This was one of the biggest lessons I took away from EY’s Accelerating Entrepreneurs event that took place this spring in Amsterdam. For the event, EY selected 30 entrepreneurs from around the world – 10 each from the Americas, Asia Pacific and EMEIA – to learn from each other and more than 200 other corporate executives, chief digital, innovation, strategy and corporate development officers, disrupters and leading thinkers from around the world.
I had the good fortune of being selected as one the representatives from North America and while I knew this was a global program, I didn’t realize what that actually meant until I got there.
I’ve traveled and have customers all around the world, so I’ve seen things from a global perspective. And Boston, where I live, is such a great city for startups – especially for someone like me in the tech and finance world – that I’ve been surrounded by amazing resources and connections that have helped get my company off the ground. Being in Boston, I’ve benefited from student-run organizations like Northeastern University’s venture accelerator, IDEA, industry organizations like the FinTech Sandbox, the strong community of venture capitalists, and so many entrepreneurs that are walking the same path, or have walked that path before me.
This is why it was so surprising – and flattering – to be the only entrepreneur from Boston selected for EY’s Accelerating Entrepreneurs event. But it’s also what made it so valuable. It’s easy to get trapped inside a bubble when trying to build a startup. You’re trying to do so many things on any given day so it’s hard to not get caught up in the tactics, working with and managing your team. And even when you try to get outside the bubble, chances are good that you’re repeatedly talking to the same people, in the same city, who have been doing the same things.
Getting a global perspective was eye-opening because you realize that startups all around the world, in unrelated industries, are running into some of the same exact problems you are. It feels good to know you’re not alone. And while that emotional support is important, it’s even more valuable to learn from these people and the different ways they attack similar problems.
For example, I spoke with one founder from Asia who had recently weighed the pros and cons of taking corporate venture capital. It was interesting to hear his thought process about how doing so could accelerate short-term growth and help his company enter markets that it would otherwise not reach so quickly. But on the other side of the equation, he also had to think about how it would impact his growth rate over in the long term and how that could impact the strategy for a potential exit three to five years down the road.
There are many things that seemingly unrelated companies have in common where they can learn from each other, ranging from growth drivers, to customer success, and de-risking strategies. I’ve realized that getting out of your bubble to seek a global perspective on these things is invaluable and EY’s Accelerating Entrepreneurs program was a great place to do that. Keep an eye out for next year’s event, it’d be well worth your time.