4 lessons learned from Startup Live Athens #3 – “It’s simple, not easy”

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Planning to build the next Google? First things first: learn how you may start developing the idea into a business opportunity. And startup events are there exactly to give you a real taste of what you should have in mind if you want to make a successful startup.

Pointing exactly towards this direction was recent Startup Live Athens #3, which opened its doors on Saturday June 7, 2013, and by Sunday seven ideas were on their way to startup. This Startup Live is a special one, too, with main topic “Sustainable Entrepreneurship”, a unique set of participants and mentors, and certainly our proud support from Metavallon.

Following up on the experience and our discussions with young entrepreneurs during the event, here are 4 realizations we came across:

  • Cultural entrepreneurship indeed comprises an area of keen interest for young Greeks (of all ages!).

  • Potential startup founders in our crisis-stricken country think a lot about social change and impact, when they try to innovate.

  • Young people tend to forget how important sustainability is for their new business.

  • Only a few startup founders design their businesses with real potential for future scaling.

Based on these, we have come up with what we think are the 4 most important lessons learned for young entrepreneurs from this year’s Startup Live Athens #3.

   1. Culture can be the basis for great entrepreneurial activity

Modern tech entrepreneurs often tend to forget that life is not only about coding, software, hardware and applications. It is also about society and culture! Those who enjoy strong cultural experiences of any kind and actually think of starting a business in a cultural field, enjoy a significant advantage: the gratification of creating both cultural value and economic wealth!

Art, museums, languages, theaters, music, painting, writing, history… any form of cultural activity also shares great social impact and thus, it is deeply appreciated by people and local communities.

Especially in Europe, a continent with unlimited cultural content and symbolic capital, cultural entrepreneurship can be a real win-win framework. Organizations investing in the unique intersection of culture, technology and entrepreneurial activity, have rich potential to “think big” and to engage very passionate customers.

Here are a few successful examples of cultural entrepreneurship

  • CultureLabel is a retail business, a ‘‘Shop for the Arts” as its owners claim.

  • Punchdrunk is exploring immersive theatre in New York and has already been a huge success.

  • Secret Cinema provides movie-goers with a lot more than a seat and a bucket of popcorn; it gives them a real interactive cinema experience!

    2. Innovation should truly focus on social change and impact

People & Ideas and “YouCurate” are two social-change-driven startups presented at Startup Live Athens, which reminded everyone that “responsible and social entrepreneurship” is where innovative minds should really turn their focus on in the coming years.

Social impact in not just an alibi for CSR programs. It is a means for efficient entrepreneurial action causing real change and creating actual value for the business itself and also for the end consumer.

What exactly do we mean by innovation and social change/impact?

Check out these two examples:

  • SF72: A social network for emergencies

  • Babajob: A web and mobile start-up dedicated to bringing better job opportunities to the informal job sector.

    3. Sustainability is what makes the (startup) world go round

If your startup is entering a growth phase, it is probably because you have done things right so far. It means that your business model is working and you are steadily working your way to a startup roadmap “checkpoint”. Financial sustainability is what you are certainly aspiring to – serving increasingly more customers to support your growth, testing monetization models, and certainly not simply waiting for 3rd party funding.

Yet true sustainability goes beyond financials; a business is a living organism that generates not only financial but also societal and environmental impact. From its internal workings to its outputs, from its first steps to its enterprise status, a business is measured on a triple bottom line: financials, society, and environment. Whether it is common practice or simply common sense today, sustainability is the future of startup business success around the globe.

   4. Scaling up is a Day 1 consideration for startup founders

Many first-time entrepreneurs fail to think of how their business will scale up. Instead they only focus on providing a solution to a specific problem without designing for the future. Scaling up is one of the highest-ranking elements for a startup to consider and it should be prearranged in the founders’ minds, even if the company pivots more than once.

The reasons? Well, first of all, a startup that does not scale up, is not really a startup. Without a plan for growth, a business sees and evaluates neither its current activities nor its alternatives, and soon reaches a dead-end. Also, a product or service designed without taking the scaling up process into consideration will soon end up becoming obsolete and surpassed by its competition in a heartbeat. It is all about the vision really – and without vision a startup is blind.

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