In an age where terms such as Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Big Data, Lean, BlockChain and others are constantly being referred to, I feel compelled to think that these are little more than artificial clutches people use, many times without fully understanding them. This is a startup world which is increasingly becoming augmented but not fully real.
Not being the first addressing this challenge, I do believe that some entrepreneurs are now abandoning their tech bubble, leaving a fully virtual reality that had nothing to do with the world problems and moving towards a more accurate understanding of the planet and its workings. This said, they are still being targeted by countless snippets of information that shake the grounds of reality. Why is this so? Who perpetuates it?
There is a new economy around the startup world. A world packed with pseud specialists, inexperienced gurus, untrained coaches, throttle-less accelerators , anaemic incubators and untrained VCs. Be very careful when reaching out to any of these. This decision will probably be responsible for how well your startup will head into the future, and if 80% of startups die within 18 months and on the following 18 half of the survivors cease to exist, this means that even choosing well does not assure success. If you choose badly…
Because most of these coaches and specialists come from the tech bubble as well, they pass on information they feel is reliable and important, the same way teachers from top MBAs keep teaching the same strategies that led the market to collapse. General education and business coaching has to radically change.
The world is changing at an ever growing pace and taking us to face brand new challenges in rapid succession and for which past history will not always be a good advisor for. A good coach or specialist is one who knows this. These are the ones who almost seem to be learning from you given all the questions they present. These are the ones who are focusing on adapting their experience to the changes happening before our very eyes. These are the ones who have many years of hands-on experience and understand we need to constantly ask, listening and understanding being the most important, in order to adapt to the new ever changing and non-linear reality.
So, what should one have in mind when choosing them?
The accelerators: Nowadays there are many accelerators. Every city with over 10 people has an accelerator. Most of them take big chunks of equity in exchange of 2 square meters, a table, a chair, and a vague promise you will be coached (by some local “specialist” – see below) and have access to an incredible network of investors. After 3 months you go home poorly coached, with no investor interested and with a new venture partner; the accelerator who will keep the 10 or 15%. It is good business, but not for startups nor founders.
The specialists: People introducing themselves as specialists do so due to one simple fact; the market does not recognise them as such. What is a specialist? Someone who is highly professional at something? That is being a “professional”. Is it being better than the average? How many specialists can there be in the world? (revert to “accelerators”). Question the “specialist” about what he did in the past and results he achieved… and double check that.
The coaches: Be careful with these. One recent example I observed: An entrepreneur joined a program and a “superstar coach” walked in the room, introduced himself and, throughout 45min spoke about how to’s. How to build business models, how to do LeanStartup… and did not ask anything about what was done in the past, which results were achieved and which test were ran. Unfortunately this happens more often than not. The result is, an absolute waste of time for the entrepreneur while the “coach” is talking to himself.
The gurus: Even scarier than self-proclaimed “specialists” are the self-entitled gurus. This usually works within groups of interest. Every local market tends to have a couple of accelerators that have access to the best “specialists”, the strongest “network” and a handful of “gurus”. If a market does not have these 4, it will not be considered a start up market. With that in mind, marketing tends to create such figures. Always do a background check on the people who will be working and advising you.
The business angels: Business angels are the main catalyst in areas with small presence of VC funds, meaning, most of the world. Still, one needs to be ever watchful. Business angels tend to be expensive money. Be sure that he has more to bring to the table than just the money. A true business angel will support the development of your company and gives you access to his/her network.
An entrepreneur should not shy away from requiring support. External guidance is very important – because if not for anything else, it will look at data and challenges without the heart clouding its judgement. Embrace the help of those who can really help. Don’t accept support just because. Be clear regarding what kind of external input you require and be sure you are getting it from the best. Accepting the support of someone who is not good is highly damaging and life threatening.
Be as thorough choosing who you work with as the main VCs are in choosing who to invest in.