We've all heard we're the average of our five closest friends...I'll spare the sermon and instead share a story.
But first the hookah bar--what in god's name is this post about?
In a word, Saigon.
But if you aren't in the online expat, bootstrapped startup world you're probably scratching your head. What exactly does Ho Chi Minh City, the capital of Vietnam have to do with startups, business or even crowdfunding?
Makes sense, it's a logical starting point...both for this conversation and a bootstrapped entrepreneur. Saigon for those of you who don't know is the Mecca of the Dynamite Circle, or DC, an elite online group of expat entrepreneurs building location independent businesses(led by Dan Andrews of Tropical MBA).
Here startups thrive on low living costs, dependable internet and a cafe culture to rival that of Paris. That's why last two months I've been living and working among expats--I'm trying build a business.
Good Morning Vietnam
This isn't some happy-go-lucky tourism pitch to put Saigon on your travel plans however--honestly it's awful for tourists.
The reason Saigon's stellar for startups, the reason I've brought this up at all: the people, the environment--it's electric.
And I promised story, so here it is.
The Helpful Hookah Bar
Last night there was a casual get-together. A couple of us expats met up a place called Beirut, a North African hookah bar in the heart of Saigon. This simple meeting, meant for meeting friends and new faces transformed my business.
The experience was so incredible, so unexpected that it needed an overly informal, completely improptu Inc article to share.
A Background Story
For quite some time I've run Art of the Kickstart, podcasted and consulted on crowdfunding and helped entrepreneurs launch incredible businesses. Through it I've aspired to create and innovate myself, make something amazing.
That's what I've been working towards: my own product. I, just like 1000s of inventors and entrepreneurs out there am seeking success with crowdfunding. I'll launch, crowdfund and grow a business from there...
Two Brains Are Better Than One
At least that's what I thought--til last night in the Hookah bar that is.
And I was all set. I was prototyping my sustainable bamboo standing desk, had the completely collapsible designs finalized to seamlessly switch it into laptop case and was eager to test the tides with Kickstarter.
But something magical happens when you get around incredible people. See those folks I met(for the first time I might add) gave me something I'd never expected, never could have hoped...decades of experience. They constructively crucified my plans and offered up better ideas.
Suddenly possibilities I'd never considered seemed completely plausible--necessary even.
Why wait til Kickstarter to start selling? Why not pitch retailers RIGHT NOW?
I was read the riot act of entrepreneurship, me, a guy who coaches people on Kickstarter for a living.
And this got me thinking, how are we so oblivious to our business flaws, our own shortcomings? It seems crazy yet from everything I've seen and experienced since surrounding myself with winners, doers and entrepreneurs...I cannot think of a single strategy or tactic more effective--just get around awesome people.
My Massive Pivot
An hour in a small, smoky shisha joint in Saigon, it did more than months of prep, research and learning ever could on my own.
Suddenly worlds opened--my B2C business model selling minimalist, lifestyle oriented standing desks seemed unambitious...why stop there? Whitelabeling for sustainable startups, retail sales without inventory, strategies for jaw dropping exposure and even industry specific ideas for successful follow-up products...my mind was blown.
I left an unexpected meetup with a phone full of to-dos, a mind exhausted from constructive criticisms, more excitement and insight than I'd every thought possible and several awesome new, extremely accomplished friends...
And that was just a random Thursday night.
So there, that's my story in its entirety. And while the final chapters are really a mere prologue of places I'm now planning to take my business, it was an experience unlike any other--it's something I hope happens to you in your startup.
My morale of the story, what it means for me--get around higher level individuals and entrepreneurs--set your sights on and surround yourself with greatness. From where I'm sitting it seems like opportunities are endless at the table of awesome.