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GeekWire StartUp Day: “Entrepreneurship is where passion and creativity meet science and value”

With Bellevue’s continuous efforts to support startups and entrepreneurs, Eastside set an optimistic scene to the annual GeekWire StartUp Day. Peter, Katie and I heard honest lessons from Seattle’s leading entrepreneurs, and we are excited to bring them back to thinkspace.

Liz Pearce: “Build a family that will sit in the cold bath water with you.”

CEO of LiquidPlanner set the tone for an aspect that was shining through every presentation of the day. It was made crystal-clear by each of the entrepreneurs on stage that day: who you hire, and how you build your team, are the most important decisions you will make. Errors in operations and strategy can be fixed; you can bootstrap and emerge from failures; and you always have 101 opportunities to turn to when your back is against the wall.

Only if you have the right team on board.

Nick Huzar, CEO and co-founder of OfferUp, explained that “the only thing you should obsess about is finding ‘Just The Right People’” and he put an emphasis on searching for “Swiss Army Knives” of skills and knowledge to infect them with your will, passion, and motivation. Even venture capitalists and angel investors confirm: “People invest in other people. It’s a bet on the team that is starting in front of you, believing in their ability to execute” says Greg Gottesman, VC and co-founder of Pioneer Square Labs. “For early stage pitches, you’re betting on the person, almost irrelevant of what they’re pitching”.

Heather Redman: “We will rock over the next decade.”

GeekWire StartUp Day made it obvious that the future of Seattle’s entrepreneurs will be exciting. “I’m very ambitious about Seattle” said Heather Redman, angel investor and VP of Business Operations for Indix. “If you look around the metrics that surround Seattle, we have more engineers than anybody else. We have a huge dominance in cloud, good footprint in health tech, virtual reality, and many other areas. If you look at the 20 top most admired brands in the world, 5 of them are headquartered in Seattle. That’s a lot of entrepreneurial DNA”.

With the events and inspiration of that day still buzzing in me, I’m infected with optimism about the future of Seattle’s tech scene and filled with gratitude for being a part of the startup community. Where will you and your startup be when Seattle takes over the tech industry?

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Startups: Stop Comparing Your “Behind the Scenes” to Someone Else’s “Highlight Reel”

liz-pearce-geekwire-startup-day-2016For the last five months I have been struggling with my own insecurity and asking other entrepreneurs if they ever get caught up with comparing their company with their competition. Then, last Friday, I attended Geekwire Startup Day and heard Liz Pearce, CEO of Liquid Planner, talk about FOMO (the fear of missing out). “Comparison is the root of all unhappiness,” she said. “Instead, look at your business, your market, what a successful outcome looks like for your business and your investors”. While I feel like I’m alone, it turns out I’m not alone by having these kinds of thoughts.

Stop Comparing Your “Behind the Scenes” to Someone Else’s Highlight Reel

exhausted-man-300x200Everyday, the media writes up story after story about entrepreneurs who are being touted as the World’s Best Boss, Fastest Growing Company, CEO of the Year, Entrepreneur of the Year, the next startup unicorn, etc. Then there’s social media and Facebook which just pounds us with all the curated and carefully constructed posts of everyone’s perfect life. Our media keeps portraying all of this as success. The true reality is everyone has rough patches. You only hear about it when you’re having one of those bottom 5% types of conversations with true friends, where you are completely vulnerable, and aren’t being judged.

Run Your Own Race

I remember a few years ago I was telling a friend and business coach that there are a lot of sacrifices or things that I’m willing to delay or postpone but the one thing that I will not is being present as my young children grow up. I didn’t grow up that way. I love my parents and I recognize that they made sacrifices so that my brother, sister, and I would have a better opportunities for a better life. I’m thankful for that. Yet I also know that I don’t want my children to have the dad that didn’t show up for their music concert, soccer match, or school play. Because this is my immovable rock, doesn’t mean I’m not trying my hardest to grow and scale my company. This doesn’t mean I’m just creating a life style company either. It means that I have to figure out ways to get things done without compromising what’s most important to me.

Make the Competition Irrelevant

While going through the Entrepreneurial Masters Program at MIT, I recall reading this quote from the Blue Ocean Strategy by W. Chan Kim: “…focus on making the competition irrelevant by creating a leap in value for buyers and your company”. I need to get back to using all my energy to create an incredible product and let others worry about the competition. The best thing to do is create goals based on outcomes you want to achieve and not based on what your competition is doing. When you are clear about what your own definition of success is, you can’t be beaten.

I would love it if you could share other things that you’ve done to help you steer away from comparing your company to the competition.