Author: Alonso Corvera
Venturing out on the path of entrepreneurship is a totally rewarding and enriching experience. From the creation of the business idea to its implementation, entrepreneurs must overcome various obstacles with the aim of reducing the possibility of bankruptcy of the venture. All these adventures allow him to push his skills to the limit, becoming valuable learning for the future. Through this article, the author will share the most important lessons he gleaned from this successful experience called “starting a startup”.
Javier García and Enrique González, authors of La Burbuja Emprendedora (2017) claim that entrepreneuring is not just stablishing a company, but rather it is a lifestyle, an attitude towards learning, taking on challenges, wanting to add and contribute value, think and design new things, do them, start them and start again. In that sense, educational Edtech or educational technology ventures stand out with great notoriety, despite the hard times experienced today. Currently, the emergence of new technologies is changing the paradigm of traditional teaching and learning. Sabrina Seltzer, director of Innovación Abierta and Emprendimiento Edtech at TEC de Monterrey, argues that the meaning of the term “Edtech” lies in two edges: an academic area, with a technological perspective on learning; and another practice, through a technological arrangement in teaching centers (TEC de Monterrey, 2019).
Notwithstanding, and according to recent studies by the consulting firm Holon IQ, experts in the educational solutions industry, public budgets for education are in many countries lower than those for health and other sectors. This is due to multiple factors that lay down incentives for its growth or interest on the part of participating actors. On the other hand, spending on digitization represents 3% of the total number of items, being a very small number for an increasing demand of students migrating to digital field (La Nación, 2019).
Given the clearly identified educational gap in emerging countries such as Perú, some entrepreneurships arise in order to strengthen ties between what is real and what is projected, providing improvements that allow enhancing the educational experience. Among the ventures, startups stand out, which are defined by Paul Graham, co-founder of Y Combinator, as companies designed to grow rapidly, being the accelerated growth their main characteristic (Graham, 2012). Other outstanding qualities are the omnipresent use of technology in its product or service, with an innovative business model that is easily adaptable to people's needs. It is worth mentioning that the author had the opportunity to co-found a startup, obtaining various achievements, among which we can highlight regional competitions (2017) and national university championships (2018), international experiences in the USA (2018) and Italy (2019), as well as seed capital financing by Innóvate Perú (2018).
Nevertheless, every entrepreneur must go through the famous "Valley of Death", a concept widely known in venture capital jargon, as it is the period of time from the acquisition of the first financing of the startup to the generation of income autonomously (Jiménez, 2019). Others recognize this term with a notion more related to business bankruptcy, caused by various internal and external factors. In one way or another the aforementioned startup, although it obtained several positive results during its creation, did not successfully overcome this critical phase of all entrepreneurship. Despite this, this experience allowed us to summarize and specify what were the five key points or lessons to be rescued from this first experience in a startup, which can be applied to any undertaking regardless of the industry in which it is located. Ergo, each of them is described below:
Take care of finances: Essential. Every income that adds up to the objectives of the venture is worth. Although partners should receive an amount that rewards the work, efforts must be made to prioritize the needs of the venture, including over personal ones.
Your partners must share your ambition: The partners or founding partners of the venture must have the same desire to carry out the business. Everyone must "push the car" in the same direction.
The vision of the partners: The partners must have goals and plans with common ends for the purpose of the venture. For example, if after a few years and with the rapidly growing venture, one of the partners intends to completely disengage from the venture, while the others focus on further accelerating the growth of the business, a conflict of objectives is quickly identified. that it could become a "time bomb" if not dealt with diligently under consensus.
Strategy: Through milestones and indicators, measure each progress of the venture, regardless of the result obtained. Likewise, a plan “B” must be constantly chosen to manage contingencies and reduce their probability of occurrence.
Mentors: Essential for every entrepreneur. It allows the partner to discover their potential, being their compass in times of uncertainty or when making important decisions. Therefore, it is crucial to listen to their advice.
Fall in love with the problem (BONUS): Many experts rate this as one of the remarkable characteristics that separate a normal entrepreneur from a disruptive one. Falling in love with the problem is to seek and validate various alternative solutions for the problem. This allows that regardless of the benefits that the value proposition has, if the market does not show interest or does not pay for the product / service, you might pivot towards other alternatives.
Finally, there are many more learnings that can be brought up, however, the points developed were selected by the author based on his personal experience, with the aim of helping more people to apply the above in their ventures. Today, the author being a corporate intra-entrepreneur, he considers that the vast majority of the lessons learned with the startup have allowed him to successfully “surf” in challenging “waves of digital transformation” in corporations. So if you already have a glimpse of the wealth of learning that can be gained when undertaking, why not make the decision to do so?.
García, J., & González, E. (2017). The entrepreneurial bubble. Barcelona, Spain: Urano Editions.
Jiménez, J. (September 20, 2019). What is the Death Valley of Startups and how to overcome it? Emprende Rioja. Retrieved on October 30, 2020
The nation. (March 06, 2019). Edtech Companies: Technology Invades Education. The nation. Retrieved on October 30, 2020
TEC de Monterrey. (September 24, 2019). What is Edtech? Its definition and impact over the years. Observatory of Educational Innovation, Monterrey, Mexico.