Didier Elzinga is the CEO & Co-founder of Culture Amp. He is a non-executive director at Tourism Australia, The Alfred Foundation, The Atlassian Foundation and the Slingsby Theatre Company. He speaks regularly for organisations on culture, creativity and innovation.
In an earlier life he spent 13 years in Hollywood rising to the role of CEO of global Visual Effects company Rising Sun Pictures and co-founded Technical Academy Award winner Rising Sun Research – whose tools are now used by most directors in Hollywood.
THOSE WHO SAY SOMETHING IS IMPOSSIBLE SHOULD NOT INTERRUPT THOSE THAT ARE DOING IT.
Blackbird: you tried a number of different things before you found your way to Culture Amp. How do you know when to quit?
Didier: It's really hard to tell someone they're beating a dead horse when they're beating the dead horse, and you don't even realize until you hop off onto a live one! I was by myself for about a year. That was really, kind of a year in the wilderness, if you like. I mean, even to call me an entrepreneur ... I was trying to work out if I could do it.
YOU HAVE TO KEEP BANGING YOUR HEAD AGAINST IT WELL BEYOND THE PART WHERE MOST PEOPLE WOULD'VE GIVEN UP
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Blackbird: Was it difficult leaving a really successful business and starting from scratch?
Didier: It's existentially really hard. I remember being at a point about a year in or something like that, before I brought on the co-founders, and literally lying there at night in tears, pretty much. Just going "what have I done??" ... I was the CEO of a successful company at 26, I had stepped out of that and I had no income. I burnt through pretty much all the money we had and I didn't know whether it was going to work or not. I kept asking myself “Have I done the right thing? Is this ever going to work”.
Blackbird: And after all those iterations, how did you come to Culture Amp?
Didier: As an engineer, you approach problems and go "how do we make this perform," or "how do we build this," or whatever. You realize after a while that the problem is not how do we build this. The problem is, will anybody care.
Blackbird: And how important is hustle?
Didier: The inertia in whatever you're going to really do is very strong. The hustle is required that if you're going to break the glass, break the ice, somehow get something to go, it's purely through just pure hustle. You've got to convince somebody to take the call. You've got to somehow magic this stuff into existence to begin with. Even if you're good at that, you have to keep banging your head against it well beyond the part where most people would've given up. One of my favorite quotes, which I use at the end of almost every presentation that I give is George Bernard Shaw's "those who say something is impossible should not interrupt those that are doing it." You kind of have to choose which camp you're in and just go for it.
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