If you’ve ever done any traveling, you know that it’s one of the best forms of education around. Author Henry Miller said it best when he famously wrote, “One’s destination is never a place, but rather a new way of looking at things.”
As the co-founder of a worldwide startup ecosystem competition, I’ve had the fortune of visiting and helping develop entrepreneurial communities in over 50 countries and five regions across the globe. In the process, I’ve learned that, despite even the most striking cultural differences, there are certain truths about entrepreneurship that apply to individuals everywhere.
No matter where you are in the world, here are a few things to remember if you’re thinking about starting up a business:
Good people with good ideas are everywhere
It’s easy to think that all of the best ideas come out of major tech hubs like Silicon Valley, but let me assure you: there are good people with good ideas everywhere.
With access to the internet and other technologies expanding to every corner of the globe, entrepreneurs from anywhere have easy access to the knowledge and talent they need to turn their ideas into successful businesses. Even more, by working together, intercultural teams can gain a better understanding of how to develop a product that is attractive globally.
Thus, you should never let your location deter you from starting a business. Take inspiration from the many success stories from all over the world, and leverage the technology at your disposal to make your dream of building a business come true.
Funding is never the biggest stumbling block for success
Funding is always a major concern for entrepreneurs. However, it’s an even greater concern for those outside of established tech hubs. To put it in perspective, the global venture capital market reached a record high level of investment of $155 billion in 2017 – with more than half of that total invested in businesses from the United States.
Surely, the U.S. (and Silicon Valley in particular) has a major advantage. Nevertheless, there’s money available for entrepreneurs everywhere, and those with a really good idea can find it.
When I am asked about finding investors, I always explain that the first step is to show not only that you have a great product, but also the market validation that people will actually pay to use it. If you do this right and make sure people are talking about you and your company, you might find that investors will actually seek you out.
As an entrepreneur, your biggest issue should never be funding your business, but rather the uncertainty, craziness and bureaucracy that come with running your business. Once you’re in the growth phase and have money coming in, the key motivator to keep you going is a lot of persistence, along with an amazing team both beside and above you.
Learn how to fail smart
At some point along your entrepreneurial journey, you’ll come across some major obstacles. There’s a high likelihood you’ll even fail, but it’s important to embrace failure, because there is a way to fail smart: you don’t have to sacrifice everything.
An old colleague of mine perfectly embodies this idea. After leaving Prezi to launch a company called BrickFlow, his team was on track to be the next big thing coming out of Budapest – until they failed.
However, the team stayed together and started Lab.Coop, an entrepreneur-owned tech venture builder, which led to the creation of the successful GreenFox Academy coding school, Smartware.Tech accelerator and digital product studio, Booom.
The lesson? Keep a diversified portfolio, and always iterate. In other words, don’t put all of your eggs in one basket. It’s like A/B testing in product development: you test, decide, learn, iterate and repeat. Also, there’s no harm in taking things a bit slower in order to enjoy the entrepreneurial journey.
Cultural differences in a good structure produce the best work
Cultural diversity is a powerful force in any business, ultimately making things more interesting and even producing the best work.
By nature, individuals with different backgrounds have different strengths. So, it’s a good idea to seek out and fill your team with international partners who have developed different skills and solve problems in different ways.
It’s important to keep in mind that, in order to make intercultural teams work in a remote setting, there needs to be the right structure in place. As a starting point, weekly calls and negotiations work nicely, in addition to in-person meetings once every quarter or so if employees live abroad.
Ultimately, though, the most important thing is the alignment of expectations. With a team that spans borders and cultures, you need to know that you can reach your people anywhere, anytime. Equally as important, everyone should have very clear responsibilities and operate in a transparent fashion to achieve the synergy required to succeed as an organization.
Not every good idea should scale globally
The truth is: not every idea needs to or should scale globally.
A childhood friend of mine, for example, grew up to build an artisan workshop called Phestom Watch Works, in which he produces unique, handmade wristwatches. He sells his masterpieces online and at exclusive fairs, doing everything from actually making the watches to managing social media and taking the product photos.
His goal is to keep his business small. In doing so, he’s not only living his dream with a good quality of life, but also creating job opportunities for other small, local companies like his own.
At the end of the day, this is proof that you don’t need to go international to be happy or successful. There are plenty of successful businesses that aren’t the next Uber or Airbnb, and that’s perfectly fine. As such, you should never hesitate to take advantage of the opportunities you have at your fingertips in your local community.
Starting a business can be a daunting endeavor, but it’s always worth it. Even in the case that your business ultimately fails, you can continue to move forward and achieve the success and happiness you desire through another project. The important thing is to get inspired and act. Because no matter who you are (or where you are) you were born to be an entrepreneur.