As a startup founder, working with other startup founders on a day to day basis, I get a huge amount of exposure to the European startups scene. I probably met upwards of 1000 startup founders in the past year. After at least 20 years in corporate life as a salesman and then management consultant I am in a good position to see the benefits of startup life!
The founders have vision and passion – The best startup founders are on a mission. They have identified a problem or opportunity and will risk everything to ensure that they address it. They usually have immense positive energy and have the ability to motivate others to follow their vision.
Startups change the way we live – In most walks of life it is difficult to make a real, direct impact. Startups can bring radical change within relatively short timescales and with a small injection of capital. We only have to look at companies such as Facebook, Twitter, Uber, Airbnb and Instagram to see the diversity of change that is possible.
They shake up existing companies – Startups have little respect for the status quo. The taxis in San Francisco were awful; Uber gave a great alternative. The banks and other near-monopolies will be next. There are already startups nibbling away at the non-core activities of these monolithic businesses, providing customers with a better customer experience at a lower cost. It will not be long before startups will disrupt any business that does not provide exceptional service, and the really exciting thing is that they can turn to very nearly any market!
They are a creative learning process – Working on a startup is a constant learning experience. Small team sizes mean that everyone works on every aspect of the business. The environment is dynamic and subject to constant change as competitors emerge and market conditions change. Startup founders have to be highly creative, to imagine new solutions, unique business models and innovative processes.
They are a great environment to work in – Startups are a very different working environment to most enterprises. There is no time for politics or egos. The most important thing is getting the job done as effectively as possible. Startups are finely balanced and there is little room for hanger-oners. The pressure is invigorating, and no two days are the same. They also tend to make use of some of the excellent collaboration and time saving software that exists today – from Slack to Power BI data visualisation, Google Apps for business to Xero, there are programs that help startups (that in turn are now successful once-startups) save time and money where it matters.
Enterprises are increasingly finding it difficult to innovate in the face of competition from smaller more nimble competition. Startups represent an alternative way of organising resources which provides more fulfilment to founder teams and employees and deliver accelerated results. There is little doubt that life in a startup can be extremely tough and is not for everyone. However, for many of us there is nothing else that comes close.