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Ropate Qalo
Saturday, January 05, 2013

Gilmore, DH, 2012 Start Up: The Life & Times of a Serial Entrepreneur, USA: Charles Pinot.

David Harrison Gilmore, spoke evenly and calmly in an even measured tone answering Geoffrey Smith's questions of TV1 on Close Up on Sunday night (30.12.12).

The naked optimism of someone who believes in creative capitalism was explained plainly and clearly. His views were honestly stated in a rather soft matter of fact clarity.

For instance, paraphrasing him, "Too many investors come here to use local money. They do not bring their own. These are takers who take local funds or are on a salary".

The plain positivity of his past and his optimism for the future is more than evident on this self-made "serial entrepreneur".

He is the owner of the internationally-renowned Wakaya Island and the creator of the bottled Fiji Water that he later sold besides being shareholders with his good friend Peter Munk in two goldmines and various investments. It was inevitable for me to get my copy next day before 10am at Prouds as an outlet. I have to learn more of someone whom I respect from a distance with the little I know.

The interview on TV1 made points that were better coming from Mr Gilmore. It was remarkable and I look forward to his Close Up on education next week (06.01.13) as announced. My wife and a niece from Sweden went to buy their copies by midday.

They were lucky. There were only two left for each of them.

I wondered about Gilmore's friend, Hemingway's quotation after rea­d­ing the former's book — "If a writer knows enough about what he is writing about, he may omit things that he knows. The dignity of movement of an iceberg is due to only one ninth of it being above water".

Be that as it may, this book is riveting from the preface to Chapter 10. It is from the "horse's mouth" so as to speak. The book in its writing style reminded me of his friend Earnest Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea as well as my reading of Somerset Maugham's Moon and Sixpence at high school. I do not know why precisely? But the book in my view is very cleverly put together and for me is best described with the title of Chapter 2. The generalities at the beginning of each chapter and the experiences from the 50s are slowly blown up only to focus on the selection of experiences that highlights relative details that forms the background and references to the various Start Up.

Each chapter has a thoughtful or inspiring quote or both from Sir Winston Churchill. Gilmore wrote — "All my life I have admired his keen observations….But were I forced to summarise Churchill's life with a single triumph — one that has had a direct impact on my life — I would say this: he helped to save freedom at a time when it was under the gravest of threats…I came of age in the post-war years … It is the world in which I have been fortunate enough to do business…" (p. iii).

It dawned on me from the outset ie from the Preface and throughout the earlier part of the book that some readers may dismiss Gilmore as a conservative romanticist. The ignorance mentioned in the book — "We turn our backs on history at our peril" (p. 159 and 160) might apply. Readers who may consider the author of dismissing the generational gaps and the inventions of each generation will have to focus and learn more of VIV and Zinio.

Going back to Captain William Bligh in May 8, 1789 and relating Bligh to his courage which in the context of the book is equated with entrepreneurs. He wrote — "Anyone in businesses knows something about apprehension and anxiety" (p. 10) which he thankfully did not have to go through. Throughout the book this theme is cleverly inserted and explained with other data. This may be related to the style and the absence of an index for references. This "must read book", on a global figure and the story of Start Up that includes Fiji and his island Wakaya, in Lomaiviti is a treasure chest of knowledge and what we commonly call wisdom.

As a student of social entrepreneurship and small businesses, this book is inspirational providing real-life experiences. It is a gem besides entrepreneurship. It is also the same of ideologies (capitalism versus socialism); philosophy (hard work and doing the right thing); political science (republicanism and democrats/ dictators and coups; sociology (people centred investments for development); humanities/education (preschool, University of Hard Knocks); and so on.

One cannot agree more to the following — "In many professions, the older one gets, the easier the path. This is not necessarily true for the entrepreneur. A start up is a start up is a start up" (144). "Entrepreneurs are not born they are made up of life's experiences" (146). Read the book and find out more of Gilmore's journey and his successes asking: "What if? Why not?" He wrote that he was guided by his well considered hunches based on his upbringing, his dad, mum, three sisters, the army, friends and a well-grounded history based on validated and tested knowledge.

Vinaka vakalevu Mr Gilmore!

* Ropate R Qalo is a member of the faculty at the Sociology Discipline in the Faculty of Arts, Law & Education at the University of the South Pacific's Laucala Campus in Suva.

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