Seeing Star(tup)s

Guest author Bruce Wilson is the Founder of The Relay Foundation, an early-stage incubator in the US that has helped over 40 companies grow and over 1,000 students take the next step into the social entrepreneurial field. Stay tuned for more startup and travel related write-ups!

Entrepreneurs are an interesting bunch. We tend to have a few screws loose, and we value things most people don’t care to understand.  The reason, for many I’ve met, is that entrepreneurship isn’t a job; it’s a lifelong, nonstop process. For entrepreneurs, life is a massive playground you’re supposed to mold and where you can do awesome stuff, whatever it is. To live this way, you need to see things differently; you need Startup Vision. This is the special sight that enables us to transform even the most basic tasks into full-blown opportunities to create value for the world.

Startup Vision is pretty spectacular. It frees us from ‘living by the list’; we don’t do things because that’s what we’re ‘supposed to do’ and even then only to say we did. We do things because we set them for ourselves and filled them with our own meaning. And here’s the best part about the Vision: anyone can get it; provided you’re willing to challenge the way you look at a few key things.

The first and perhaps best starting point in your quest for the Startup Vision is to challenge is your assumptions about travel. How you operate in new spaces and situations across the globe is analogous to how you operate in times of ‘chaos’, i.e., starting a company or doing anything other people might call ‘crazy’ (such as living your dreams). Also, it’s easy! Seriously, stick with me.

Here are the three things you should do when traveling:

  • Constrain Your Goals.
  • Follow the Entrepreneurs.
  • Engineer Rocket Fuel.

To make these three simple suggestions make some sense, I’m going to walk you through a recent world tour I went on with my charity, The Relay Foundation. Relay educates, incubates, and develops early-stage social startups with access to amazing mentors and a robust network of service providers and financiers. Over the last 3 years we’ve developed 42 social companies and educated over 1,100 young social entrepreneurs around the globe. In short, I’m happy with it.

But there’s a difference between being content and being complacent, and the team knew we could do even more. With the desire to scale up our impact, to add even more value to our teams and the communities where we work, we wanted to source the best and worst practices of similar organizations just rocking it around the world. From there we would upgrade and augment our programs and become awesome-r. The plan was full-proof.

We could have done this in a few ways, the most sterile of them being email correspondence and, only slightly better, Skype chats. This would have been fine if we wanted to understand how those individual organizations operate or to learn about closed-off markets, but we didn’t want such a sectioned-off understanding. Entrepreneurs, social or otherwise, don’t operate in a vacuum; they’re imminently affected by the everyday happenings of their communities. We were going to need to actually go there, talk to them, and live their lives, if only for a short while, if we were going to get the truth.


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