I started my first startup in 1998 in California (There was no “startup ecosystem industry” back then.), I was invited to present our business plan and answer questions from a board room table full of 15 angel investors…
We’ve turned being an entrepreneur into a bad reality TV contest (let’s be honest, how many good reality TV shows are there?) and its not helping create better founders or companies.
The Shark-Tank-ification of entrepreneurship is an ego driven PR machine that does nothing for real long term founder or company development.
We have become an industry that’s become masters of event, party, panel and pitch competition hosting. One in which we glorify and lionize money raising and free PR over founder or revenue development. WE CAN DO BETTER!
Everything on the websites of our global “startup” programs, tells us is that they’re here to help educate founders that will change the world. But when you go through a program or watch what gets promoted or posted—you learn that it’s all about “pitches” “competitions”, PowerPoint decks, yellow sticky note methodologies, prizes, winners, losers and promotional PR for the program itself… WE CAN DO BETTER!
I started my first startup in 1998 in California (There was no “startup ecosystem industry” back then). I was invited to present our business plan and answer questions from a board room table full of 15 angel investors (seated, at the table, with my laptop, and asked round robin questions for 2 hrs).
In what felt much more like a “job interview” rather than any sort of “fast pitch” competition. After weeks of long conversations, not only did we land a multi-million USD investment. We developed many lasting relationships with the people involved.
A few weeks ago I sent this tweet;
When reposted, this drew universal likes and comments from (2) groups of people: 1. Founders (no surprise) and 2. Entrepreneurship program leaders and investors. That told me two important things immediately:
- Founders are feeling under-served or ill prepared for the real work of building a business. (HEY, startup program people… These are YOUR CUSTOMERS telling you that the industry, which you lead, is FAILING THEM. maybe its time to listen to your customer?)
- Secondly, many of you industry leaders are fatigued by the current model or the “Way it’s always been” and even you realize that WE CAN DO BETTER. maybe it’s time.
Not all are terrible
All indicators are that we are rapidly passing from the birth stage of this “industry” toward another. Most of our industries methods are rooted in 40 year old models. Most of our entrepreneurship industry programs are primarily staffed by young MBAs.
Or government workers, who themselves have little to no experience as entrepreneurs. Or worse yet, have not even worked for a startup or high growth company or PYME. This is how we are “teaching entrepreneurs and students how to be entrepreneurs.” WE CAN DO BETTER!
In conclusion. Not all programs are terrible. At best, our best programs have room to be disrupted and rebuilt to better serve our founders and at worst, our worst programs should be replaced, completely re-staffed or shut down.
- I offer no universal solutions
- I write this editorial as a call to action to spur thought as we plan our 2019 agendas and budgets. As a sort of, “someone had to say it”
- I am no expert… but I do live within this industry and uniquely hear it from all levels of participation and leadership, and all the data is telling us we’re broken
- There are programs doing truly innovative things… who are taking completely fresh approaches and we can all learn from them…
It’s time our innovation and entrepreneurship industry start disrupting ourselves by acting more like the startup leaders we educate and less like the governments we have become addicted to.
WE CAN DO BETTER… WE ARE THE INDUSTRY LEADERS… let’s disrupt ourselves!