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The Weekly Billionaire Case Study: Jeff Hoffman

“Ideas are welcomed, but execution is worshipped.”

My girlfriend and I attended Freedom Fast Lane Live in Austin, Texas in 2015 (I wrote about this experience here) and we were fortunate to hear Jeff Hoffman speak.  We learned that Mr. Hoffman went to Yale University and graduated with a degree in Computer Science.  He almost got kicked out of school on his first day because he could not pay his tuition bill.  To pay his tuition, he started a software company in his dorm to help pay his way through college.

He learned early on that entrepreneurship is a tool that could allow him to solve problems in not only his own life, but the lives of others as well.

“Entrepreneurship is the shovel you use to dig a path to a brighter future.”

Mr. Hoffman dreamed of doing bigger things.  It did not take him long to start launching his own companies.  As a result of his entrepreneurship, he became a multi-millionaire in his early twenties.  At the time we heard Mr. Hoffman speak in Austin, he had taken two companies public, two companies he had started had failed, and two companies were still going strong.  Perhaps the one company he started that he is most well known for is priceline.com.

“The whole point of being a business owner is to design the life you always dreamed you were going to have.”

Here is some great advice I’ve noted from some of his talks:

Solve Real Problems: Entrepreneurship is about solving real problems.  Mr. Hoffman created software that allowed people to book travel online as opposed to over the phone with a travel agent (this later became Expedia).  He was once annoyed that only one person who worked for the airlines could print boarding passes.  He created and patented kiosk technology that allowed anyone to print their own boarding passes.

FOCUS: Follow One Course Until Success.  Win a Gold Medal at ONE thing.  Then move on to your next best idea or thing.  And winning a Gold Medal is *REALLY* hard.

Harness The Power of Wonder/Curiosity: Stay curious about things around you.  Never stop asking ‘why?’.  Answers to your curiosities can lead to innovations, newer and better ideas, and solutions to problems.  Never be satisfied with the status quo.

Info-Sponging:  Spend time each day reading about things and look for things that interest you outside of your industry.  Write these things down.  Try to connect the dots between interests over time.

Filter Data Through the Eyes of Your Customers: If your executive team is not a representative cross-section of your customers, take their data analysis and decision making with a grain of salt.  Get real feedback from real customers.  Sam Walton used to put on a John Deer hat and go to a diner to buy Apple Pie for people who were representative Walmart customers, so he could learn more about their buying patterns.

Dream Big and Make it Happen:  Hone in on your dream.  Print out a picture of it.  Make it the reason behind the things you do.

“Dream Big, Work Hard, Create Value.”

I could not find an estimate for Mr. Hoffman’s net worth online.  My assumption, however, is that much of Mr. Hoffman’s billionaire status is tied to an equity stake in priceline.com, which currently has a market cap around $88.5 Billion.