I defy anyone not to be inspired by what happened on 14th October 2012 when 8 million people were watching the YouTube footage of Felix Baumgartner standing on the step the size of a skateboard at the edge of space, 30 seconds before he jumped and broke three world records. What’s more important is that after 5 years, the project was a success and a dream finally came true.
Today, Baumgartner is my muse and inspiration for my first piece for Techworld. What I would really like to do is bottle up the Stratos project in its entirety and use it as a methodology for success for tech start-ups and indeed many other projects.
No doubt when Felix Baumgartner dreamt up his idea some five years ago, he knew that it would take time and effort to get it off the ground (so to speak); and probably far longer than he ever anticipated.
It was a huge team effort with failure not being an option. We all have great ideas - success, however, comes down to a person’s ability to plan, implement and execute. Listening to the post-event press conference, it is clear that Felix Baumgartner had a determination beyond anything and didn’t allow anything, including the toughest, next to impossible, challenge and issues stand in his way.
Baumgartner spoke about the outstanding support from colleagues, friends and family, how they had been there, in ups and downs, along the way supporting his dream and the fact that you are actually only as good as the team around you - it all boils down to being on the same page. Here, the team had a clear plan, clear phases, objectives and deliverables. Every person had a role to play in a programme that needed constant review of performance, issues tracked and risks managed.
As someone once said to me, at a time when I was terrible at planning and didn’t think I needed to: "plan, then plan again and review that plan more than once”.
What was also clear is that Baumgartner had a solid mentor, someone who was the best of the best at what he wanted to achieve.
In the last few months, I have been fortunate enough to spend time at TechCity talking and working with startups and businesses in early stages of growth. I meet a lot of tech businesses, big and small, all dealing with different challenges at different points in their lifecycle.
The questions or issues I am asked are generally the same. However, today my answer has probably changed a little. I will probably say to people: go and read about the Stratos project from the day it was just an idea, the initiation of the project to the final moments of Baumgartner landing.
It is clear from watching footage of the event, Baumgartner realising his dream meant having the courage and self-belief to succeed and being ready and armed with the knowledge that not all things go to plan and even after you have planned, and planned again, there always needs to be a plan B.
It's not just about having confidence in yourself and your abilities, but also making sure you listen to others and surround yourself with the best of the best, if possible. Remember one person cannot do everything, it’s always a team effort.
A lot of people want a piece of the techworld action. I meet so many people in the development community who have incredible skills in delivering amazing ideas and solutions but are unable to get to market for one reason or another; it may be that they are too trusting about some of the people who offer help to complete their journey; trust me, I learnt the hard way. Track record is key, including failures.
Keep it simple. In the 90s, it felt like even the simplest functionality in the enterprise space had to be over engineered just to prove it could be technically better than its competitors however, users and the success of the business just needed it kept simple.
Some of the best businesses today take a different twist on a market product and prove the basics before growth. If you can, adopt a flat structure, make everyone accountable for the success as well as failure. But most importantly, like Felix Baumgartner, enjoy what you do and have fun.
Every successful person wakes up in the morning and loves what they do. Yes, you have bad days, but as long as the good times outweigh the bad ones, you are alright. Have your dream, which is the equivalent to standing on a foot plate the size of a skateboard, above the world and write history.