The other week I flew halfway across the world from Sweden to attend the Startup Grind Global Conference in Silicon Valley. If you're unfamiliar with Startup Grind and are in fact in the startup world yourself, it might be time to crawl out from under your rock. Startup Grind is a global entrepreneurial community powered by Google for Entrepreneurs. Startup Grind was founded in 2010 by Derek Andersen in Silicon Valley and has over 200 chapters around the world. The goal of this passionate community is to foster relationships between entrepreneurs, angel investors, incubators, venture capitalist, startup hubs, you name it. As their motto goes "inspire, educate and connect".
As an individual who is active in the startup community in Sweden, I couldn't help but make my way over to this event. I knew Startup Grind had a global reputation, but it didn't hit me just how good it must have been until I realized I was one of 3,000 + attendees from across the globe. My local chapter in Gothenburg, Sweden has made top 20%, averaging between 85-100 people per event. To see thousands of people gathered in one place for the same community for just a couple days was really something else.
During these two days, I learned so much from some of the most successful people in the startup world today. There were five things that really stuck with me that I hope all entrepreneurs took to heart:
1.Focus on one venture at a time: It's not uncommon to see entrepreneurs juggle several ideas at once to see what will pan out, but it seems the key to success in many cases is to focus all your attention towards one idea. While it may be tempting to play with different options, the ideas that tend to grow into profitable businesses, potentially even unicorns, stem from entrepreneurs who gave 110% to that idea. If you don't have your heart and mind completely dedicated to your business, it may be hard to get momentum going.
2.Your investors are not your friends: Your investors are happy as long as the cash is rolling in. "They want to give you a dollar and get fifty back. You are a tool, you are a means to an end" says Guy Kawaski. Sure they will pep talk you, tell you how much they like you and believe in you, but at the end of the day if those sales aren't coming through that "friendship" may quickly deteriorate. No matter how much they like you as an individual, what they really care about is the success of your company and how much money can be made.
3.Think global: The majority of successful companies rely heavily on the internet for success. Selina Tobaccowala, President and CTO of Survey Money stated "Seven out of ten of the top internet companies are US-Based, but 86% of their users are international. There are 2.8 billion internet users and only 10% of them are based in the US." If this doesn't persuade you to have a global mindset and strategy, I am not sure what will. It's okay to start off local, but having an idea that has the potential to succeed on a global scale will put you in line with the big guns.
4.Time spent pitching to investors is precious: When you are pitching to potential investors, don't waste their time or yours by telling them things that aren't relevant. Trying to impress them by outlining your personal accomplishments is only doing you harm if it has nothing to do with your business. Sometimes a story is a nice way to kick off a pitch but chances are the investors have done their homework and know more about you than you think.
5.Hire people who complement you: Guy Kawasaki put a strong emphasis on diversity when it comes to putting a team together. Hiring people who are similar to you won't do you any favors. You need people with different skills and mindsets to run a successful business. "You have two jobs, you have to make it and you have to sell it. If you've only got makers, you're not going to sell anything. If you've got a bunch of MBA's, you've got nothing to make" says Kawasaki.
Between the great speakers, even better advice, positive energy and amazing people, this was truly an invaluable expiernece. I look forward to seeing the impact Startup Grind has on the entrepreneurial community for years to come.