“Men wanted for Hazardous Journey. Small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger, safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in case of success.” – 1914 advertisement for Sir Ernest Shackleton’s Antarctic Expedition
I love this passage… a fellow VC highlighted it for me recently and it made me think that every tech startup should post it for all to read as they walk through the front door.
I have immense admiration for Shackleton’s achievements. While this ad copy embodies what it’s like for people to commit themselves to a startup, in many ways I think the story of Shackleton’s expedition holds even greater truth and relevance than the text above. The Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition (as it was formally called) was unsuccessful at it’s initial goal of the first ever crossing of the whole of Antarctica, the 7th continent. Countless successful startups have found themselves in the same position, and what defines many of the best entrepreneurs is what they’re able to do from that point forward.
What Shackleton ultimately did accomplish was simply amazing… following shipwreck on the ice, he led his men to safety across thousands of miles on foot and in a tiny boat through nearly 2yrs of Antarctic hardship without a single loss of life. In many respects, Shackleton achieved more and left a greater mark on his field (global expedition) than accomplishing his original objective ever would have.