Startup Sanity (and Love)

The following post was first posted on Metavallon’s (a Greek startup accelerator) site. Their discipline and drive helping young entrepreneurs is awesome; working with them and their team is a delight and constant source of inspiration.

ledapost (2)Being an entrepreneur and a startup-er is very similar to your house burning down. Only that you don’t own a house and you have no water to put the fire out.

But let’s not get pessimistic.

As an entrepreneur, you tread on the lonely path of Don Quixote – you are free from convention, regular hours, routines, the addiction of a regular paycheck, ties and suits, and “corpo-speak” among other horrible little and bigger nuances. Is the freedom worth it? And can you take it and if you can take it, how long can you endure being fed by the 3 F’s (friends, fools and family)…

It all boils down to 2 things: passion and resilience. You ignore the world, and you march to your own tune with your conviction and your sheer determination to change the world. And unless you are absolutely sure that you can take a beating – or two or much more than that – then don’t.

You sure cannot teach passion. You either have it or you don’t. But can you learn to be more resilient and take that beating bouncing right back up?

This is a case where one does not fit all. We each have our ways and wisdom. But food for thought is the most delicious dish ever served so here’s my angle on the hardships of life as a startup-er:

  1. Know what you are promising and to whom. Pleasing people is always part of the life games we play. Being clear on what exactly it is you are delivering (and to whom) is a biggie.
  2. Have plans A & B ahead of time. While destiny, “kismet” or fate is widely accepted – don’t take comfort into that. Take action, be in control.
  3. See the humor in spite of the toughness and the difficulty – look for the other side of things – around the box, inside out or whatever as long as you don’t let yourself stay in the cage.
  4. Connect with people who can help – after all sharing is part of the human experience and decreases the feeling of isolation.
  5. Trust your people. And make sure you do have those very select few who have stood by you and pushed you to go forward raising the bar for you to get even better.
  6. Dare to abandon “unattainable goals” – after all there’s a fine line between quitting and being smart. If you can’t see the bigger mission and the end-goal, start with smaller ones. Little goals are better than no goals at all.
  7. Know how much money you want to make. Yes, have a figure – a number in your head -not an abstract idea of a vague pot that will offer you happiness on a platter.
  8. Never, ever be afraid to fail. The greatest lessons come from failures – so give yourself permission to flunk – that will teach you how to get up and move on.

But you already know what you have to do. You would not be reading this post if you didn’t…

Never Shy Of Opportunity

opportunity

“…I would argue that our challenge and opportunity to add (and gain) value is to turn a subject boring by nature into sexy. I would also argue that we should never shy of a chance to try to do it…” P.K.

I woke up to this today. A response to an email thread – back and forth between a group of people – a team in the true sense of the word – who happen to share the same degree of crazy passions, anxieties, aspirations, challenges to make it in a world that is peculiarly and brilliantly rich of riddles, bets, risks and calculated moves.

The debate was about a potential client presentation but it’s really irrelevant. Maybe it’s me – my passionate, why hesitate sort of mentality that tends to be daring. But, I got the surge, the jolt, the energy.

I am lucky. I love my work and for me work is nothing but the people I work with – the commonalities, the disagreements, the way we navigate and dance with the problems, the solutions, the hardships and the great defining aha moments where we discover the sweetness of success. We are each moved differently – our triggers are idiosyncratic to our personalities yet inspiration is unarguably one of the key motivators for high performance.

So, that’s all it took – a heartfelt email from a passionate guy at 2.47 am (!) to a bunch of his team mates. And, if that’s not leadership, then I don’t know what is…

 

P.S. and don’t forget to check out Aephoria.  Got quite a remarkable team:-)

 

Startups For All Ages

Why is it that startups are supposed to be just for the young?

Yes, the “F” in Generation F doesn’t stand for probably what you think it does. It stands for fixing the world, going further, creating the future. But, aren’t dreams for everyone?

As a mentor and coach to many brilliant, passionate younger men and women, I know fully well the potential, the hopes, the heartache and the pain that goes along on the bumpy ride to starting a startup. And, I also know from coaching older, more mature folks, that the challenges are similar within the context of everyone’s personal life stories.

Everything as we once knew it has changed. The livable kind of work where meaning, significance, and that passion that brings our hearts to what we all do defies barriers and walls. And, it often has nothing to do with age.

Index of New Entrepreneurs by Age

Index of New Entrepreneurs by Age

In  2010, entrepreneurs aged 35 to 54 were responsible for over 50 percent of total new entrepreneurship activity in the U.S, according to the Kauffman Index of Entrepreneurial Activity. Individuals aged 55 to 64 also made their mark, representing 22.9 percent of new entrepreneurs in 2010, compared to 14.5 percent in 1996.

So, why is it that the word “youth” tends to be almost synonymous to entrepreneurship – to the point of blunt exclusionary misconceptions?

And then there is the ‘ageism” issue especially in tech. Having spent so much time in San Francisco – I kind of sneer at articles such as this in New Republic, on Silicon Valley’s brutal age discrimination. Token smarter ones or token grown ups?

Interestingly, for the emerging entrepreneurial ecosystem in Greece, according to the 2013 Endeavor Greece survey results imply that the common Silicon Valley entrepreneurial stereotype is not the dominant or the most successful one in Greece. “..Next to the attractive model of the 22-year old entrepreneur, that starts his/her career in a garage in Silicon Valley a new profile arises: that of the more seasoned individual, with solid work experience, international exposure during or after studies, an already developed personal network and motivation that lies in an identified business opportunity, rather than in the lack of any career alternatives…”

Sometimes life (and experience) is all about perspective – invaluable assets of years of failures (big and small), battles, wins, arguments, relationships that make everyone richer, wiser, smarter. Maybe the Greeks are on to something:-)

 

Athens Startup Weekend

The Athens Startup Weekend is on again and I can’t wait. 54 hours of crazy, creative, inspirational tension that fuels new business ideas for those who don’t want to follow in anyone else’s footsteps.

pregnantstartupWhile politicians, oligarchs, dictators and invading armies are losing the moral and benevolent battle, young aspiring entrepreneurs are fighting for their ideas.  Exactly the sort of injection our global Greek village soul desires. Oblivious to the global Waterloo, these guys are focusing on what will move their lives forward. It’s young, hip, exciting, inspiring and shows that not everything stands still at the mercy of others.

Startup Weekends are all about learning through the act of creating.  Don’t just listen to theory, build your own strategy and test it as you go. Weekend-long, hands-on experiences where entrepreneurs and aspiring entrepreneurs can find out if startup ideas are viable. ATHstartup

Sometimes a nudge from some friendly allies is all you need. A bunch of business people are involved in taking time off their weekends to give their honest opinions, advice, criticism. Barriers are off. Nobody cares who you are in there – we are all equal – we all try our best – nobody is getting paid for their time and effort. It’s brilliant, energizing, productive and useful – and it’s the new face of hope.

Ah.. and a personal confession: I am a sap when it comes to being bold enough to go build your dreams. At the same time, I am a realist deep into the business of alignments and partnerships – and without such collaborations efforts such as these would be impossible. Volunteer mentors, advisers, judges, sponsor companies and organizations offering all kinds of stuff from hard cash to programs, services and in-kind support…They don’t have to – but they believe in the face of hope, the startup community.

So, what are you waiting for? Come register, put your fears and inhibitions away and maybe the dream of running your own (money making) company will come a bit closer.

Taxi Drivers Make The Best Boyfriends

Happy Valentine’s to those who still believe in Santa Claus!

And who better to deliver the Valentine’s message of the day than iconic Rory Sutherland, prompted and cajoled by non other than brilliant agent provocateur, behavioral economist and irrationality guru Dan Ariely.  Having taken his Beginner’s Guide to Irrational Behavior class, I am now officially graduated to intermediate “Irrationalist.” I was happily rolling with laughter – and we all have to laugh more often and more. So, here’s to the non-hesitant types who are crazily mischievous and curious about what Valentine’s, the commitment conundrum and taxi drivers are all about.

***This post is dedicated to my recently married son and his new bride. May every day be a Valentine’s for you.

 

 

 

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