Distinguishing yourself in the world of entrepreneurship is not easy. You may be the best where you come from. But as soon as you launch your venture (and even before that) you are competing with the best of the best of the global elite.
In this game, your goal should be to turn heads – especially of those who are power players in your city or industry. You want to create buzz, make a splash, and have everyone wondering what it is that makes you so much better than everyone else. Once you have done that, you have already won. This type of buzz catches on like wildfire and signals to the world who the next leader is.
Troy Henikoff, CEO of Excelerate Labs (the third best incubator in the U.S.) and Kevin Willer, CEO of startup incubator 1871, deal with and bring to market industry-leading companies everyday. They both groom and mentor the Elite of which I speak and know more about turning heads as an entrepreneur than anybody else.
Without further adieu, here is the 5-point checklist for distinguishing yourself and your venture when dealing with Elite competition, as according to Henikoff and Willer:
The Right Stuff
We are looking for people with the right DNA," Henikoff says. That means you need to be comfortable with uncertainty, have a passion for your idea, and have a bias toward action, he says:
Those that go through the motions - like thinking a business plan actually equates to a successful venture - will never amount to anything. There is a certain, indescribable trait shared among all Elite entrepreneurs.. and if you have to ask what it is, your in the wrong field.
Don’t Fall In Love
The coworking space of Willer's 1871 incubator features high-energy pitch events at which startups defend their ideas in front of 500 aggressive people . These events foster a culture of sharing and no-nonsense feedback, which Henikoff says can prevent the biggest mistake entrepreneurs make: falling in love with their idea too soon.
Note: This rule also applies to your romantic life. Any serious relationship you enter in the midst of your ambitious entrepreneurial pursuit is bound to prevent you from reaching the top.
Multiply and Conquer
Another trick to increase your chances of getting chosen is to have multiple versions of an idea and be able to execute them quickly. Henikoff says:
This also eliminates emotional investment in the product (see #2). By creating several paths, you are bound to go with the one that you feel has the highest chance of success, not which one you love the most. There’s just a better chance you’ll hit something the market will pay for, he says.
Find Great People.
Willer says coworking spaces like 1871 address a simple, but critical, need for most entrepreneurs: It gives them a place to sit every day. And that seat just might be next to another early-stage startup impresario willing to share tips for raising angel funds.
Likewise, workshops in SEO, law, and accounting, and one-on-one mentoring courses with business leaders, can help aspiring entrepreneurs both learn much-needed skills and plug into the tech community, Willer says.And you never know when foreign heads of state might be on hand to offer a bit of wisdom.
British prime minister David Cameron asked to tour 1871 prior to the recent NATO summit, in part to strengthen economic ties with the United States. But Cameron is also hip to digital's potential to create jobs and boost the global economy. His advice to Louise Monger, founder of FunRaising Events USA:
When you want it more than everybody else, it shows. True hunger will drive you to work harder, longer, and smarter than your competition. You will be two steps ahead of the test, which – in essence – is the most important aspect of distinguishing yourself.
Your hunger for success will be exhibited in your superior product, in you enthusiastic pitches in meeting, in your team dynamics, and in your overall energy. Mentors, investors, and anyone who is important will be able to smell the hunger on you, which makes them feel as confident as you in your venture.