Miami has come a long way in the last year. Since January, we have received international press and attention as a growing scene with a lot of promise. Open English, CareCloud, and .CO are proving that tech startups can thrive in South Florida, and Gui.de and many others have kept us on the radar.
I have had the pleasure of traveling to dozens of other nascent ecosystems as part of my regular activities, promoting Miami, our startups and recruiting new talent. Logging over 100,000 miles over the last six months has been challenging. I want to be home with my family (both those with whom I share a house and the companies that live in Venture Hive), but the chance to promote Miami-Dade County and connect our community to opportunities around the world can’t wait. When Mayor Gimenez committed the funds to offer grants to 40 startups to attract and retain new technologists and entrepreneurs, I vowed to myself that I would do whatever I could to mitigate the risk of his investment. My in-kind contribution has been in making linkages, hosting visitors who are considering moving their companies to the U.S., and letting the world know that our Magic City is the ideal place for starting and growing a business and a family.
The trips have resulted in a few insights for entrepreneurs that may seem obvious but sometimes it is nice to have a friendly reminder of the simple things.
1. Vet your mentors. Don’t let someone without experience steer you wrong. Don’t let someone with experience but a closed mind take you off track. Work with people who listen more than they speak. It should be a conversation with your mentor, not a lecture.
2. Build your business and your support group, not your scene cred. The scene is not with you in the middle of the night when you have a bug you have to fix before a 9 a.m. demo. The scene doesn’t vouch for you with a potential investor. And the scene may not be happy for you as your company reaches milestones. Individuals — friends — play those roles. Make good friends who you speak with about your life, who will congratulate you and genuinely mean it.
3. Focus on building a strong and sustainable business, not getting investors. If you have a great business, model, team, value proposition, etc., you will find investors or they will find you.
4. Be nice and honest because everything comes back eventually. Everything. Especially on Facebook.
5. Be a doer, not a talker — or fake it ‘til you make it on one concept. Don’t talk about a lot of things and do nothing.
6. Pride has no place in entrepreneurship. Everyone makes mistakes and staying humble is the only way to maintain any level of sanity, especially when it’s 5 a.m. and that bug continues to live.
7. Look for win-wins. Always put yourself in the shoes of the customer, the manufacturer, the distributor, the investor, etc. and be fair.
8. Business is about long-term relationships. Investors will reinvest in people that lost them money in the past if the relationship isn’t tarnished. Never burn a bridge.
9. Not everyone is replaceable. Functions may be filled by different people but sometimes the passion, communication skills or personality of a team member is more important than duty or title. Find the right fit so you keep the people that make the office tick and smile.
10. Take time to reflect. Through every success and failure, make time to review so that mistakes aren’t repeated and assumptions are reviewed regularly.
Each of these suggestions was inspired by a different city. From Ho Chi Minh and Dar Es Salaam to Panama City and Doha, entrepreneurs are all facing the same challenges. We are just people with big dreams and hopes and having a reminder that we aren’t alone makes it all worthwhile.
Susan Amat is the founder of Venture Hive. Follow her on Twitter at @susanamat