Why Entrepreneurs Need Other Passionate Entrepreneurs in Their Ecosystem
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If you’re familiar with the once popular American reality series, The Real World, let me tell you: the concept was made very real for 16 founders from around the world, including myself, who were picked to live together in a house in San Francisco, California for two weeks. We represented all areas of the globe including India, Lebanon, China, Germany, Canada, Mexico, UK, and Romania.
What found to be common across the globe is that as entrepreneurs, we often think the world is on our shoulders and that we have to do it all. Thankfully, an organization called Blackbox.vc, who partners with Google for Entrepreneurs, set out with The Real World model in mind, showed us we DID have a support system out there, if we were willing to work hard and curate it.
Blackbox.vc hand-selected 16 founders whose companies represented different countries all over the world. My company had the pleasure of representing the US. The BlackBox 16 Cohort founders represented company products that ranged from food service software, ICOs, 3D printing, video translation, shipping services, robotics, furniture, underwear and a social network for horse riders.
The BlackBox philosophy is that successful global businesses need to reach outside of their own ecosystem for support if they want to reach a wider audience and truly make an impact, and I wholeheartedly concur. Spending two weeks in San Francisco in the program allowed for us all to gain information, spend time with mentors, and dissect our businesses.
While living with 15 other passionate entrepreneurs was one of the craziest experiences I’ve ever had, it was also the biggest gifts of my career. For creative brains (such as my own), this was both a blessing and a curse. I was SO thirsty for this exacttype of knowledge and accessibility that it was like drinking from a fire hydrant, and I couldn’t get enough. Our mentors, including Silicon Valley Icons such as Mike Maples, Bill Joos, Dave Hornik, and Gene Teare, were exactly who I needed to work with to set my company’s future on the right path.
What I Learned
While it was difficult to narrow it down, I wanted to share a few major takeawaysI learned from this experience that I feel all entrepreneurs can benefit from:
Step Away from the Norm
When considering the development or launch of a new product, consider asking those who are TOTALLY different than you how they feel about it, and REALLY listen. Getting a range of outside perspectiveswill help your marketing strategy exponentially.
Your Comfort Zone is a Danger Zone
Step out of your comfort zone every single time the opportunity presents itself. Period.
Entrepreneurs Understand Each Other
Entrepreneurs need support to not only survive, but thrive. No one understands the ups and downs, the struggles and success, the joys and the pain points, better than other entrepreneurs. Surround yourself with ones who genuinely care about what you’re doing, and be that support system to others.
Find Busy People to Help You
Multitasking founder power is tremendous and I’m glad there is an accelerator out there focused solely on supporting the entrepreneur. Growing companies need a solid foundation and it starts there. Find your dedicated tribe and stick together.
Get Creative Together
Of course, one of my favorite takeaways was the awesome brainstorming and synergy time we all got together. Bonus: we all loved wine! When founders enjoy a glass of wine(or five), what do they talk about? Work, ideas and building a better whatever’s around them. We took things apart, put them back together in unexpected ways, talked about crypto currency, played instruments poorly, played ‘Never Have I Ever’ successfully, andby the end, could all recite the pitch of every participant. WOW! (Watching men explain my underwear company as “sexy and comfortable” warmed my heart. At least they were paying attention. I feel the most understood I have in years).
The real gift of the whole experienceis that we focused on us as entrepreneurs. Being one can be very isolating: You’re putting every spare minute you have back into your company, which can be difficult for non-entrepreneurs to understand.
With your company as well, everyone comes to you for everything, but who do you go to? I honored to say I now have a support system of 15 other people who, like me, are all in. They know what it’s like to give everything personally, professionally, and spiritually to an idea and how to turn that into a company.
When you’re an entrepreneur, people give you advice all the time. Most of it is not worth much, but getting different points of view from people who understand what your business means to you (and have entrepreneur brains) was one of the best things that’s ever happened to me.