by Samir Rath, FinTech Entrepreneur, Angel Investor. IE Brown alum class of 2013. Co- author of No Startup Hipsters: Build Scalable Technology Companies.
The survival statistic of one out of ten technology startups making it has always bothered me. And this number gets much worse outside of established hubs like the United States, Canada and Israel. What this translates to for me, is that a lot of talented professionals spend the better part of three to five years living on minimum wages and sacrificing their personal lives but finishing up with only huge lost opportunities. My co-author  arrived at the situation from a different history but similar motivations. After working in technology transfer for almost a decade, supporting commercialization efforts of inventors and smaller technology companies of Bulgaria, she was confounded by the low rates of success achieved. She tried quite hard to figure out the contributing factors and see patterns, but failure seemed inevitable regardless of innovativeness, size and resources of the firms or tenacity of the inventors.
For the last three years we have been working on this problem through mentoring more than 50 startups from over 20 countries, both developed and emerging. The business models have spanned everything from cutting edge technology to provision of basic amenities. We found something broken in the formal ecosystem for innovation. A very linear process is being advocated to most entrepreneurs from the startup ecosystem – “Pick the right team; quickly cobble together a “minimum viable product”; use customer feedback to improve or drop the product and shift to something else”. Addressing a cohort of startups at accelerator Y Combinator, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg said “You’ve decided you want to start a company, but you don’t know what you’re passionate about yet.”
Instead of this ego driven “I have a great idea approach”, we feel the first step should be to properly understand the dimensions of the problem that we are passionate about and are trying to solve. During my IE Brown MBA program , together with learning about state of the art learning management strategies, we learnt a lot about capitalism and the true role of the entrepreneur in the society. An entrepreneur goes out to build a startup, works really hard on it every day, obsesses incessantly about the problem and probably makes almost nothing at the end of it all. But millions of people around the world will use his product or service to solve a real naggy problem and the world will be a slightly better place at the end of it all. This is the beauty of capitalism and the entrepreneur’s drive of creative destruction. He progressively raises the living standards of the masses and makes the world a better place to be.
Based on this approach of solving real problems, we have created a curated path of decision frameworks in our recent book “No Startup Hipsters: Build Scalable Technology Companies” to help entrepreneurs find their own way bound by their constraints and enriched by their own context. It is not an easy feel-good read, but at the end of it, the reader will be provoked by very fundamental questions that will make the journey more impactful. We have made it available exclusively at La Tienda (IE Bookstore) from August as a physical copy. Otherwise it is available on Amazon . So, if something constantly bothers you, keeps you awake and you can’t help but think about it in the shower, while playing football, paragliding or chilling on the beach, go do something about it. The world might be a slightly better place for the sacrifices you are about to make and maybe it will give you back some. Best of Luck!