As an entrepreneur, your top priority shouldn’t be “penetrating a market”, or “competitive advantage”. You should be building a community of people that add value to one another.
Your customers should have better lives, your advisers and investors should feel that they are positively impacting the world, and your employees should feel that the work they do is getting them closer to their own personal and professional aspirations.
It is easy to get distracted from this priority, and I am one of the most distractible.
This might be because almost every conversation in a startup company is regarding the future. Where is this company headed? How long with it take to get there?
I’m surrounded by a motley crew of company CEOs, startup companies in various stages of growth, and a parent company with its own dreams of grandeur. Existing in this milieu has an interesting effect on my mindset: I seem to inhabit almost every moment in time, except the present moment.
There are moments, though, when I am snapped back into the present.
In the present, we are early in our quest to prove an alternative model for venture capital.
In the present, finding product-market fit is still really, really hard.
In the present, we have not yet helped bring $1B in new venture financing into Utah.
It is easy to get mired in speculation about how to achieve your wildest dreams. This can often obscure an important truth: we do not build technology, products, and companies. We build communities.
It took hearing difficult feedback from four separate partner companies in one week to jar me into actually noticing what people were trying to communicate to me about our own company. The message was, in essence, “all of the things you dream of doing are awesome. However, what you really need to master is not an alternative model for venture capital, product-market fit, and capital strategy. It is supporting people on their journey to be the best version of themselves, and being in integrity with your word.”
These conversations are not the foundation of a valuable community, though. The foundation of a valuable community is trust; people who feel that you have their back. You should be calling every customer you have every day.
Don’t build a company that is valuable for yourself. Build a company that creates new value for other people. It takes a strong community to take on the most important problems, and communities are built one unsexy conversation at a time.