" GO OUT AND MEET STAKEHOLDERS CLOSE TO THE PROBLEM AND LISTEN, LISTEN, LISTEN UNTIL YOU GENUINELY UNDERSTAND WHAT YOU NEED TO SOLVE".- ERIK MALTAIS, CEO, IMMERTEC
Innovation is born when the probability of success is extraordinarily low but your passion and drive to solve the problem is so great, you’re willing to endure uncertainty and discomfort to push through and find a solution. If you want to innovate, you can’t give up too early. The advice I often share with early-stage startup founders is to commit to the problem entirely. Once you do that, start listening.
Go out and meet stakeholders close to the problem and listen, listen, listen until you genuinely understand what you need to solve. Let everyone know what you’ve set out to accomplish, no matter how close you are to solving it. If you focus on money, a byproduct of success, you won’t push through to truly innovate a solution to the problem you’re solving.
I think it is essential for startup founders to support and grow their local community. You have an insatiable demand to connect with other humans and, most importantly, the people in your community. This culture is growing in Tampa Bay. With organizations like Tampa Bay Wave, Bunker Labs, and Embarc Collective helping early-stage founders build successful ventures, it creates a community where founders are hungry to grow Tampa’s economic footprint. I think we’ll begin to see this take place in similar growing startup hubs.
I think in the next 10-20 years, capital markets will start to regularly invest in areas they wouldn’t have otherwise traveled to as virtual meetings become the new normal. It will be more critical than ever for startup founders to focus on building companies in regions advantageous to their business model versus building in or nearby capital markets. If founders focus on their region’s specialization or potential, they can immediately start to solve problems that hit close to home. In turn, the community will rally around them, facilitate introductions and help get buy-in from established regional partners who can help you push the needle. Leveraging a region’s strengths positions startups to work with stakeholders who also care to solve the problem.
So rather than proximity to capital markets being most important to a startup’s success, the focus will turn back on the founders and founding team’s ambition and focus. Have they positioned their startup in a region that can best support their growth? Are they really focused on solving the problem? The success of any startup will be more dependent on the founders’ will to continue pushing for innovation and their ability to curve failure when presented with challenges. In the end, they will continue to push, no matter what it takes, to find the right path to win.