Startups Change the World. Can We Learn from Them?

Startups are young technological companies which, due to their small size, budget constraints and limited human resources, are forced to “figure out” the ways to make do with what they have and at the same time build cutting-edge technologies that are often experimental in nature. There is a lot of risk and limitations involved in the process, and yet these companies succeed in driving change.

This is why I would like to share some thoughts about how they manage to change our world and bring progress despite (or thanks to) many constraints. This three-part series will focus on practical aspects of entrepreneurship as well as the innovation mindset.

The three parts will include:

  • Entrepreneurial mindset: Here, I’d like to discuss entrepreneurial approach to work and skills that are useful in anyone’s career development and growth, regardless of occupation.
  • Startup methodologies and tools. I’ll share a few approaches and methodologies to project management and product design that can help decide their priorities and work plans.
  • Ways to motivate small teams. I’ll dive into ways of working with small teams in order to challenge and motivate them, and eventually achieve engagement and productivity.

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PART 1: ENTREPRENEURIAL MINDSET

What is an entrepreneurial mindset of a startup founder and if it is different from a regular founder of a service or construction company? In order to answer this question, I’d like to shortly clarify what I understand by “startup”.

When I refer to a “startup” I am talking about an early-stage company that is striving to bring to the market new technology and a new business model, with a high level of uncertainty regarding the venture’s success. The venture needs to be scalable, i.e. it has potential for creating a big, profitable business regionally or globally. In order to achieve that, it needs substantial funding, which most naturally comes from the VC world.

In this sense, a startup entrepreneur is of course an entrepreneur in every sense of the world, trying to create a viable business for themselves. But on top of that, they are trying to figure out whether their solution is actually possible to build, whether they will ever be able to raise money in order to build it and how will they be able to scale globally.

Entrepreneurial Mindset

A startup founder has a very small chance of making it since statistically about 98% of all startups fail. The fact that he or she will probably struggle to make it and is almost doomed to failure requires them to be accepting of such potential fate. Many people do not take the plunge if they know that the risk of failing is high. But I find that many startup founders are very resilient and incredibly optimistic. They truly believe that the success is possible against all the odds, and they understand that they may fail as well. Yet, they continue doing what they do and continue their entrepreneurial journey, accepting the risk of failure.

Optimism and resilience are important, but so is the decisiveness. Jeff Bezos is known as an exceptional founder and businessperson who understands and promotes the idea of decisiveness and swift decision making as crucial for the health of an organization. The so-called “bias for action” is one of Amazon’s 14 principles of leadership. “Speed matters in business. Many decisions and actions are reversible and do not need extensive study. We value calculated risk-taking.”

Startup Skillset

Another important aspect of being a successful startup founder is to understand that the entrepreneur’s job (and anyone’s job, really) is the combination of sales and problem-solving. Basically, everything boils down to these two crucial skills that every person can and should develop in order to do well in their professional journey.

Related to that is the understanding that every entrepreneur needs to embrace change and flexibility. This is where the importance of a “pivot” comes into play. In the startup world, even if one manages to find and validate a real problem, followed by offering a viable solution, many changes may still be inevitable during their entrepreneurial journey. The idea of a “pivot” or a change in a company development course is very common and takes place in every venture. When the change happens, we do not always know whether we have taken the right path and yet we need to continue to lead a company with this uncertainty.  Most of us do not respond well to uncertainty and change, yet when we manage to stay on track and embrace the change, many great things have a chance of happening.

“Typical Israeli Founder”

Israeli startup ecosystem around the world is known for its bold approach to creating seemingly impossible technologies and solving complex tech problems. This is possible because Israeli founders like challenges and accept the idea of trying to solve something that may not be solvable at all. Many experts think that this is in part thanks to the Israeli army service in the technological army units, where young soldiers are exposed to problems they are supposed to try and solve, but nobody is able to determine whether they are in fact able to solve them. And if they do not manage to find the solution, a briefing takes place in their army unit to analyze the process and draw conclusions for the next time. No punishment or shaming takes place, which makes “failing” feel like a natural process in creating bold solutions.

Apart from taking the responsibility and accepting the challenge, Israeli founders are known for their “chutzpah” – the ability to find a way to get to the person, situation or company they are looking for, regardless of how hard it could be. This means that Israeli founders do not take no for an answer. They are very persistent in their ability to achieve their plan. In some ways, it seems to be arrogant or impolite. Nevertheless, it often does the trick, and this is what persistent founders are looking for.

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In my next post, I will be exploring practical methods and tools coming from the startup world that can help all of us be more productive at work and successfully manage projects of all sorts. These will include both strategic “general” concepts and practical tools that you can use tomorrow for product or project management.

About the Author
Monika Rozalska-Lilo has co-created and until recently served as the CEO of CREATORS, an innovation lab based in Tel Aviv that supports organizations in developing and improving innovation practices. Monika’s expertise includes corporate innovation, startup ecosystems, ideation methodologies and building & facilitating innovation programs. Before CREATORS, Monika served as Deputy Director of TheHive by Gvahim, a startup accelerator program for international teams in Israel.
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