Supporting, mentoring, sharing risks and funding your peers’ projects creates a ‘rising tide’ or ‘a positive-sum game’ to help carry the entrepreneurial community into 2017 – that’s the message emanating from co-working spaces and entrepreneurial networks. So, is it now essential to share more than office space or networking drinks with fellow founders, especially as the market deals with the events of 2016? These convincing insights will make you want to play your part.
Society is divided, so collaborate
Gabriela Hersham, founder of the London co-working space for innovative start-ups, Huckletree, tells it straight: “Without open, collaborative and encouraging ecosystems, the entrepreneurial success rate would plummet. Every single stage of the entrepreneurial journey is a huge challenge, not least fundraising – and yet with the right community of innovators and influencers around you everything becomes more tangible and achievable.
“2016 has shown us that society is more divided than ever. In the tech community it’s very easy to get wrapped up in euphoria around the latest funding rounds, enormous salaries for junior engineers and successful exits, and these are all incredibly exciting things. But with the election of Donald Trump and the British public’s decision to leave the EU, it has become clear that we all need to be mindful of the radical polarisation that is occurring, and the part we play in it.”
“We cannot be blind to it. If we collaborate and spend time empathising with those who are different to us, the probability of being able to build a healthy, sustainable and productive world is much greater.”
This founder is fully committed to the call for entrepreneurs to share responsibility for each other’s success, saying collaborations happen between Huckletree members every day. And there’s demand for three programmes – mentors, ambassadors, and weekly VC office hours – from members seeking support.
“These three programmes have become the very cornerstone of what we're building – helping our entrepreneurs to break past the hurdles between them and success,” says Hersham.
Give advice, be a role model
Sharing your story with the world at large is important, so that future entrepreneurs have role models and tips to draw on. Which is exactly why Lu Li, the founder of the Blooming Founders network for early stage female entrepreneurs, has published an anthology of advice. The project was about creating more female role models in entrepreneurship, said Li.
“Collaboration, for me, is about understanding the needs and goals of each collaboration partner to create win-win situations. It suggests creativity and innovation, but also knowing that success is not a zero-sum game. A rising tide lifts all ships – this is exactly what happens when entrepreneurs work together and share responsibility for each other’s success.
“My book Dear Female Founder is a product that was co-created with 66 female entrepreneurs and investors, who have each contributed a letter of advice written to the next generation of entrepreneurs.”
Collaborate expecting dissatisfaction
John Arenas, CEO and founder of Serendipity Labs co-working space, reminds us that shared responsibility leads to endless listening and a measure of discomfort.
“Collaboration fosters the open exchange of ideas and shared responsibility for achieving a goal. In business that takes the right kind of culture, setting and workplaces. Collaboration requires listening. That often leads us to reconsider our own positions toward a compromise. I've found that collaboration provides the most powerful result when everyone involved has compromised enough to be just a little bit dissatisfied.”
Pooling data and funding
Taking the question of responsibility to another level is the doctor-created repository of health expertise, Health Tap. Its founder and CEO Ron Gutman says: “Collaboration and compromise are important in business because they help us bring people and data together, which creates the foundation for interoperability that underlies more engaging, smarter, next generation products and services advancing human welfare.”
And in conclusion, the success of so many entrepreneurs is due to their community agrees Ryan D. Matzner, co-founder of Fueled, the Manhattan start-up collective. Nothing drives innovation more than teams of people who feel at ease taking risks, challenging each other, and finding common ground, he says.
“From investors to mentors to customers, a huge part of success depends on the ecosystem around innovators. One of the key components is on the funding side. A very high percentage of angel investors are themselves entrepreneurs who have enjoyed success and are reinvesting some of the capital they earned in an exit. The more one entrepreneur succeeds, the more the community succeeds. It's completely a positive-sum game.”
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