Don’t stop until you’ve done the impossible. Sometimes it has felt like I should stop but that’s not how you get the impossible done. To get the impossible done you must keep chasing and growing and driving new ideas forward. This is how you can create a ripple effect of massive change in the world. Some of my hardest projects and latest hours of work, has forced the best out of me and my teams over the years. Wherever you think the limit is and that giving it any more is impossible, just do it.
As part of my series about the leadership lessons of accomplished business leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ben Lamm, a serial technology entrepreneur dedicated to making the impossible possible. Ben is the Founder/CEO of Hypergiant Industries. Previously, he was the Founder/CEO of Conversable acquired by LivePerson, Founder/CEO of Chaotic Moon Studios acquired by Accenture and Team Chaos, acquired by Zynga.
Thank you so much for joining us, Ben! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Ihave an insatiable curiosity for things that has led me on a number of different career paths. This time I decided to dive in headfirst to my obsession with AI and space. It all started after I sold my last company and joined the advisory boards of The Planetary Society and the Arch Mission. The Arch Mission is focused on maintaining a backup system for Earth — a library of all of our information. I became more and more interested in what they were doing and realized that I had a unique history that could help improve our efforts to explore and colonize space.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?
When I was first starting out, I would spend a lot of time hiring. That is the natural byproduct of a fast growing business. I’d have a hard time when I’d meet someone and know they were perfect for the company but I just wouldn’t know what to do with them yet: where would they fit, what would they do. I lost a few amazing hires because I just wasn’t operating fast enough to pull in people who I really wanted to work with. Now, I’ve learned. I pull in great talent and I have them help me figure out their role. This allows us to move quickly, evolve and create a team of just truly incredible people even if we have to invent their role.
Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
When you know you are on the right path, you feel compelled to keep going against all odds. We aren’t just building software here. We are trying to help set the groundwork for humans to live and thrive on earth and in space. Of course, it’s hard. Of course, there are challenges. That doesn’t mean you stop: that means you figure out what you need to do and keep moving forward. Big things aren’t easy; that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do them.
So, how are things going today? How did grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?
We are one of the fastest growing AI company in history and on track to be a unicorn company in the next couple years. We have successfully launched four divisions under Hypergiant Industries with one more planned before the end of the year. So, things are going well and we are excited. We announced this year our effort to build interplanetary internet; we also created a next-gen helmet prototype for astronauts; later this year we will announce a massive R&D project to sequester carbon thats 400x more effective than an acre of trees. We are moving forward on the big mission we’ve set out today and that’s exciting.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
When I was at one of my first companies, the treadmill desk fad came out. I was so excited and pumped about everyone getting healthier. I bought treadmill desks for a majority office. I thought the idea was genius: people could stay fit and work and all the data supported that it was basically the greatest thing ever. No. one. used. them. Not anyone. I had a couple of nice employees who would use them for about 5 minutes to show support, but it was a complete fail. It turned out most of my engineering teams didn’t want to bounce up and down on a treadmill while trying to write code. Instead people worked around them, and put chairs on the treadmill. The big idea was totally wasted. In retrospect, it was hilarious and the whole office knew it was a fail. After two weeks, they were all gone. I learned a couple valuable lessons including don’t just jump on the latest office fad and maybe it’s a good idea to ask your employees what they actually want to have in the office they spend all day at.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Our company is focused on making the impossible possible, or as we call it “tomorrowing today.” There are so few companies that are working on big ideas that put humanity first that we stand out on that alone. We can’t do that without having amazing talent. Recently, we were working on video with one of our advisors, Bill Nye, and had the opportunity to really share what a view of the future could look like. Working with luminaries like him and others while finding new ways to inspire people and drive innovation is why we all come to work.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Keep chasing the dream. When I’m working towards the vision of our company, I know it will impact hundreds of millions of people. That keeps me energized and growing. We need more big explorers in this industry who want to take on big challenges and grow: I think thinking big and never being afraid to push with your ideas to their limits energizes me.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
Two people immediately stand out. My grandmother, Gigi, and serial publicly traded C-Level executive, John McKinley. Gigi always told me I could do anything I put my mind to. She also had other words of wisdom like “Second place is the first loser.” Those lessons have stuck with me.
John McKinley has also always taught me many leadership ideas and strategies including that rank has it privileges. While that sounds like a wonderful perk, what John always stressed is the privilege of choice and the burden that comes with having to make tough calls that often affect many other people.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
While I have been fortunate in my various companies and been on different non-profit boards and organizations, Hypergiant is really my key to improving the world. Everything we are doing at Hypergiant Industries is focused on helping humanity. Whether it is our new prototype helmet, which will make soldiers and fire fighters safer, or our soon to be launched product that will remove carbon from the atmosphere at aggressively fast rates, we are focused on using technology to help humans, rather than using technology to make technology cooler. Our company wants to bring good things to the world in as many ways as possible. Having a massive sandbox to create an awesome company, while also trying to help others and change the world is truly humbling.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my company” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- Chase the big things. People often start small companies and that’s okay. We need the goods and services that many small businesses provide. But, more people need to chase their big ideas and strive to accomplish them so that we can actually change our world; like the moon landing, the work James Cameron is doing with oceans, or the work Elon Musk is doing with Neuralink.
- Never stop exploring. Sometimes people find a career sector and stay there. I could have done that. I could have stayed in e-learning or mobile or any other industry. But, I like to explore new ideas. I’m curious. I have opinions. I want to know things. Exploration of new ideas has always opened up new doors and opportunities for me as it has for others. While you are exploring and pushing future, take in and learn to love the journey.
- Let some good ideas die. Not every idea is THE IDEA. Know when to let some ideas die. One of the hardest things to do as an entrepreneur is to learn how to say no and when to move on from an idea. You simply can’t do everything. Work on the things you are most passionate about and make that your focus.
- But, not the really good ones. But when you land on the really good ideas, chase them, and chase them tirelessly. Those are the ideas that are worth chasing and will open up lots of new doors and even other future opportunities you didn’t know existed. Those ideas are the ones that are big businesses. It’s how I feel about Hypergiant. I knew right away that it was a massive idea, and that I had to explore it.
- Don’t stop until you’ve done the impossible. Sometimes it has felt like I should stop but that’s not how you get the impossible done. To get the impossible done you must keep chasing and growing and driving new ideas forward. This is how you can create a ripple effect of massive change in the world. Some of my hardest projects and latest hours of work, has forced the best out of me and my teams over the years. Wherever you think the limit is and that giving it any more is impossible, just do it. You will be amazed at how far you can push yourself if you are both committed and convicted to a mission.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I am incredibly passionate about technologies that can help combat man-made climate change. There are so many people who are also doing amazing work from very basic use of saltwater sprayers to making clouds white and more reflective to leveraging existing biosystems like algae to scrub the air in buildings to vertical parks in Milan to carbon removing generators to even reflective ice in the Arctic. I am honored to be one of the very many who stand for science and want to help do my part in the solution to saving our planet. It’s the dreamers, explorers, and entrepreneurs who have the best shot at saving us all.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!