Paul Brummell, British Ambassador to Romania

Paul Brummell

Head of Soft Power and External Affairs Department, Communication Directorate

Part of UK in Romania

11th June 2015

Romanian stories in Britain (IV) Emi Gal: ‘Never give up’

Photo of Forbes cover featuring Emi GalIt was a summer day in August and I was having burgers and fries at the only McDonald’s in Berceni, a peripheral neighborhood in Bucharest. Misha, who was sipping out of a Coke plastic cup, was soon to be the first employee of my budding new venture that had no clients, no money and no office. I was 19.

The next day, he showed up to the flat I was sharing with my sister, where I had arranged two desks in my bedroom, as our office. He assembled his computer using some parts I had bought from a local computer shop, installed a (pirated) operating system and asked “cool, what now?”. I had no idea, but somehow over the next few months we managed to win some software development projects, do a good job, and get recommended to more clients. Four or five months later there were four of us in that tiny room so my sister kicked us out. By the time I graduated from university, we were almost 40 people and we were off to the races.

It’s been almost 10 years since that hot summer day, and over the years I’ve had many failures and some success. I’ve worked hard, played hard and most certainly learnt more than I’d ever hoped to. So today I’d like to share three lessons I’ve learnt, some of which the hard way.

Pursuing ideas is the worst thing you can do. When I first started, I had tons of ideas for startups but no money to build them. So I decided to start by building other people’s ideas. As my software company started making money, I started pouring it into all these shiny business ideas I had. A TV channel for smart people, a search engine for real estate ads, a streaming platform for Romanian music and many, many others. All failed. In hindsight, they all failed for one reason: I started with an idea, not with a problem. We weren’t solving a problem people had, and when you’re not solving a problem, people don’t care about what you’re building. It took me four years to fully understand this, and I’m hoping you won’t make the same mistake. In trying to find the right “idea”, rather try to focus on solving a problem you have. There’s a chance other people may have the same problem, too.

Don’t be afraid of failure. The first four years of my entrepreneurial career were littered with tons of failure. Yes, I had managed to build a software company that was picking up the tab for all these failures, but none of my own ideas seemed to be any good. At age 21, I launched one of Romania’s first online TV channels, BrainTV. The media was exhilarated about my ability and desire to become Romania’s next media mogul at such a young age. A year later, I shut it down and the media was first to point out how big of a failure I was. If there’s one thing the media loves is big success or big failure, and besides growing a very thick skin, I learnt that the only thing that matters is your ability to dust yourself off, pick yourself up and start all over again.

Never give up. Seth Godin, a best-selling American author, once said that overnight success generally takes 15 years. I find that to be true. As individuals, we have the tendency to overestimate what we will achieve in a year and underestimate what we will achieve in 10. The key to succeeding, though, is never giving up. And because this is a guest post on the British Ambassador’s blog, I find it rather appropriate to end with a quote by Winston Churchill: “Never give in, never give in, never, never, never – in nothing, great or small, large or petty – never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.”

By Emi Gal, Founder & CEO, Brainient