Bryan Wachs is a serial entrepreneur who has been involved in different ventures and consulting across the globe, both successful and not so much. He co-founded MySalesButler.com, a Flat Fee internet sales and marketing task company based in Grand Junction. Bryan is passionate about helping grow the entrepreneurial community on the Western Slope, and gives back by helping small businesses with Open Office Hours, serving as the Entrepreneur in Residence at Colorado Mesa University Maverick Innovation Center, and co-founding WestSlopeStartupWeek.com in partnership with TechStars. Startup Colorado recently sent him to The Wright in Golden; a trip that inspired this thoughtful and inspiring blog.
You cannot go to startup and entrepreneurial events and not see hope. It hits you in the face in the most fun, giddy way. People taking a leap of faith that their idea, the problem they see a solution to, or simply providing a new service that is better than what’s out there are types of hopesters you meet at these events. Hope is the foundation of the dream that drives us to create new businesses.
The heart and soul of entrepreneurship is innovation. Innovation is the process of delivering a product or service in a way that is more efficient or friendly and differentiates itself from the playing field. Sometimes it differentiates to the point of being a disruptive innovation, but that is rare. Unicorns in business—billion dollar companies—are rare for a reason. Most innovation happens incrementally and therefore becomes more accessible to the founders to execute on. Hence, when we talk about innovation, we must remember the seeds that need to be planted to create a healthy startup. The ecosystem where we plant these seeds are key to their survival and ongoing growth. Healthy seeds in a healthy environment have the best chance of growing to fruition.
Starting and running a successful company is a hard thing to do. Create the product, market it, close sales, do the bookkeeping, make payroll and rent, manage inventory and people, and manage and pay taxes. Initially, these crazy, opportunistic hopesters have few, if any, of these skills and acquire them as they go along. They typically dive in with abandon, knowing all too well that the odds are against them. They do it because failure is part of the process.The only true failure is not trying.
Beginning with a hypothesis carried out to its true conclusion and then testing the next hypothesis is the process of entrepreneurship. Test, measure, analyze, repeat. The non-stop nature of trying to create “newness” is exhausting and yet completely necessary. Hopesters vigorously embrace this challenge. This iterative process needs to be supported and nurtured if society itself is to prosper. Allowing the feedback loop of testing to obtain positive or negative results is a positive in itself.
We must support entrepreneurial efforts. It drives our economy to the tune of two out of every three new jobs. Creating the environment for these businesses to flourish should be a first priority for the country as a whole. Cities are slowing down in growth and people are migrating to places where life is more simple and sane. Rural areas—where job growth languishes—need to pivot toward emerging technologies and the companies that utilize them. The internet makes this possible as the connection to the infrastructure of knowledge creates a level playing field. As the baby boomers retire enmasse, the employment landscape has changed dramatically. Employers are fighting over candidates as they try to fill a skills gap that college enrollment has yet to address.
Our version of democratic capitalism is the least worst system on the planet. Does it need to change? Of course it does. Wealth disparity, access to capital—especially for women and minorities—health coverage, infrastructure and public transportation needs, and education all need our attention. The more we look at our society and planet the more work we need to do. It will never stop. But at least we have the ability to follow our dreams and start companies in an environment that is generally positive. Events like The Wright, (a summit and award program showcasing the industry and culture of the outdoors), celebrates this crazy, untamed human spirit to create and build for its own sake and for the sake of others. Events like The Wright inspires us to dream bigger, to take chances, and to try to make those hopes a reality.
Every chance I get, I try to help the dreamers, the doers, the starters. It’s hard and they need all the support they can get. I’ve been there multiple times myself and wish I could have gotten more support. The ecosystem is growing and healthy and we must continue to embrace startups, even when we think they are our competitors. In reality, they are not; they are our neighbors. As their dreams come true, the road of hope will be paved for others. So immerse yourself in the fray, get help, ask questions, and try to make good on your hope. There are already many supports in place. We can thank the hopesters for that. Celebrate the hopesters!