In Silicon Valley it seems that the values that drive typical startups and their investors are for the kinds of convenience products that single white guys might want in their busy lives, like a restaurant queue-jumping app. The scope of action in the world is restricted to the preferences of a small group, and the potential for addressing useful human needs is limited by their lack of worldliness.
Imagine a different kind of startup ecosystem. This one has a million businesses – some that have grown large because they have tapped into a human need that has found a source and has made them grow and flourish, while many other new kinds of microbusinesses surround them, focusing on different kinds of products and services from health and care to personal experiences. Others are focused on just making people smile.
These businesses are supported by investors who have grown tired of making only cash returns on their investment and instead now invest in human impact and creative startups: new kinds of products and services with cultural or civic service purposes. Financiers can connect with a kind of change that traditional investment would not touch, or corporations would not be inventive enough to create. They get to say, “we did that”.
The companies we work with are a part of this vision, although they might not know it yet. One of our challenges with working with them are all about getting from “me and my projects”, to “me and the business vehicle I have for making change”. Most of them say that they are not ‘in it for the money’ – but what they mean is they are not only in it for the money.
These companies operate at the other end of the spectrum to the highly confident, perhaps arrogant world of Silicon Valley. In contrast to the hubris of people starting up in mainstream accelerators, these companies have a modesty in business that we do our best to encourage to take a more confident form. Their modesty is not misplaced, but it does mean they don’t grab attention, and have to work harder for it. Their ideas also don’t fit conventional incubators here in the UK – its not fast scalable high tech and it isn’t going to be a massive business.
We know that if we only look at the high-tech high-growth companies we miss other highly valuable future assets like creating new ideas, writing, or healing, teaching. This is why our Upstarter methods are tuned to work for non-tech, non-profits and for-profits, for the rest of us, normal people. Our role is about helping them to see that they can be sustainable businesses in their chosen space, that their creative skills have a role in business and they can grow around this.
The beauty about creatives becoming entrepreneurs, is that they can do it again and again.
This is an article that we wrote for the REACT newspaper and still feels important, so re-pubishing here.