How to Turn Entrepreneurship into Changemaking

It’s time to change a startup mindset — only creating a global impact and focusing on urgent issues instead of mere selling can hit the jackpot.

Developing startup communities and a startup ecosystem is a topical subject for Belarus, as they are growing at a steady pace. We are open to the opinions and best practices of the other countries where such networks evolve and always happy to meet the people engaged.

Simona Simulyte has built a startup ecosystem, founded the international ChangeMakers’ON community covering 42 countries worldwide, and is passionate about mentoring tech startups. Besides preparing teams for pitch competitions, she knows how to cheer them up and motivate for common goals.

Emerline has talked to Simona and found out how to remain competitive in the growing startup market, why grandma’s advice and experts’ criticism are the best triggers, and whether it makes sense to divide startupers into males and females.

Startup ecosystem to make a global impact

What does ‘building the ecosystem’ mean? My focus is to bring together entrepreneurs, experts, innovators, investors, inventors, makers, sociologists, startups, and communities that want to create a better world. While cooperating and mingling all these people together, we gain many scalable solutions.

It works in a simple way, like a club, but there is no fee to belong. The startup ecosystem is community-built and community-oriented. As an initiator and coordinator of the ecosystem, I am focused on bringing more value to the community.

Hallmarks of real startup ecosystems

Atmosphere and energy in

Sizes of ecosystems vary; in case hackathons are organized for about 2,000 people, it becomes wholesale. Massive participation causes the feeling of inner factory; it is harder to reach cozy environment and identify tailor-made solutions.

Birth of new businesses

Thousands of startups are pitching, and they are commonly seen in different events and with different topics. That is more about networking which brings you nowhere than about real results. Sustainability of the ecosystem isn’t evaluated by spending a great time during the event, collecting lots of business cards, or having many syncs in LinkedIn. Sustainability is functioning natural, and you do not need to push up. That is the magic of the ecosystem.

Problem-solving instead of self-selling

A widespread situation in the communities that сall themselves ecosystems’ is when newcomers come to convince how great and inspired they are. The truth is that everyone is selling and nobody is buying. The startup ecosystem should bring more those who don’t expect to sell themselves, but want to improve the world with their solutions. If we resonate such topics, it would be a win-win help.

Every link in the ecosystem chain is an imperative

One of the key success factors is the presence of all stakeholders. For instance, if you want to transform the educational system, entrepreneurship is not enough. Ministries or governmental representatives who can push the systematic change should also be involved.

Startup-investor relations

‘Listen to you heart’ could be a top rule for investors

One startup has an amazing prototype and many proofs that it will work. But a potential investor doesn’t feel the connection and inner trust.

Another case is when the idea is simple, still the investor sees a very strong skim behind and honest people who attract at first sight.

Speaking about early-stage ventures and angel investors, the ‘like/dislike’ factor definitely takes place among others. Investors fully understand that if they give their money, they can either lose or earn. It’s better to lose with the team they are delighted with. Plus, investment is not only about money. Angel investors tend to put much personal effort, share connections, give advice, guide, or coordinate — depending on what a startup really needs.

We should not forget about a field of interest when it comes to investors’ preferences.  They can believe in the energy sector only or look for B2B solutions that would compete with SAP. Sometimes investors need to listen to 2000 or more pitches to select the one.

From my experience, there are millions of coincidences in life, but if startups do nothing, lucky chances will never help.

Startup competition is a driver of killer ideas

Do you know how it is told in Silicon Valley? If you haven’t pitched two thousand times, you haven’t pitched at all. I’m happy to see there are more and more startups coming with more and more ideas being born.

It doesn’t mean every startup should be financed — the entire world is in competition, not the startup market only. Only the best businesses win. End-investors are getting more educated and experienced, they already know how easy it is to lose money, and have their own lists of rules. End-startups try to make awareness in response and foster the entrepreneurial ecosystem.

‘Even your granny can suggest a fine concept’

I see one urgent problem — many startups build a product but forget to analyze the market. If you did your research two months ago, you need to repeat it today as new products regularly appear.

One of the most important skills on the way to product success is readiness to accept feedback. It is the biggest treasure in your hands. Do not go to confrontation, just accept the suggestions, and build your winning strategy driven by others’ opinions.

Also, I advise you, and all investors would say the same, to talk to friends, relatives, or neighbors, travel around the world, tell strangers what you are working on, and consider how they react. A ‘there is no truth in the world’ attitude bears no relation to reality. Want to become a tech startup unicorn? Look at what others do, collect all feedback, talk to people, and try a new way.

Is startup mentoring a must?

Even the greatest psychologists need psychologists. The same is with startup mentoring. Even if you are an experienced mentor, it’s difficult to mentor yourself. You will never ask all questions needed, because you think you have already found the best solution. A powerful elevator pitch, good value proposition, and financial literacy are key things to mentor.

It’s hard to give universal advice, as motivational sessions depend on the team, their demands, and gaps. In general, I always remind startups that every ‘no’ is an opportunity. If someone tells you that you do something wrong, it is a chance for you to change that opinion. 

When IT startupers complain and tell me how bad their current state is, I always show they are in the very best situation. In psychology, there is the ‘no syndrome’ or ‘but syndrome’ term. Use ‘and’ instead of ‘but’ when it comes to the obstacles on your way, and you will start to offer the right solution for yourself.

Find you team — it’s the biggest challenge

A real team makes a startup successful. This is not about coworkers who call themselves a team only when they see short-term prospects. It’s difficult to find people who will witness ups and downs with you, but if you’ve managed to gather the real deals, do you best to keep this team.

As for female or male communities, we don’t have men or women in a business world. The overall tendency is that women in tech are growing, starting from freelance and moving to entrepreneurship. Anyway, I believe in mixed teams and mixed companies. The more equality we have, the better results we achieve. Mixed teams being together and thinking about outcomes lead to a great success.

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