While everyone is rooting for each other to succeed, there’s always an unofficial competition between the teams…as there should be.Each team comes into a program at different junctures of their journey. Although everyone knows this, there is still this undying need to be the best to come out of the program. Sometimes, this just isn’t reality. The folks who realize soonest that they’re their own competition, wind up doing the best. Challenge yourself every day, briefly acknowledge others’ successes, and then put your head down and get back to work.
There’s no space for a “professional devil’s advocate.” Running a startup is one of the hardest things a human can do. Every step is so fragile. At all times, you’re managing various personalities that you’re often not even paying to work with you. Your ideas and assumptions are being crapped on and challenged on an hourly basis. You’re dealing with input from family, team members, fellow entrepreneurs, mentors, customers, EVERYONE. In this kind of environment, constructive criticism and positivity are EVERYTHING. Seek out people who will give you the honest truth and even be a hard ass at times, but, at the same time, provide tremendous value in the insight they give to help reach your goals.
While getting to attend ALL the programming would be ideal, it’s just not reality. There’s always so much to do when starting a new venture. When you get into a program, the programming itself can stress you out if you’re not on top of it. Try and determine your program’s calendar as far ahead as possible. Something we didn’t do that we’ll look to do going forward is to choose a point person for the week, from our team, that has to attend all the programming. The benefit of a set up like this is that operational work can still be accomplished while getting the messaging from a key speaker. Plan debriefing sessions and get everyone up to speed. Take turns so everyone is getting the experience of the work side and learning how to listen and network effectively.
Time flies. Most accelerators are three months long. At the beginning, demo day seems so far into the future. Once things pick up, things pick up. Between the 12-14 hour days, the consistent programming, daily meetings, and trying to carve out a little bit of a life for yourself, you realize there’s just not much time in the week. Utilize your time the best you can and cherish the process.
It’s important to connect with your fellow founders and companies. The last thing you want is to feel that you’ve gone through this transformative process and didn’t make any friends coming out on the other end. Take up offers for coffee, for meetings, and for happy hours. This bonding time is invaluable. While every company may not make it, each individual will. These are the brightest of the brightest and boldest of the boldest. The world will always find a place for folks brave enough to start a business. Make friends and cultivate those relationships as best you can.
Ofo Ezeugwu (@ofoezeugwu) is the CEO & Chieftain of WhoseYourLandlord. He graduated from Temple University (shout out to N. Philly!), where he was the VP of the student body and also the university's youngest alumni convocation speaker ever. He's a Techstars' Risingstar, one of BET's #30Under30, a Black Enterprise: Modern Man, and his work has been featured in Newsweek, TechCrunch, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Philadelphia Inquirer, MSNBC, and more. Ofo is based in NYC/PHL and is also a professional actor and model who's walked in NYFW, been featured on the Today Show six times, and worked with Nike, ESPN, and Alfani.
Ofo is also very actively plugged into the community and speaks with local high schools and middle schools on leadership, college planning, entrepreneurship, and life skills. He's a Big in the Big Brothers Big Sisters entrepreneurial program. And, he's also spoken on tech - entrepreneurship - and leadership at prestigious universities and institutions such as The White House, Harvard, Princeton, Columbia, Penn, Temple, Villanova, etc. He lives by the motto, "No steps backward; just forward progress."