When it comes to working with startups and helping shape a bright future with successful ones, there are four key things you must commit to in order to realize their potential and your place within the ecosystem. Listed below are four ways I believe today’s startup leaders can pay-it-forward to the next round of tech standouts and become the help that they wish you had more of on your rise.
1.Drink the Kool-Aid
When it comes to startups, I’m a true believer. I started my career at WhippleHill, an EdTech SaaS startup that was acquired by Blackbaud, worked in successive executive growth roles at Dyn, exited to Oracle in late 2016, ran strategy for Oracle Cloud, and have been an active angel investor and advisor for the bulk of my career – literally, from the time I could afford to begin investing, I began investing in the startup community, with capital and sweat equity.
Before you can be an effective coach for the next generation of leaders, you need to be all-in on the idea that startups offer a phenomenal path for anyone with grit and ambition. But there’s no sugar-coating how hard building a successful startup can be. 90% of startups fail (though many of the brightest startup stars have experienced failure before arriving at success in a later venture). The best way to help steward future entrepreneurs is to believe in your bones that tech startups can truly change the world.
2. Support – and enable – your local tech ecosystem
Showing support for startups goes well beyond the help your wallet can provide for founders. The best tech ecosystems build from good to great from strong roots nurtured over time. Silicon Valley has grown to be the center of the tech world because of a half-century of investment in ideas, people, and the infrastructure (both private and public) that it takes to support the continued momentum of invention. Success breeds success, but creating a nurturing environment with advisors and resources is critical to building a sustained startup scene.
In Manchester, NH – part of the greater Boston tech ecosystem – we’ve worked to build such institutions via everything under the roof of the NH Tech Alliance and other localized 501c3’s and venture efforts. But it’s also important to give your time and ear. Respond to emails. Take 30-minute meetings with budding entrepreneurs as a point of commitment and pride. The next generation of leaders is truly in our hands and they are looking to you as the top of the mountain. Be self-aware enough to know that this symbolism matters and your accessibility is important.
3. Be the change you believe In
Mentorship is one of the least talked about resources for any successful startup leader. Failure is a great teacher, but who wouldn’t want an experienced voice to help them guide around missteps that may be hiding in plain sight? Advising from the school of hard knocks, an operators lens, makes all the difference.
One of the most effective ways I’ve found to provide guidance to other founders is by acting as an advisor to startups, both formally and informally. I’ve literally now self-funded and created a fast-growth, new school, vertically integrated investment firm purpose-built to do this full time. We’ve got an army collaborating on how to help startups get a taste of the highs we’ve experienced on our journey. Let’s get after it. Expert council is critical to inexperienced leaders and helping steer a company to fruitful waters is one of the most rewarding things any entrepreneur can do.
4. Live the startup lifestyle
I also believe adamantly about living the startup lifestyle – actively investing and starting other companies as a long-game action of entrepreneurship. I’ve long invested in startups, have a strong portfolio of active ones, and have had several positive exits, even a game-changing IPO in Fastly.
My brothers and I started YORK Athletics MFG. a third-generation D2C performance footwear brand, several years ago and it’s kept my instincts on growth and brand-building well-honed. Amongst a myriad of other ventures, my startup muscles are stressed and strained and strong giving me great perspective across an emerging portfolio of brands. Keeping close to businesses that are fighting the good fight is critical to your own startup flame burning so you can continue to lend your time and resources to others.
At York IE, we’re committed to reshaping the way startups are built, scaled, and monetized. With every fiber of our being, our blood, sweat, capital, resources, even some tears, we’re ‘all-in’ with our startups in helping steward them to a bright and prosperous future! Connect with us today!