things to happen.
- Great ideas take longer: I used to think that every other idea I had was a good idea. And, I would chase them and build them. However, as I’ve built companies and scaled ideas, I’ve also realized that the really good ideas take longer to grow. Sometimes you need to push out bad ideas, say goodbye to okay ideas, leave behind profitable ideas in search of something that is really great.
- All ideas require great marketing: All ideas require good marketing and great brand building. This is something I’ve sort of inherently known from a young age but I’ve continued to learn more and more as I’ve watched other companies try to succeed. I’ve seen amazing ideas die because they couldn’t get traction. And, I’ve seen okay ideas explode because they’ve gotten great marketing traction. I wish it was different but the truth is that some “good ideas” are good because you’ve heard about them.
- More is more: It’s human nature to want more of everything. We want to earn more, to learn more, to create more and so on… Don’t hold back. Chase it all.
- It’s a Brave New World, sort of: Business doesn’t change as quickly as you want. So constantly keep in mind that even though it’s a brave new world, whatever you’re experiencing has probably happened before in history. And, as such the best way to predict the future is really to understand the past.
Can you share with our readers what you think are the most important “success habits” or “success mindsets”?
My big success habits are:
- Gut check: Trust your gut. If it feels wrong, it probably is
- Make sure to focus on your health: Drink a lot of sparkling water (honestly, water over alcohol), eat mostly plant based, find time to do something you love every day, and get enough sleep.
- Mindset: Mental health is just as important as physical health. Meditation, journaling, steam showers, conversations with close friends and family, whatever it may be, find what works for you and make it a habit.
- It’s not magic, it’s just work: Sometimes it’s just that simple. Work harder than anyone else you know
- Show up: No matter how tired or busy you are just show up. Every connection and conversation opens a door for growth and opportunities
- Always stay 1 step ahead: Read, explore and listen — predicting trends will come easy
Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂
Invest in women and men that really want to make an impact and change the world. Whether it’s creating a new industry, redefining an old industry, or trying to push humanity forward, spend time understanding the people behind the idea, and not just the idea. The people behind the ideas are what make the ideas. Try understanding them, their vision, and motivations behind their ideas — not just their go to market strategy or product/market fit. You are betting on people not a secret recipe. Get to actually know them and ask questions that matter.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.
Thank you so much for including me!