One of my favorite things to do over Christmas and New Years is to look back on the challenges and opportunities from the past year and contemplate the incoming year. This year was no different, and I had a whole week of skiing, time with my family, and a company wide holiday (and therefore an effortless inbox zero) to contemplate. This year I took my learnings and elevated them to the macro level, which I thought I'd share.
As Techstars grows, we get a clearer view of the overall global entrepreneurial ecosystem. We are bullish on entrepreneurial growth and see it as the new way of growing business, innovation, and economies. My prediction: more growth of entrepreneurship worldwide, and more startups (and major startup successes) in 2019.
For startup founders looking for a big win in 2019, or founders looking to get their company off the ground, here are my tips for success in the new year.
Nurture Your Network
With growth comes opportunity. Just this past year, we saw the incredible successes of a few longtime Techstars companies. Not only did SendGrid become the first accelerator company to go public, but then Twilio later acquired them for $2 billion. PillPack sold to Amazon in a nearly $1 billion purchase, and Rover and ClassPass became household names.
One of the biggest takeaways from these success stories (every one of them a member of our worldwide network) is how crucial a strong network is for a startup to grow and reach new peaks. Every one of these companies nurtured their network, creating strong relationships with mentors and offering help to other entrepreneurs who needed it--and they are prime examples of how powerful the Techstars value of "Give First," helping others whenever possible without expecting anything in return, can be when put into action.
If there was one piece of advice I'd give to all startup founders, it would be to nurture your network in 2019. The connections you've made need attention, and there is always room to continue expanding the network you have currently. Who knows--one of these connections could be knocking on your door with an acquisition deal in 2019...
Building a company is a long game, where you have to build on your wins over time, and relationships are crucial at every stage. Opportunities arise when founders stay connected with each other, engage with corporate partners, and Give First.
Local Ecosystem Focus
Many startup founders feel like they should relocate to another city that might have more opportunities for startups in general, or in a specific field like healthcare. But I believe startups can flourish and succeed just about anywhere, and in the new year startup founders should put an emphasis on their local communities. Building a strong ecosystem of like-minded entrepreneurial minds, and feeding off of each others successes, failures, networks, and energy will build a stronger and more robust community for future startup founders. If today your city isn't a "startup hub," you might be surprised on how fast one can grow when people band together and push the community to embrace the startup mindset and mission.
We see cities and countries with emerging growth opportunities and feel that there is strong "up and to the right" (hockey stick!) growth opportunities in startup communities, especially in Europe and Asia Pacific. In many countries we see governments and corporations partnering to focus on building entrepreneurial ecosystems. My piece of advice to startups in cities with a growing entrepreneurial ecosystem: get involved in local government and make connections to the large corporations that exist. They too want to get a taste of the fast-paced startup way of doing and can be advocates for growth in your community.
Resolutions for the Rest
And for the startups that already have a great network, and are located in a great startup ecosystem, here are a few additional resolutions for me, and ones I'd suggest to all entrepreneurs:
Look back and apply the lessons of past wins and losses to the future.
Be confident and clear in your focus for the year: How much will you grow? What will your bottom line look like? Communicate this simply and clearly and then be accountable to your goals.
Build in time to share your learnings and experiences. Give First!
Do at least one thing that is focused on the next next year (2020) versus the incoming year.
Use your failures. Learn and grow from them.
Hire fast and fire faster.
Know who is doing what, where and when.
Don't be afraid of failure: the only failure is in not trying.