The Importance of Ambition in Creating a Startup
A startup is no easy road. If you decide to take this path, you might as well be ambitious. You will spend the same energy, go through the same hardships, but you might give yourself a chance to really change something for real.
A startup always starts with an idea and a team. Let’s face it, ideas are what they are, ideas. They are often based upon observations and the feeling that something could be done to improve it. Most of the time, this is pretty weak and uninspiring. It’s only when you start dissecting the idea that you can give it an ambitious flavor. However, most entrepreneurs are just fine with their initial ideas and jump at execution, namely building a prototype.
If you take the time to raise the bar, you will create a better business.
Ambition rests on 5 different pillars
An inspiring purpose and a strong vision
A true founders’ purpose fit
A desire to create something that is not obvious
A drive to become 10 times better than the competition
Strong convictions and a thick skin
Ambition starts with inspiration. You need to express what the world would become if your project succeeded. It needs to inspire. Indeed, success will only come if you can inspire people to join your venture. Whether it’s a new employee, a customer, a partner or an investor, they all need to buy into your vision and feel inspired to help and contribute.
So the starting point is to describe your purpose and your vision. The purpose describes why the startup exists, what are you fighting for. The vision describes what you are becoming and the impact it will have on the world around you. Do not get me wrong, it’s no easy task.
Most entrepreneurs confuse purpose and vision with what they are building. One startup that we invested in introduced itself by saying “we are building an AI-based system to help kids learn to read”. That’s a product description, not a purpose. After a few iterations, they came up with “We want to end illiteracy”. They won’t change what they do, but the message is much more inspiring and engaging… and more ambitious!
If you care, you can be ambitious
To find something worth fighting for it has to come from the founding team and their values. In other words, you need to find the founder's purpose fit. It’s not enough to find something ambitious, you have to connect it to the team and know why they’re the right team to tackle that problem. It’s not because you went to MIT or because you noticed this could be improved. At the core, you need to really care about what your startup is doing. It needs to connect to your personal story so that you will always have the energy to wake up in the morning and get it done. In addition, this will raise your ambition level!
Taking risks will force ambition
Being ambitious is also about taking risks. If you are trying to create something easy, think again. Ambition is accepting being on the slippery path where doubts are the norm. Deep tech is ambitious because when you start, you do not have certitudes, you do not even know if it is feasible. Aim for the moon. One of the key aspects of success is the startup's ability to build barriers to entry. It is a daunting task, but you must think about creating an unfair advantage, something not so easy to replicate. Ambition will drive you down this path.
If the road ahead is a clear path, and good execution is what it takes, you will just build something that many people can build. Your roadmap won’t change much because you are on a predictable journey. Being on a slippery path, where uncertainty dominates, will force you to think, adapt and pivot. It will lead you to solutions that you never thought of in the first place. It will make you see things that not everyone can see.
Analyze Competition to stay ambitious
Competition should not be an obsession, however, it needs to be on the watch list. Competition is a good thing, where there is no competition there is no market. Ambition will force you to stay ahead of the pack and get noticed. If you are ambitious you will not engage in a feature war and try to simply be better, you’ll aim for higher ground and try to be different and unique.
Competition is made of people like you, smart, committed, hard-working, and ambitious. They are also building great things, so trying to stay ahead of the race will keep your ambition level high. Companies that lack serious competition tend to slack off and quickly become obsolete when a newcomer tries to disrupt the market.
Strong conviction and a thick skin
Your convictions will drive your latest ambition. Being an entrepreneur means choosing to fight to change the status quo. Early on it’s David against Goliath and your only chance to keep moving is faith and convictions. Convictions can’t make you stubborn, you always need a healthy dose of humility to learn and grow, however, good entrepreneurs are never in the middle. They have strong convictions that form the foundation of their journey, and on the other end of the spectrum, they can be very humble and open to change.
Convictions will give you more focus, but you will need a thick skin to counter the naysayers. Cementing convictions will create ambition.
So do not try solving little problems, go big, be ambitious, change the world!