The business world might appear buttoned-down from the outside – but in reality, it’s a lot more interesting than you might realize. Many entrepreneurs are known for being colorful characters, both at work and in their personal lives. After all, following rules and staying inside the lines doesn’t often make for business success! From winning seed money in a poker game to attempting to clone dinosaurs, here are eight unexpected things that entrepreneurs have done.
1. John Paul DeJoria Bounced Back from Homelessness
You’ve probably heard of Paul Mitchell hair products and Patrón tequila, but did you know these brands have a common origin? John Paul DeJoria co-founded both legendary companies, becoming a billionaire along the way. The path to success wasn’t always easy for him, though. DeJoria spent time on the streets twice. The first time he was homeless, he was only 22 and had a two-year-old son to care for. He persisted in his entrepreneurial vision, though, eventually co-founding John Paul Mitchell Systems with $700 in startup cash. Today, DeJoria is a philanthropist who supports a number of social causes. Among other things, he helps to provide resources to people dealing with homelessness.
2. David Daneshgar Won Startup Money by Playing Poker
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What’s the quickest way to come up with $30,000? If you’re a card shark like David Daneshgar, the answer might be to sign up for a poker tournament. Daneshgar and two friends wanted to start an online marketplace connecting florists with customers, but they didn’t have startup cash. So Daneshgar – who won the World Series of Poker in 2008 – spent $1000 to enter a poker tournament. The grand prize of $30,000 was, coincidentally, just the amount of money they needed. At the end of the tense final round, Daneshgar told his friends what they wanted to hear: “It’s flower time.” They launched their business, BloomNation, soon afterwards.
3. Seth Priebatsch Took Dedication to a New Level – While Barefoot
In 2011, SCVNGR – a social app similar to FourSquare – was a $100 million company with a rather non-traditional CEO. Founder Seth Priebatsch, the self-described “chief ninja” of the company, was 22 years old at the time, and he had a habit of eschewing footwear at the office. He also sported a bright orange shirt every day and rarely went home from work, preferring to sleep in his office. Priebatsch transformed SCVNGR into a mobile payments platform called LevelUp in 2012, but he kept his title of Chief Ninja and his signature orange shirt.
4. Nicholas Berggruen Decided Not to Bother Buying a House
For most billionaire businesspeople, having more than one home is par for the course. But for years, Nicholas Berggruen avoided ever buying a house at all. He opted to live exclusively in hotels while traveling the world instead, which earned him the curious nickname of “the homeless billionaire.” Recently, though, Berggruen decided to put down some roots. He finally bought a $40 million house in 2017, perhaps wishing to give his two young children a stable place to grow up.
5. Mark Zuckerberg Killed His Own Food
In 2011, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg undertook a personal challenge to only eat meat that he killed himself. He announced this challenge to the world with his now-infamous status update, “I just killed a pig and a goat,” on May 4, 2011. Zuckerberg soon clarified that he took on the challenge in an effort to learn about sustainable farming and to consume resources more responsibly. The change wasn’t permanent, though. After the year-long challenge was over, Zuckerberg went back to buying meat at the store.
6. Clive Palmer Tried to Clone a Dinosaur
What if Jurassic Park wasn’t just a movie? Eccentric Australian businessman Clive Palmer wanted to make dinosaurs a reality through cloning, and he went so far as to discuss the idea with scientists. This happened in 2012, and since cloning techniques still haven’t advanced enough to bring back extinct species, it doesn’t look like Palmer’s dreams will be coming to fruition anytime soon. However, his love for dinosaurs abides. In 2013, he opened a theme park called Palmersaurus that features over 160 enormous dinosaur replicas.
7. Mark Benioff Staged a Protest to Steal a Competitor’s Spotlight
Mark Benioff, one of the founders of Salesforce, is notorious for coming up with over-the-top (and sometimes inflammatory) marketing gimmicks. Most famously, he once orchestrated a fake protest at a Siebel Systems conference, complete with picket signs, chanting, and even a fake TV crew. This drummed up a lot of attention for Salesforce at his rival’s expense. On another occasion, Benioff arranged to rent an airport’s entire taxi fleet right before another Siebel event was held nearby. He then had his employees pitch Salesforce on the way to the event, much to Siebel’s displeasure.
8. Robert Klark Graham Tried to Create a Genius Sperm Bank
Robert K. Graham was an entrepreneur who invented shatter-proof lenses for eyeglasses. Today, though, he’s probably better remembered for the controversial sperm bank he started. Called the Repository for Germinal Choice, this sperm bank only accepted donations from people who were considered extraordinary in some way. Some were Nobel prize winners, some were geniuses, and some were gifted athletes. Graham’s reason for starting the sperm bank? He wanted to create a better human gene pool – a mission that did not go over well with many people, who compared his ideas to Nazi eugenics programs. The sperm bank was closed in 1999, two years after Graham’s death. It claimed to have produced 229 children during its 19 years of operation.
Entrepreneurship tends to attract people with unique minds and strong personalities, and that can make for a lot of interesting stories. Do you have any wacky entrepreneur moments of your own to share? We’d love to read your stories, whether inspiring or just plain entertaining, in the comments below!
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