An Entrepreneurs’ Vision — the Big Idea
Startup Pitchiccato #2
I have as an entrepreneur been fortunate to work with a lot of exciting and skilled people around the globe, that has allowed me to develop and understand the mentalities in business and innovation around Europe, Asia and the Americas, as well as parts of Africa.
In Europe I have the feeling that we have for a long time got stuck in perfecting the Product, this needs to be in full harmony to have the trust and support of stakeholders (the Doctor of Technology’s voice); while the pendulum might hit the other extreme in the United States where the Marketing takes such a strong voice (the MBA’s voice perhaps). And in both camps you will find the people with the “logos” mindset, scrutinizing the Financials to the last cent, to get a nod. In various Asian cultures, the communication is more subtle than what you experience in both Europe and the US, but perhaps they also look more into the purpose and the grand view of your enterprise.
From my experience, I have the view on that pitching big ideas gain more traction in the US than in Europe. It does not remove the need for putting in the hard work and many hours to succeed, but there seems to be more flexibility and more interest put into these aspects. But I do think we are changing in Europe too, from celebrating startups coming with some improvements to those who are actually disrupting. We need more of this. And we need spend time defining that big idea, look at both America and China for instance. Don’t think it is nonsensical, it is actually highly important. And you do not need to be the product expert, coming from the outside, having an idea that relates to a missing user experience or the improvement to come with a much better user experience. Addressing this issues, I am convinced of that you can build a better startup with a bigger impact. The buy-in by potential investors, customers and employees should actually also be stronger. I am not in love with my Product, but with my Business. It means that the product will need to be improved, modified and altered various times, as the user experience and other requirements tells you so. This way I think you get closer to success, for however you define this.
At the same time there are so many of these “startup schools”, trying to breed, incubate and accelerate “innovation”. I have quite ambivalent thoughts about this, on one hand I am not a big fan of trying to mold startups to the similar shape where the “winners” are selected in pitch events. But on the other hand, these gather talent and expertise, from whom you can learn. For profound knowledge you have to look outside. I have taken part in these too, to understand the concept and be part of it, but foremost to sharpen my own companies core.
Right now I am scaling up a startup company. The scaleup is so critical and so important. When and how we get through this, will show that we are truly innovative. For me, innovation only really matters if that has scale, the impact. To build a successful startup you need a team, you need to have complimentary skills. And of course you need customers, users.
We are firewomen and firemen — going through fire, solving the most difficult challenges and building unique knowledge. Who can compete against that — you get a hardcore team that has created a DNA and culture that instinctively knows how to turn challenges to opportunities, to learn and win. A successful company is forged in the heat, in the flames. Some go under and turn to ash, but with the right team, mentality and goals, you will come out with scars but extremely resilient and tough.
This does not have the meaning that we steer right into every fire, they do occur due to the activities and events on the scale-up road map. However you need to be agile. For instance, we do change organizational structure and teams depending on where and how we need to put in the maximum efforts for the highest efficiency. Like a chameleon shifting colors, we adapt our organization. But everyone needs to be ready to step in and support on a variety of activities. In a startup the information flow and communication are key. There should be sufficient transparency, in small teams the ripple effects from your actions affect most of the others. We need to function as a hyper-efficient team, embrace the purpose and put our best efforts in achieving our big goals.
What I hope to achieve, is that I can cultivate my entrepreneurial skills and continue with life-long learning which can be useful in helping and assisting my children, if they would choose to build their own companies. I do not want to dictate what they should do, neither do I think that they necessarily need to inherit a business from me. Rather I want that they build something based on their vision and ideas, as they are the ones shaping the future next. I will gladly help them and be part of their journey. Ultimately you have to love what you are doing, because there will always be rainy days and you have to endure those too.
I have a sense that this is not my last venture, I still think that I will do a mobility company in the future (see my series on the Future of Mobility — both articles and podcast), and I am also thinking about sustainable food. There is still time for me to do that later…