Judging from how fast the “Hustler” tagged badges went and how many people wore them, we had a majority of Hustlers for our 4. Hub-birthday. Also, I have never had a stronger validation that this is actually an amazing thing, as in the last couple of months!
We have identified that there is a major gap that detaches technology development from real markets. We’ll argue it is a systemic challenge in Serbia and our region.
- Why is this gap a challenge we need to address?
- What does this mean for startup development?
- And what does this have to do with “hustlers”?
I. ECONOMIC GROWTH BEGINS WITH FINDING THE RIGHT PROBLEMS TO SOLVE
The departing point on which the startup growth economy is built is: solutions need to be desirable and viable. Without these, feasibility and product development are obsolete. It becomes irrelevant from the perspective of value and revenue creation. Furthermore, without customers and revenues there is no business. Regardless of a killer product/software or hardware!
Conformity vs. a problem-solving mindset?
Here is how the New York Times puts it: “Success rarely begins with finding the right solution to problems. It starts with finding the right problems to solve”. Just look at the bottom-line:
“Getting straight A’s (good grades) requires conformity. Having an influential career demands originality… Stop rewarding perfect grades and start rewarding curiosity and creativity”.
This is exactly the point: the culture of conformity may be the strongest enemy of our young and emerging ecosystem. It is also the most difficult to change! That’s the default mindset, the comfort zone and overly rewarded one. There’s clearly an institutional interest in keeping it.
II. IF EVERYTHING IS OK THE WAY IT IS, THEN NOTHING
The cost of conformity
Let me translate what conformity means in the models and practices of entrepreneurship. Taking on the struggle, we are changing the very mindset that actually prevents the development of promising potential and prospect startups in Balkans. Here is how conformity blocks the progress:
1. “Build it and they will come”
We experience this mindset everyday. “Just build it” approach is to work on product development without prior research. Without asking users and customers how they use it and if they want to buy it. I get excited about the solutions because entrepreneurs portray them with a fantastic energy. Sometimes, the solutions themselves sound super promising. Until they are not… Because they do not stand the proof of concept.
2. Vanity and self-referencing or the Big Ego
Software engineers and tech specialists, designers and other specialists and industries’ experts often re-build and re-generate solutions. Those solutions are already on the market, but they’re not “nice enough” or they are just not theirs. Why do amazing professionals like to take on the competition with the existing actors? Simply said:
- They want to be better than them on the ground of “quality” of the products;
- Experts want to be recognized as being “smarter”, “more authoritative”, “more right” than the others-
What they are not interested in is does the market need “better, faster, stronger”! Since that is ultimately not their motive, they do not ask that question. On the contrary, often – there is resistance to check on the demand side.
3. Supremacy of productivity
Whether you are coding, making toys or writing blogs you do it to be busy and fulfill the expectations. Then, you either must be successful and make money, or the victim of a founder who is exploiting you. Either way, you are in line with social customs and habits and you can even claim to be part of the “new economy”. Because entrepreneurs are busy. So if you are busy and creating something then you are an entrepreneur. The truth is different… Producing waste, junk, and products that nobody needs does not activate the economy.
4. Searching for ready-made solutions
Many entrepreneurs I have met have been asking how to specifically translate serial entrepreneurs’ experience into their own situation. Tools and stories did not do the trick. They looked for the decoding and translating into their specific situation. In other words, many times they wanted to be told what to do very concretely. But if you are a founder and entrepreneur, you can’t expect others to take responsibility for the execution of your idea…
Yet, that is what we have been trained to do all our lives and we are now supposed to radically take a different stand. Yes, it’s hard to work with models because they are often in the form of general guidelines, frameworks, examples. Still, each solution is unique and models are there to demonstrate high-level concepts which need to be interpreted, adapted, proven wrong and improved.
Ready-made solutions only maintain the status-quo! No business can survive by maintaining only the status quo. New products, different approaches, repurposed blogs, rethought posts, re-qualified staff, re-discovered users and customers, re-search… That is the life of businesses and startups.
5. Technology for the sake of technology
Similar to logic of “mere productivity”.
How long have you been working on the development of your app, game, VR, IA, IoT solution? You have been keeping it to yourself. Because you are not going to show it until you are satisfied with the result… So, you play along and have fun with it as you go.
The thing is, you may forget that that thing may have been already built! I have experienced this already many times. Technology is so advanced we do not even know… Technology has been evolving (sometimes, without being released publicly). The challenge we can and should tackle more seriously is its application.
6. Business development is not the same as building a product
Startups are led mostly by product/software developers in Serbia and SEE. Tying all of the above together, this is a result of cultural paradigms and the pervasiveness of the outsource economy in this region.
Don’t get me wrong, this has meant incredible things:
- Boost of employment
- New jobs
- Increased skills
- Mobility of the population
- Attraction of international businesses
- Revitalization of urban and rural areas
- Household livelihoods
Yet, it also has been leveraging on the notion of “conformity”. Amazingly talented software engineers are employed to build what international companies commission. In this way, they can satisfy the growing demand for their supply in a cheaper way. Bravo for these amazing businesses; what is missing is still the ownership of business intelligence. It’s not in the hands of software engineers who are now want to start their own companies. And they need CEOs who are business developers…
The list of examples can go on! But going back to our third point:
III. HUSTLERS ARE THE REBEL LEADERS IN STARTUP FOUNDING TEAMS
Hustlers are really the business developers, those who need to drive the product/tech/software development. While listening to real needs of their market, they can drive the boat in the direction of vision, mission and purpose. Hustlers are those that increase the chance of teams to develop viable solutions and thus launch startups standing the odds. And they make great CEOs too. 🙂
To meet other hustlers and develop your business ideas faster, follow and join our events! From conferences, to one of a kind networking with smooth jazz and wine, to meetups, workshops and much, much more. Hustle along and see you at the Hub! Write to us now to email@example.com and let’s resolve all your questions 🙂