Starting a business is all about belief
I ventured to the North East for the opening of Newcastle Startup Week on Monday, which was labelled ‘Inspiration Day’.
Event organiser Paul Lancaster pulled together an interesting line-up of speakers at the Boiler Shop, from Labour's Chi Onwurah – standing for re-election in Newcastle Central on June 8th – to a string of entrepreneurs who have been there, done it and are still wearing the T-shirt.
Will Murray sold edtech firm Turnitin for a reported $750 million while Jason Knights won Disney as a client for his fledgling agency Blue Kangaroo by ringing up on a whim and asking for work.
There were also several speakers at an earlier stage in their business journey, such as Leaf.fm’s Costa Rican Gilbert Corrales, whose story has been covered on this website before.
However it was the motivational speakers that stole the show. Shaven-headed Brad Burton, who hails from Salford, wore jeans and Adidas trainers and said that you should never judge a book by its cover. He should know, having written four of them.
Burton has been addicted to drugs twice and was “one day away from divorce” after quitting his job while £25,000 in debt with a six-month-old son to feed. He now has a multi-million-pound business and is a bestselling author.
LISTEN TO THE PODCAST: Innovation on show at Newcastle Startup Week
Founders often plough a lonely furrow and have to sell their dream to potential collaborators, investors and family members. It is no wonder that so many start-ups fail: having a great idea is only the start of a long and difficult road. This is especially true in tech, where your product may not yet even have an established market.
Burton told the audience that there isn’t a guaranteed recipe for success, and that a business’ recipe will change many times over the years as it evolves. Leaf.fm’s Corrales also alluded to that need to be versatile and constantly reinvent what a firm can offer customers. However the core ingredients, such as hard work and mindset, remain the same throughout.
Student Olena Hrynenko told me afterwards that she had found all the speakers useful, but it was Burton who had really inspired her. She plans to begin a tech business with friends in Ukraine once her studies are complete.
Burton is an extreme example, and I for one cannot advocate sacrificing a well-paid job for a dream when there are children to provide for.
But it illustrates the point that entrepreneurship boils down to belief – both in your idea and yourself.