I recently wrote a post called ‘Cut The BS’ and by that I meant cutting out everything that isn’t 100% necessary for you to achieve your objectives and to purely focus on the essentials.
I made note that there are a lot of potential distractions in the startup scene and also that I fell victim to them many times before learning to focus more effectively.
However, even with all the startup BS I’ve always thought that there had to be a way to leverage much of what existed.
How can you take advantage of everyone out there that’s trying to make money from startups? How can you take advantage of the noise and the false portrayal of ‘entrepreneurial lifestyle’ we see in the media? Is there a way to use all of the unnecessary to assist you in achieving your objectives?
I believe the answer to these questions is yes and it’s something that we need to consciously think about as founders and members of the startup eco-system.
Think of the hundreds of accelerators, incubators, co-working spaces and Meetup groups that flood our inboxes with invites on a daily basis. Is it possible that all of these invites are relevant and potentially beneficial to us?
Of course not.
A high percentage of these programs, organisations and events are just ‘along for the ride’ and you have to work hard to identify the value in a very crowded market.
When any industry is seemingly flourishing, people see opportunity to take advantage and capitalise on that opportunity.
As a local example, think of the Victorian gold rush in the mid 1800’s. There was promise of unforetold wealth (some actually achieved this, however most didn’t. Ring any bells?) and of course, a flurry of individuals and organisations that took advantage of the ‘perceived opportunity’ that the gold rush brought.
They provided equipment and supplies, all for a fee to those who were looking to create wealth and find that one nugget that would change their lives.
This seems pretty viable commercially, and indeed it was for some period of time. However, the supplier’s reason for being there, or their ‘why’ was very different to that of the individual looking to attain vast wealth.
They wanted to create wealth through selling to those who had or were sold the dream. They were opportunists. (Not that I have anything against that, I just wanted to highlight the difference between the reasons for each party’s actions).
I see some similarities to this example in the current startup market. It appears to me that there are service providers in the startup eco-system of all types that have applied a similar model to those who sold spades and shovels back in the mid 1800’s.
They see an opportunity to take advantage of the fact that entrepreneurship is now seen as a viable career path and that it’s also possible to monetise around founders and founding teams that are trying their hand at building a startup.
To me this is just plain wrong when you take into consideration what many startups are trying to do, make stuff better!
Keep in mind this isn’t the first time we have seen incubators, accelerators and the likes popping up all over the place. It’s happening again largely due to the ‘perceived opportunity’ in the market.
Put simply, money talks.
Is this to say that everyone in the startup scene is evil and wants to take money from people who don’t have it? Again, of course not but I’m making this point to highlight the fact that a portion of service providers have entered this very market because it’s a ‘hot market’ and not because they desire to drive value at national and global scale.
In my eyes this is reality and that’s okay as long as we acknowledge it. I’d dare to say every industry has many similarities.
The more pressing question surrounds what you, as a startup founder or member of the startup eco-system can do to truly leverage this as there’s an abundance of opportunity and plenty of people doing things for the right reasons.
Well, this is a hard answer to generalise because of the disparate nature of startups. Two are rarely the same or have the same experiences but I’m going to give it a shot.
Startup teams, especially in the early days typically have limited resources, often have limited contacts and typically have even fewer customers, if any.
At this stage this is okay. You are searching for a business model that you believe will become repeatable and scalable.
The problem is you won’t be around for too long if this doesn’t change. You need to find what you’re looking for and begin executing that model.
My belief is that you can in fact leverage various different resources and service providers within the startup eco-system to help you find your business model faster. But in order to do this you need to figure out whether the resource owner is handing out spades and shovels for a fee (the opportunist), or whether they are there for a similar reason to you.
It’s about judgement and aligned objectives.
I think there are many examples of this and Y Combinator is often mentioned for this very reason. They provide teams a true foundation to build their company, they genuinely care about startups and they produce results!
They have a similar why to their founders. This of course isn’t the only example, it’s just the most publicised one.
The thing is, people connect based on common values and beliefs. Common values and beliefs create trust and trust enables you to build truly fruitful partnerships, or at least gives you the best opportunity to do so.
You need great relationships to make it through.
It’s easy to get caught up in the hype, the big exits, the newest and hottest incubator, the events and everything else that encompasses ‘startup BS’.
I’ve been in that boat. I’ve been caught up in the BS more times that I can remember but I’ve been fortunate in that I have the opportunity to go at it again, take what I’ve learned and apply it.
I feel that leveraging the BS is very possible and realistic for founders to attain. But not only that, I also believe it provides vast opportunity for us to increase our odds of survival.
From what I’ve learned, observed and been told, building a great company requires you to make tough decisions daily. These decisions will drive your direction and ultimately affect your success.
Apply the same level of care to your decision making when judging the resources within the startup eco-system and whether or not they are right for you. Remember, it’s about judgement and alignment.
If you get this right, not only will you sift through a bunch of BS that will slow you down and damage you, but you’ll also create great relationships, achieve your goals faster and increase your odds of survival and ultimately success.