Out of nothing grew a startup crazy.  Startups are nothing new, in fact every company since the beginning of time was a startup.  They grew and prospered because they did things right, made fewer mistakes and were able to ride the wave of opportunity.  At the same time there have been many who failed and will go down as hard lesson learned.  So why the present craze?

First of all governments see an obligation to create jobs without having to be the only source for employment.  For each job created there are a multitude of others who become the beneficiary of this.  Whether it be a merchant, our families, the community or government all will benefit.  We also benefit by becoming a productive part of the world community.  For the community, healthy commerce means that the quality of life can be improved upon.  Parks, schools, transportation and infrastructure are all advanced through the contribution of commerce.  Its for these very reasons that governments and communities are investing in the development of the startup up enterprise.  Unlike in the past where you were left to your demise, today we seek opportunities to avoid failures.

Let’s start out by establishing a few definitions.  A startup is an enterprise comprised of one or more people who have an idea for a role to play in commerce sector.  It doesn’t always have to be about ICT (Information Communication and Technology) although many regions have this as a pivotal service.  There are also companies with great ideas that rely upon ICT enablement in order to achieve their operating mission.  If I was asked what should the focus be, I would say both.  I believe that putting all of your eggs in one basket does not provide sufficient flexibility to address ever changing market conditions.  At the same time singular focus creates a market saturation that places competitive stress on other upstart enterprises (in an unhealthy manner).  The value of diversity increases the economics of scale by utilizing common discipline guidance across a broader audience base.  A incubator is a environment in which a startup can operate.  Normally associated with a facility/location, an incubator is accompanied by a shared space for learning and development.  For some the concept of an incubator can be met with a bit of reluctance, fearing that a concept or idea might be exploited by others.  Proper protection is always in order but this still allows for a general concept to be discussed without the fine details being disclosed.

When one considers becoming a part of the startup community you will be motivated by several reasons.

  • Education – Gaining crucial knowledge in areas of the unknown.  It isn’t enough to expect that you know even what you are missing and therefore your first steps become a general awareness about the overall startup landscape.
  • Visibility – Finding and establishing ways to be seen.  In most cases this is limited to local or regional market but seldom reaches beyond borders.  Exceptions like MaGIC Malaysia’s Accelerator Program which has reached out to foreign investors, advisors and successful incubator communities as are found in Silicon Valley, CA  USA.
  • Funding – Startups are poor, thinly funded with very steep needs for revenue flow to sustain formation and advancement.  Whether it be funding, alternative collaborative sharing, partnering, investing or seed capitalization the startup community attempts to fill a much needed void by providing a one stop shopping source for funders.
  • Infrastructure – For many startups their only resources are an idea, a computer and a cell phone.  The lack of physical space and a consistent location creates barriers.  This is the most expensive element found in the support of startups.  It takes community and governmental backing in order to provide this necessary element.  Failure to do so creates protracted time to implement.
  • Mentoring – It isn’t just about training if one cannot apply it to their situation.  All startups need objective and constructive examination of where they are at, what needs to be done, and what can be expected beyond the initial introductory period.  A key mistake is using what we might refer to as those ‘one hit wonders’, those individuals that have had ‘some’ success but lack in diversity of repetitive successes and experience.  At the same time its also a bit of a hazard to rely upon those with loads of experience but may lack in thinking beyond a single model.  So who is the mentor?  First and foremost is compassion and caring, startups are particularly frail and therefore need constructive neutering.  Secondly the mentor must be objective.  Just because the concept isn’t for you doesn’t mean that it fails in market potential.  Finally, and again these are ‘my’ opinions, the mentor must be creative.  Should a region aspire to create a startup community they might not find these elements all in one person but may require a broader composition of collective mentors in order to achieve balance.

Most recently I was involved in a startup competition comprised of both ICT and ICT enabled enterprises.  The two lessons that I shared are instrumental in knowing why you are there and what you are trying to achieve.

  1. Who is your pitch for?  Are you pitching to potential customers (meaning you are market ready), investors (meaning you are ready to go but you need fuel for your enterprise engine) or collaborators (you are ready but you need some help to introduce a broader market potential).  If you aren’t ready or you don’t know who you are addressing you need to step back and get your affairs in order.
  2. The best ideas will die if you don’t have a plan or a means to convert market thinking.  Maybe the timing isn’t right, or that your zeal for your concept is so great that you expect everyone else to jump on board.  Often they weigh superficially benefit and risk, you need to do likewise.

In conclusion, startups are in vogue at the moment.  My fear however is that with many man conceived initiatives that the luster will wear off and the forward progress will die.  To keep the dream alive the startup enterprises must prove their efforts, use these to justify the framework commitment and to recommit to the further development of positive measures to produce success and reduce failure risk.