I'm somewhere close to 500 days into the world of startups. Over this time, I have forced myself to be a sponge, and I am blessed to have patience in learning.
Before I dive in and share a little about what I've learned, I must tell you that I am a complete minimalist and have been since leaving Denver in 2013. This might help you to better understand where I'm coming from. My apartment is somewhere close to 200 square feet. All of my wardrobe could fit into 2 suitcases. I don't have an oven. I don't own a motor vehicle. I don't own a television. I don't own a video gaming console. My apartment offers no comfortable area to sit.
I believe that being a minimalist allows me to put in more effort than most people, when it comes to productivity and creativity. I have eliminated distractions. Procrastination is no longer in my personal action vocabulary.
Here is a portion of what I've managed to learn (and retain), in no particular order of relevance.
Startups Need Self-Starters.
I have now been witness to this truth in multiple cities, throughout multiple countries. In any early stages of building a product or service, your team needs to embrace the chaos. The startup world is merciless, so there is little time to hold someone's hand and walk them through day-to-day tasks. Team members need to jump into the trenches on their own. If you're about to form a team and launch a startup, you'll save yourself from a headache and hundreds of hours of additional work, if everyone is clearly a self-starter. I've experienced this situation first-hand, in multiple projects. In every situation, the fat eventually had to be trimmed. Hours, effort, and resources were wasted, in order to learn this valuable lesson.
Understand Your Local Startup Ecosystem.
I'm in the heart of Iowa, with one of the top agricultural universities in my backyard. The resources for anything ag related are plentiful. It only makes sense that I continue pursuing ag tech startups here in Ames. You need to understand what resources are available to you locally, before you think bigger. Granted, a lot of resources are online, but momentum builds quickly when you're having in-person meetings and are capable of sharing your story and showing your passion, face to face. In getting to know your local startup ecosystem, I have not found anything better than how Ireland's startup resources are displayed, here. Crowdsourcing at its finest. Start mapping out your startup ecosystem, and find your local community builders.
Find That Exact Point of Where Your Passion Started, and Never Let Go.
I started paying attention and learning about the startup world in early to mid 2014. It was not until late 2014 that I became extremely motivated and passionate about startups and building something of value, to help people. What triggered this? I believe it was finding out that my dad had a heart attack. My parents are my heroes. They are my biggest fans, and it's hard for me to see them as anyone other than superheroes. Seeing my dad have to adapt scared me. That was the moment I fully committed to my new adventure into the world of startups. I have not slowed down a single day since that moment. My passion continues to grow, as my projects progress.
Sacrifice is a NECESSITY.
Over the past year, I have sacrificed a lot. I have lost friends. I have not been able to enjoy local music shows. I have barely watched baseball. I cancelled Netflix. I'm no longer a morning person or night owl; I am awake when work must be done. Sleep is a reward. I have gone out for drinks, 3 times, over the past 3 months--Not including my most recent trip to Ireland, of course.
Have I made the right choice in giving up on these fun experiences and friendships? I don't know, but I have no regrets. I wake up most mornings, prepared to sacrifice in the name of progress. Only time will tell if I've sacrificed the correct amount.
You Do Not Need Experts To Move Forward.
When KinoSol started, we had the idea for a product that could be engineered to dehydrate produce. None of us are food scientists or engineers. We received feedback from experts in engineering and food science. We considered their opinions but used our naiveness to our advantage. According to an engineering expert, also a highly regarded Iowa State professor, we should have waited until we had a fully functioning, "efficient" model prototype. I live in the age of Minimal Viable Products and "Ugly prototypes." To anyone waiting for the perfect moment or your best prototype, you are wasting valuable time. Save more time by ignoring the experts, creating whatever you can, and getting to work.
Be Willing to Miss More Than You Hit.
I have poker and boxing to thank for this. Poker taught me to not be results oriented, to understand proper sample sizes, and to accept downswings. Have you ever had a career that, at the end of any given day, would CHARGE YOU an hourly? I have. Most people cannot mentally accept a negative hourly. I did at times, over 3 and half years. I'm now 3 years into boxing. I've sparred somewhere around 300 rounds between Denver, Dublin, and Ames. I have missed far more punches than I've landed. I've made an embarrassment of myself to many sparring partners and coaches. But I've continued to learn with every misstep. My sample size in the startup world, at least for attempts, is continuing to grow. I'm putting in the time, and I fully embrace the moments I miss, because it puts me one step further with progress. Get started, and do not look at the results or number of punches landed. You're ahead of those who have never played a hand or thrown a punch.
Put Your Effort Where Your Mouth Is.
Through careful observations, I have noticed that those who speak less, do more. If you're networking, great; speak all you can and pitch your best pitch. If you're progressing an idea, project, or startup forward, simply go to work. There is so much grunt work and shit work to do. Rewards are waiting for those who trudge through the most mundane of tasks.
Part 2 coming at a later date...
-Blog # 50-
STARTUPS - TRAVEL - EXPERIENCES