The Entrepreneur s Journey

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1 The Entrepreneur s Journey

2 The Entrepreneur s Journey Startup Weekend works with grassroots communities in over 324 cities around the world - and counting. Due to the broad reach of these events, it is inevitable that Startup Weekend has become one of the more established thought leaders in the global startup community. With this valuable perspective, we recognize a responsibility to convey meaningful and useful information for the benefit of others. Unsatisfied with any existing models that attempted to describe the lifecycle of entrepreneurs and the corresponding layers of infrastructure, we set out to create our own. The journey of the entrepreneur can be understood in a series of stages. These steps mark important phases of the startup trajectory. The Entrepreneur s Journey scale is powerful because, rather than capturing the journey from the perspective of the government, a VC, or incubator, we gave the lens back to the entrepreneur. As we began to utilize the Entrepreneur s Journey scale more and more as a tool, we realized the depth of its value and recognized that this tool should be shared with the public as a means for understanding the world of startups more accurately. What You Should Know First Each step of the entrepreneurial journey is intended to represent what most entrepreneurs identify in their personal biographies. These steps are not exclusive or required, but they do provide common, distinct stages that are likely to occur for most entrepreneurs. People can move up or down the scale, and the journey isn t a linear path to success, nor is it based on presumptions about how the journey will unfold. A person can spend a day, year, or their entire life at one step. The research behind understanding how much time spent on each step is underway. A person cannot exist in two steps at once. With clearly defined leaps from each step to the next, we can identify where in the model any one person is at a given point in time. Programs can exist on various steps. Most programs are built for a core audience, but as with any quality event, program, or resource, it will attract people from throughout the entire ecosystem. As a community or ecosystem, the penultimate goal is to help create more high growth companies. As we know, it is these new firms that push forward innovation in mass markets, create jobs, grow global economies, and ultimately lead to the advancement of human welfare more than any other force on earth. 2

3 The Scale - A Breakdown Stage 1: Inspire - I want to be an entrepreneur At this stage, the individual is undergoing an important realization that creating a company, working for themselves, or being an entrepreneur is something they are interested in doing. The programs that exist in the Inspire step are centered on encouraging people to think creatively, be critical and insightful about the world around them, and provide a foundation of basic skills. Ideally, more and more people will experience this first stage. Presently, we live in a world where fear is often a driving mentality that limits our potential. Subsequently, individuals are often prevented from recognizing entrepreneurship as a valid option altogether. Many of us operate under constraints that we allow other people and systems to place on us; if we haven t been explicitly told that we can do something, it tends to become an option that we don t visualize. Because of this, the option of working for oneself is a concept that is commonly overlooked as a life path. Within this step, available resources and programs include: University courses, TED, Ignite, etc 3

4 Stage 2: Discover - I want to learn This step captures the phase in which an individual begins to connect with like-minded entrepreneurs, mentors, or experts in the field of interest. Identifying with others who also challenge the traditional notions of success and acknowledge the potential hazards that lie ahead is often all that is needed for the entrepreneur to tackle the path that they hope to pursue. In nearly every society, individuals are conditioned by educational systems and cultural norms in particular to aspire to be doctors, lawyers, or work at the pre-existing big firms such as Microsoft, Deloitte, etc. The difference between knowing that entrepreneurship is an option and actually breaking free from the cultural barriers that encourage us to follow the paths of more security and less ambiguity is a significant one. Often times, the idea of taking the leap seems horrifying or is advised against, and it often appears to be a very lonely path with little direction or support. However, with a little perseverance, most aspiring entrepreneurs quickly find they are far from alone. Stage 3: Action - I am creating At this stage, entrepreneurs are learning how to share their ideas and attract support from other people. Individuals should be seeking the right co-founders and team members, learning how to evaluate the potential value of their idea, developing an understanding of the problem they are solving (and who they are solving it for), and discovering the tools and methodologies needed to help manage progress, etc. The key aspects of learning how to start a business are impossible to teach in a classroom. A foundation for creating successful ventures can only be realized one way -- through action. The action step is largely underdeveloped and perhaps one of the least understood, as most programs and models tend to assume any person with an idea can be considered a startup. In reality, there is an entire phase in which an aspiring entrepreneur needs to discover the more obvious and basic first steps. Within this step, available resources and programs include: Startup Weekend, Lean Startup Machine, Lean Launchpad, Founder s Institute. 4

5 Stage 4: Startups - I am looking for a sustainable business model At the startup stage, the entrepreneur has set out with the right team, a clear problem they are addressing, and a list of possible solutions. More specifically, startups exist to search for a repeatable and scalable business model. Founder s typically have a vision of a solution with a set of hypotheses about how to achieve that vision. The startup phase also requires a more accurate portrayal of the reality of this phase. Many envision a life of luxury, meetings with investors, and endless fun. In reality, the startup phase is likely to be one of the hardest times in an entrepreneur s journey. Ask anyone who s been through it; the startup phase is one of continual frustration, painstaking hours, endless debates, and a time fraught with failure. Within this step, available resources or programs include: Accelerators, Incubators, specific educational topics about running startups (LEAN, Customer Development, Agile, Scrum, Business Model Canvas, etc) Stage 5: Action - I am looking for a sustainable business model At this point, a startup has found a scalable and sustainable business model. With plenty of customer validation, established or at least validated revenue streams, startups now face a lot of growth challenges and a demand for additional resources. New issues arise such as rapid hiring/firing, establishment of formal processes & protocols, more direct competition, and frequent founder replacement. A false paradigm is that most teams at this phase also raise some sort of institutional investment. In fact, one good indicator examines a list of the Inc 500 companies (the fastest growing companies in America), which show that only 17% took any sort of institutional (Angel, VC) investment. The programs that exist at this step tend to support many of the larger challenges mentioned above. Many VC firms have excellent networks and support programs, management training, more targeted mentor matching, and overall systems development. Within this step, available resources or programs include: Endeavor, Astia, VC groups 5

6 Stage 6: High Growth - Fortune 500 Typically, most entrepreneurs never started by envisioning a billion dollar company, but along their journey, they were able to have the vision to solve their original problem, scale the resulting solution, and have the persistence to build a team and turn it into a stable company with few limits to its growth opportunities. As a society, the single greatest driver to advancement, innovation, and economic growth relies on these companies to flourish and one day clear a path for the next generation. There are few programs at this level, and we have included it in our model to help remind everyone of the general end goal for most entrepreneurs and the other programs downstream. Within this step, available resources or programs include: networks or platforms for continued growth such as EO, NASDAQ, NYSE, Inc., etc. 6

7 The Value Of The Scale Understanding this path from the standpoint of the entrepreneur has proven to be useful in a number of ways. This scale quickly became a tool for mapping local startup ecosystems and existing programs, determining where Startup Weekend was positioned in the startup process, helping entrepreneurs envision their current place and future steps, and a way to locate the resources needed to continue climbing the scale. Since it s inception, the model has been used around the globe to help facilitate conversations between entrepreneurs, various startup program leaders, and economic development offices. This model has helped to develop and solidify our most fundamental hypothesis as an organization: Startup Weekend can increase the volume and quality of entrepreneurs and expedite the rate at which they advance from step to step. Inevitably, this leads to the creation of more startups, high growth companies, and associated results such as jobs and economic growth and vitality. As we are constantly developing our own concepts about entrepreneurship, it is important that we stress the incomplete nature of this model. With the understanding that the world of startups is changing every day, we know that nothing is finite - and this is part of what makes entrepreneurship exciting. A complete, definitive model does not yet exist at this point, and we do not claim to have built a perfect one, either. We do believe that this model is useful and powerful in portraying reality - and that although each entrepreneur has a different story, their paths can be paralleled in certain ways. Entrepreneurship demands our attention now more than ever, and we hope that this scale will prove to be a successful tool in navigating the often chaotic world of startups and helping entrepreneurs to be more effective and efficient. We believe that in providing a clear model, entrepreneurs will be able to visualize their actions, which, in the world of startups, can be the most difficult aspect of developing an idea. 7

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