Leadership advice for those brave souls heading into the great unknown.
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“Tech entrepreneurs who start companies in nascent industries face a whole new set of challenges. Think of them as “virtual hurdles” that they need to overcome to be successful. There is no roadmap to follow, no precedent to learn from. Working in an industry that’s just starting out or not even a thing yet, these entrepreneurs not only have to invent brand new ways of thinking and seeing the world, they also need to convince others to buy into their vision.
Below are tips from three CEOs on how they succeeded in an industry that didn’t even exist yet.
Image credit: Avi Horowitz
Taylor Freeman, CEO and Co-Founder of Upload
Build a community.
“When building a company in an industry that’s also in the process of building itself, you have to find like-minded people who share your passion. We hosted a series of meet-ups around VR and used our online properties to keep people up to date about the latest industry news. To date, we’ve hosted more than 450 events and have reached more than 200 million people online.”
Related: The Complete 12-Step Guide to Starting a Business
Find your pillars.
“When you’re clear about your vision and have defined the pillars around which you are going to build your company, you can always point back to those truths and remain inspired to keep pushing forward—no matter how difficult things may become. For Upload, our pillars are connection, experience, and inspiration. These are the three areas that continue to drive our decision making for new products and services as the industry and community evolve.”
Ask for advice.
“Establish relationships with smart investors early on to prove your passion and show them that you’re someone who sticks to their word. We met our series-A investor two years before they invested in us, giving them a chance to watch and experience our growth and progress as a company.”
Image credit: Nicole Biesek
Nonny De La Pena , CEO and Founder of Emblematic
Ignore the nay-sayers.
“I remember colleagues pointing their fingers in my face or cornering me to tell me that what I was doing could not work. Ultimately, I ended up losing my job over pursuing virtual reality. But I believed in what I was doing and so I had to figure out how to make it happen anyway and that ethos is what I try to imbue now at Emblematic: There is always a way to make things work.”
Make people literally lean in.
“Always to be aware of the moments when you need command a room. I recognized early on when I needed to consider speaking in a deeper tone. I tend to be naturally boisterous and opinionated so, I have to remember that I have often seen some of the most powerful people dominate the room by lowering their voice and practically whispering.”
Related: What Every Startup Must Do to Get Investor Ready
Simplify and outsource.
“Try to find ways to simplify your life, including outsourcing HR, insurance and payroll into one service. I got bad advice to try to do each separately to save the money but once I moved over into a combined service, the streamlining saved me so much time that I was able to concentrate on bigger issues in growing the company.”
Image credit: Misti Lane
Charlie Nooney, CEO of MobiTV
“MobiTV originally built the first technology designed for mobile devices to receive live video content streams. We changed the market, then the market changed on us. The business foundations around mobile became less relevant in the marketplace as the industry evolved. However, we came to the realization that the tech developed around our legacy business was incredibly relevant to IPTV delivery of video to the home. So we figured out a way to use our technology to help a new set of customers who needed to evolve: pay-TV providers.”
Mind the gaps.
“It’s highly unlikely that there aren’t holes in your business that need to be addressed. Look at your strengths and create a plan to fill those gaps quickly. Then, stay focused on direction so you’re taking aim at success, aggressively, with a clear understanding of what you need to do to make your team the best it can be.”
Get an early win.
“In the beginning stages of your company, there will skepticism from the market, investors, and perhaps even employees. The sooner you secure a solid win, the sooner the doubt will subside. As a leader, your job is to instill confidence in your team and anyone standing behind you in your business. No matter how ready you are to make an impact on a new industry, it’s impossible to be ready for everything. There will be bumps and surprises. Expect them and close as many positive wins as you can, from day one, to keep your team and investors focused on the positivity, while the bumps continue to show up along the road.”
Related video: 7 Crucial Lessons I Learned While Starting a Business