Category Archives: Entrepreneurship

Why Storytelling Matters for Startups

Every startup has an incredible story to share with the world. Some stories are centered around a “Eureka!” moment. This is when a startup founder figures out a practical, yet genius, method to quickly and efficiently solve a problem facing many people. Others may be stories of friends or family members that team up to start a business rooted in a specific mission and meet the needs of its target audience.

Storytelling gives us the chance to share who is behind the business and its purpose, or mission, with its audience. It’s important to share the story of your startup, from humble beginnings to where it is now in the present day, for several reasons.

Stories show us that we are not alone.

One of the most common challenges entrepreneurs face is loneliness. Going it alone often lends itself to feeling as though you are alone on your entrepreneurial path. Has anyone else had similar struggles or are we simply experiencing them for the first time? Read More >>

Four Storytelling Techniques to Bring Your Data to Life

The adage that “our world runs on data” means that decisions are being based on vast amounts of statistics. Data-derived insights drive what time trains stop running, when Starbucks introduces holiday cups, and the temperature of the building you might be sitting in right now.

Even though most corporate roles now work with data, it’s shockingly easy to forget that people generate most of it. When a user clicks a link, gets blood taken at the lab, or sets up a smartwatch, that person generates data. As people move, buy, sell, use, work, and live, their actions nudge numbers up or down and drive organizational decisions, big and small.

If it’s your role to communicate data insights and persuade people to change their behavior, you’ll have more influence and promote better decision-making if you emphasize the people behind the numbers. In a story, we root for the hero as he or she maneuvers through roadblocks. To use data to steer your organization in the right direction, you need to tap into the human tale your data can tell. Read More >>

How Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk are ushering in a new era of space startups

As Blue Origin and SpaceX democratize access to space, small companies will get to explore an array of promising new ideas that lie beyond planet Earth.

In early February, Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon and one of the planet’s wealthiest entrepreneurs, dropped the bombshell announcement that he would be stepping down as CEO to free up more time for his other passions. Though Bezos listed a few targets for his creativity and energy—The Washington Post and philanthropy through the Bezos Earth Fund and Bezos Day One Fund—one of the highest-potential areas is his renewed commitment and focus on his suborbital spaceflight project, Blue Origin.

Before space became a frontier for innovation and development for privately held companies, opportunities were limited to nation states and the private defense contractors who supported them. In recent years, however, billionaires such as Bezos, Elon Musk, and Richard Branson have lowered the barrier to entry. Since the launch of its first rocket, Falcon 1, in September of 2008, Musk’s commercial space transportation company SpaceX has gradually but significantly reduced the cost and complexity of innovation beyond the Earth’s atmosphere. With Bezos’s announcement, many in the space sector are excited by the prospect of those barriers being lowered even further, creating a new wave of innovation in its wake. Read More>>


For startups that are typically reluctant to work with the government, there are plenty of reasons to seek federal grants and contracts.

In many respects, startups embody the American way. If you’re not building something bold with funding in short supply and a little uncertainty over its addressable market, you’re probably doing something wrong.

World-class talent and an unmatched support infrastructure have long been the bedrock of U.S. innovation. Even with limited IP, founders are able to attract investors and scale. But the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic has caused capital investment and traditional startup revenue streams to dry up.

The outlook is particularly stark for enterprise-focused tech startups. A PwC report of U.S. CFOs last year found that half expected to cancel or defer less-critical projects in 2020. Startups that are short on runway are already feeling those measures. Read More>>

Entrepreneurs, remember the power of a smile

Entrepreneurs trying to build big companies turn to equity investors to raise capital. If a company is an established ongoing concern, investors can look at cash flows, growth rates, customer retention, capital assets, leverage, and other hard metrics to determine whether to invest and how to value the company. An early-stage company has few if any hard metrics, however. Startups are often just emerging from the idea stage into market trials, and the minimum viable products and services they offer are being tested by beta customers. 

This presents a challenge for the entrepreneur. What will convince angel and early-stage venture investors that what she is building is not only a feasible company but one that has the potential to generate a large return on investment, and maybe even become one of those rare unicorn companies that will make its investors rich?  Read More >>

Is Your Startup Doing Everything It Can to Capture Value?

From the freemium business model to an aggregation business model, the 21st century digital economy has shown that serving customers well may not necessarily provide sustainability for a company unless the firms actively find ways to capture value in the process. It sounds obvious, but many media and e-commerce companies have gone bankrupt, despite improving customer experiences through digital channels, simply because they neglected to capture value.

For instance, many startups emerged and provided cheaper or completely free means of making national and international calls via the web, but later collapsed when they struggled to capture value. A direct 30-minute traditional phone call from Lagos to New York may cost $10, but using an app, the same call may cost an equivalent of $1, where that dollar is the cost of mobile internet services spent on the call. If the app is free (and most are), it has destroyed a value of $9 for the traditional phone operator, even though the app maker has not captured any for itself. Read More >>

How to deal with feelings of uncertainty

The human brain is a prediction engine. A lot of the knowledge that you gain from experience is used to figure out what is likely to happen next. When you walk into a conference room before the start of a meeting and see other people in attendance, you feel comfortable that the meeting is going to start soon. When you see a colleague walking up the hall who works in marketing, you predict that you’ll soon be talking about a new campaign.

When things go as you predict, you feel comfortable. At the start of that meeting in the conference room with your colleagues filing in, you can sit down relaxed and talk with the person sitting next to you. If, however, you walked into that same room and found it empty—or filled with people you didn’t recognize or expect to see—you would probably feel uneasy. You might pull out your calendar to see if the time or location of the meeting had been changed. You would pay a lot of attention to what was going on. Read More >>

Leadership Is Like Engineering: You Need to Start with Why

In times of uncertainty, it is crucial for leaders to rally around the why behind their mission. There is a tendency to overlook the why when decisive action is needed, but it is essential to steering the course of the business. The why illuminates what needs to be done and how it can be accomplished. The why gives the whole team a sense of purpose. As Friedrich Nietzsche is quoted as saying, “He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.”

Over the past decade, my perspective on leadership has been guided by one simple mantra: Start with why, inspired by the book of the same title by Simon Sinek. In my time as an engineer, starting with why was fundamental to tackling every new product or feature. Starting with why meant understanding the pain points of the user and defining the success criteria for addressing the pain points. From there, we could specify the functionality needed (the what) and set a plan for developing the product (the how). As I became a leader, I found that these same principles apply to management — always, but especially in turbulent times. Read More >>

Is There a Scientific Formula For Start-up Success?

Even in the best of times, starting a business is like running a marathon with the odds stacked against you. In a global recession, you also have to endure the headwinds of reduced consumer spending and more selective investors. If legs of steel were essential before, they are absolutely critical now. You may also need a new strategy.

Many startup founders swear by the Lean Startup method, popularised by serial entrepreneur and software engineer Eric Ries in a 2011 book of the same name and taught in business schools and accelerators around the world. The method entails finding out customers’ problems and needs, obtaining feedback and building a minimum viable product (MVP) to test demand. The idea is to learn quickly and iteratively through experimentation and feedback, and quitting or pivoting when the original idea falls through. But there is a way to improve the Lean method itself. Read More >>

How Start-ups in Emerging Markets Succeed Despite Scarcity

2019 was a record year of venture capital funding for start-ups in emerging economies from Latin America, Africa to Southeast Asia. This year, well, it’s safe to say the money is not exactly sloshing around, and the pace is likely to remain depressed well into 2021. Even though Covid-19 has opened up many possibilities, in edtech and fintech for example, entrepreneurs in developing markets will have to work harder to secure the resources they need.

In a Strategic Entrepreneurship Journal special issue I co-curated with Maw-Der Foo and Brian Wu, researchers highlight how emerging market start-ups mobilise resources under conditions a world apart from those in developed economies. Entrepreneurs in developing economies – as well as developed ones – would find insights contained in the issue’s eight papers helpful in these lean times. What stood out in particular are ideas on how to do more with less as well as tapping community and other ties to obtain resources and reduce costs. Read More>>