Over the past few weeks I have gotten sucked back into the startup ecosystem world just a bit. I have had quite a few phone calls and slack exchanges on the nature of startup ecosystems, and the challenges of building and maintaining them. The conundrum we are collectively facing is that while we all believe that innovation and startup ecosystems are important for our economy, we have not yet collectively found out a way to finance them in any meaningful way.
Part of this challenge is that proving that value is being created is challenging and elusive. In aggregate we can see it and feel it, but the measuring of it is hard.
Part of this is the nature of how lots of energy goes in but does not all come out equally. Help 20 companies and one gets the big win. This is the nature of the startup world — but taking all the energy in and not seeing that energy transformed in each and every instance does not sit right with everyone. It flies in the face of the ‘model’ of what leads to success.
Equally challenging is understand the nature of the work itself. I wrote a bit about it in ‘Small Gestures and Big Impacts.’ A little bit of effort from a lot of people creates the outcomes. Tracking every meeting and every intro and every bit of additional input is just impossible. One comment from one mentor, or an intro at the right time can change an outcome for a person or a company, and you can never know which conversation or introduction will lead to a great outcome. They are easy to see in hindsight but you never know in the present time when you are doing it which interaction will be the crucial one.
When I think about it, I am always thinking about how I can maximize the outcomes, and I go back to basics when it comes to figuring out the how.
When I do consulting, often what I do first with a company is try to help them optimize just a bit. The idea of compounding is something that is part of the way I am wired. When I first go into a company, my first task is to help identify that which can be improved. Rarely do you go in and see an obvious ‘big win’. Frequently what I see is a bunch of small wins that in aggregate add up.