Entrepreneurship, community and facing the fear of failure

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This article was originally published on the KAUST Innovation blog.

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It’s a common misconception that the best entrepreneurs achieve their success by being armies of one: productivity machines with game-changing ideas and an almost superhuman work ethic. But the reality is often very different.

While many of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs are indeed visionary individuals with bright minds, big ideas, and a pathological aversion to a good night’s sleep, what is too often overlooked is that ‘none of them – literally none – achieve their goals without the help of others.

Whether it’s a trusted co-founder, a team of motivated and capable individuals, or simply a supportive and understanding spouse, success comes as much from having the right people around. you than being the right person yourself.

Finding a supportive community can be the difference between founding the next gamechanger or giving up on the first setback. And this concept of community is important at all levels, whether within a single team, or across an entire region, as we see in Silicon Valley.

The Bay Area isn’t home to many of the world’s unicorn startups because a disproportionate number of brilliant entrepreneurs live there. No, a disproportionate number of brilliant entrepreneurs choose to go be part of an interconnected network of many actors actively engaged in the entrepreneurial game.

Of course, this connected community has evolved over eight decades of growth and development. Recent history has shown us that some communities have developed these ecosystems in two decades, such as the Districte de la innovació de Barcelona (22 @ Barcelona). So how do you create a vibrant entrepreneurial community here in Saudi Arabia that can drive change?

The benefits of creating an entrepreneurial community

Building a thriving entrepreneurial community is no small feat, but once in place, such an environment can start to gain momentum very quickly.

The more successful startups a community produces, the more talent and investment are attracted, which increases the chances of success for new startups. It also encourages the next generation of entrepreneurs to choose this location as a base for their fledgling businesses.

As the concentration of startups in a given area increases, financial benefits are realized through the emergence of economies of scale for shared requirements such as startup-centric infrastructure, facilities and office space. , professional services, suppliers and labor.

A thriving entrepreneurial community will soon spawn a variety of industry and networking events that will serve as a kind of mix for the talent pool. This increases the likelihood of these very important chance encounters that could trigger the creation of the next high-impact, high-value-added startups.

And finally, as the production of successful startups becomes routine, new entrepreneurs begin to pay for their earnings, bringing vital experience and knowledge, recycled capital, and mentoring opportunities to the local market. Recently we have seen this start to happen in Saudi Arabia, with a good number of investors and serial entrepreneurs actively engaged in the community.

Community building is the backbone of our activities at KAUST Entrepreneurship Center. Our startup community has access to KAUST facilities as well as co-working spaces in Jeddah and Riyadh to integrate into local markets and network with other entrepreneurs.

Regular meetings and community gatherings are not limited to the current TAQADAM cohorts, but also to our portfolio of startups. These community building activities include connecting entrepreneurs and investors, as we build a network of conscious fellows and use informal gatherings to connect with the wider community locally and globally. The mixing of these different groups has a transformative effect.

Related: To Solve MENA’s Most Urgent Problems, Startups And Their Larger Counterparts Need To Come Together

The role of the community in taking risks and overcoming the fear of failure

One of the most important aspects of being an entrepreneur is to accept, if not embrace, failure. Very, very few entrepreneurs are successful with their first project or idea. And many people who have all the makings of being successful entrepreneurs experience this first failure and then give up. It’s a shame, and again, having the right people around can make all the difference.

Thomas Edison is one of the most famous entrepreneurs to ever live, probably best known today for being the man who developed a promising emerging technology: the incandescent light bulb. One of the main problems with the first light bulbs was the filament – it had to be made from a material that would burn brightly, was very durable, and inexpensive to mass produce. Edison is said to have tested 10,000 different filament materials before he found the right carbonized Kyoto bamboo, of all things.

Successful entrepreneurs share a common mindset with scientists: whenever an experiment does not deliver the intended result (failure), they know they have learned something important and rule out a possibility. This means that they are one step closer to discovering the unknown (success). The average entrepreneur is said to fail 3.8 times before starting a successful business.

We cultivate this mindset in our children as they learn new skills, but we often get lost as we enter adulthood. It is essential to anchor this point of view in our culture.

And here again, we come up against a common misconception. Entrepreneurs do not need to possess resilience beyond the norm; they need to understand that failure is an accepted and expected part of the process.

And that’s where the community comes in. As individuals, we are all vulnerable to self-doubt and internal spiraling grievances when things go wrong. But with the right community and the right support network behind us, we can begin to see failure differently, not as an end state, but as a step on the road to success.

It might sound like a cheap prospect trick, but it’s incredibly powerful. This shift in mindset to see failure as acceptable frees the chains, allowing us to take more risks, be more creative, and push the boundaries further.

Some of these risks will lead to dead ends and closed chapters – maybe many of them will. But every now and then a risk will lead to the creation of something transformative. And we need these positive changes.

Related: The (Right) Formula for Cultivating Entrepreneurial Talent


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