Mr. Charif Souki, CEO of Cheniere Energy. Image Source. NYTIMES.com
“If you keep digging, digging, digging, you find something.”
- Charif Souki.
That is a quote from a NYTimes story on Mr. Souki and his dogged determination to make Chenierre Energy Inc. the leader in actually exporting natural gas from the United States. Now, I am in no way making any judgment on whether more oil and gas exploration is good for us and the environment (that is a debate on its on), but the take away message for me as a startup person, was Mr. Souki’s dogged determination as echoed in that one line.
Mr. Souki is of Lebanese origin (I have often heard the Lebanese investment bankers [of which there are quite a few] are legendary in their ability to strive and keep moving along, finding a way against all odds. And I’m assuming “Charif” as at some time “Sharif”) and as the story describes, Charif Souki has previously invested in real estate in Paris, hotels in Hawaii and natural gas wells in the Gulf of Mexico.
In fact, as the article goes on to describe, Mr Souki thinks by exporting gas, he could turn the fortune of his energy company (in which he has already put in more than $1.4 billion of investment since 2002). At that time domestic gas prices were higher in the US and Cheniere Energy Inc’s stock traded above $40 at one point. But since 2005, massive gas production has plummeted the prices leaving the stock to trade at a $1 till recently.
Whether Mr. Souki succeeds in his plan to become the big gas exporter he aims to be (he plans to raise and invest another $3 billion), only time can tell if he will succeed. We wish him luck (given the recent discover of vast gas reserves in Israel, this will be tough).
But for us as a startup, this singular quote means a lot. The ability to persevere is perhaps the most under-rated characteristic mentioned when writing or talking about founders, entrepreneurs and startups. But I have personally seen that great ideas, talent and even venture capital in themselves are not sufficient to achieve success.
Perhaps it is the ability to go on despite all odds, to persist, to spend long hours late into the nights (in our case literally till 6 am at times), toiling, tinkering and as Mr. Souki says “digging, digging away”, that at times determines who stays on till the end.
I do believe there is light at the end of the tunnel, no matter how long. And one you are planning to disrupt the status quo, it sure can be a long ride. But one just has to keep digging at it, keep going.
Thank you Mr. Charif, for an inspiring quote and for reinforcing our own company credo. We will not stop till we get to where we want. And we have only just begun!