It takes a special kind of person to be an entrepreneur. There’s a lot of uncertainty, some sleepless nights and maybe a few panicked phone calls. In the beginning, it’s scary to even share an idea with the world, especially when factoring in the amount of risk involved and the likelihood of failure. It’s important, however, to remember that good ideas can grow into startups, and startups can grow into job creators, economic drivers and industry disruptors. As a society, we should be doing everything humanly possible to move this process along.
At MassChallenge, we are reminded every day that ideas—even at the earliest stage—matter because ideas can quite literally change the world. As we’ve seen first-hand, startups make patients healthier, our communities more connected, our cities safer, and ultimately, make each and every one of us more optimistic. But how do we build an ecosystem that’s equipped to accelerate the impact of early-stage ideas?
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1. Build a Powerful Mentor Pool
Launching a company isn’t easy, but expert mentorship can help. Diverse in background and expertise, mentors dedicate their time to helping entrepreneurs navigate the ups and downs of building a business. Yes, this includes delivering strategic council, but it also includes tough love, emotional support and genuine friendship. This year, our community of mentors clocked more than 1,500 hours of suppor Talk about impact!
2. Focus on Strategic Partnerships
Forget ‘us’ vs. ‘them’ – research shows that startups and corporates are working closer together than ever before. Historically, the only time corporates engaged with startups was when they were ready to acquire them. Today, we’re building systems that turn these frenemies into friendlies based on the understanding that there’s value for both parties when the barriers to entry are lowered.
Take healthcare, for example. It’s one of the country’s most-established industries and one of the toughest for startups to break into. Without support from corporates, it’s incredibly difficult for startups to pilot their technologies in critical settings (hospitals, payer organizations, etc.) or to navigate the ever-changing regulatory landscape. On the other side, without startups, corporates risk falling into the ‘innovate or die’ trap, unable to keep up with the pace of change. Through programs like PULSE@MassChallenge, both parties can come together to explore new business models and co-develop solutions that create impact industry-wide. After all, a rising tide really does lift all boats.
3. Generate Community Enthusiasm
We truly believe there’s value everywhere – in every person and interaction. There’s no better place to see this in action than in Boston, which was recently named the most-innovative city in the country for the second consecutive year. Here, everyone is eager and willing to play a role in helping startups succeed – from investors to general innovation enthusiasts. Sure, this might be partially driven by our competitive need to be #1 (hey, we’re a sports capital, can you blame us?), but there’s also an understanding that when startups succeed, we all succeed. With this in mind, Boston has become synonymous with world-changing ideas and connectedness. Over the years, it’s pooled its resources to turn ideas into realities and to help startups create impact in this community and beyond.
4. Involve the Public and Private Sectors
When it comes to innovation, everyone has a stake in the game. As highlighted above, the private sector has a lot to gain from startup growth: new solutions for old problems, a brighter talent pool and more. But the public sector has a lot to benefit from, too. Per the City of Boston’s website, this “isn’t just about government efficiency, it’s also about improving the experience and well-being of residents and visitors.”
With so much in shared interest, it only makes sense to involve both sectors to help fuel further growth.
5. Inspire the Next Generation of Innovators
If startups are society’s value-creators, then it’s probably a good idea to keep the pipeline chock-full. As discussed, this involves efforts to make it easier to launch and grow, but at the earliest stage, it’s just about convincing creative thinkers that big ideas are worth pursuing.
When you think about an entrepreneur, you’re probably picturing a hoodie-clad techie. Yes, they do exist, but so do millions of others. Entrepreneurs are engineers, designers, patients, veterans and students. They’re backed by bachelor’s degrees, master’s degrees and doctorates. They’re self-starters. In our experience, the best ideas can come from anyone, in any industry, from anywhere around the world. It’s up to all of us to help these aspiring entrepreneurs take that leap of faith!
6. Invest in Entrepreneurial Watering Holes
Without accelerators, innovation labs and startup support groups, the innovation landscape would be pretty disjointed. These “watering holes” play an important role by bringing together key stakeholders (startups, corporates, policy makers, universities, investors, etc.) to spark conversation, foster collaboration and drive change.