Today in Kendall Square in Cambridge, Mass., an Entrepreneur Walk of Fame is being unveiled, honoring entrepreneurs as if they were Hollywood stars or Hall of Fame athletes. The initial inductees are Thomas Edison, Bill Gates, Bill Hewlett & David Packard, Steve Jobs, Mitch Kapor of Lotus and Bob Swanson of Genentech. A press release is here, a Boston Globe news article with a nifty MIT-produced video is here, and the official Entrepreneur Walk of Fame Web site is here. Twitter: @EntWoF
It's encouraging to see successful businessmen in America being lionized rather than demonized.
It did strike me as interesting that in a project expressly devoted to honoring entrepreneurs, the organizers selected several quotations for the Walk of Fame that seem almost to disparage wealth accumulation. David Packard's quote is "I think many people assume, wrongly, that a company exists solely to make money. Money is an important part of a company's existence, if the company is any good. But a result is not a cause. We have to go deeper and find the real reason for our being." Mitch Kapor's quote is, "Building a workplace which engages a diversity of employees and brings out their best makes a far greater contribution than financial success alone." Steve Jobs' quote is "Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn't matter to me … Going to bed at night saying we've done something wonderful… that's what matters to me."
To some extent this is understandable as a kind of push-back reaction against a culture that depicts businessmen as greedy. And there's plenty of truth in all three of those quotes; a lot of successful entrepreneurs seem to be at least as passionate about product as they are about profit. But there's a fine line between acknowledging the obvious truth that money isn't the only thing in life and buying into the idea that people who do make a lot of money should somehow be guilty or defensive about it.