Graduates Look to Tech Disruptors for Opportunity

disruptorsIn the summer months, the employment market is flooded with newly minted graduates. In an environment where there are more supply chain, logistics, and related jobs than there are qualified candidates, this can be an opportune season to attract talent.  Today, pursing a job at a startup, particularly a high-tech, electronics startup is all the rage.

First, let’s make sure we agree on what a startup is. A startup is a pre-company that was formed to establish a company.  A hot shot disruptive technology startup has the potential to change the way we do business, to create a new business model. It goes well beyond offering Web site or app development services.

Someone said executing a startup is like jumping off a cliff without anything, then building the plane on your way down and getting it to fly before you hit the ground. If you fail, you crash and die. At the same time, even after you get it in the air, you have to not only keep it flying but also continue to climb and take multiple pinnacles one after another. In the business world, that translates into monetary rewards for investors, and satisfaction for everyone involved. If you have the right temperament, it’s a rewarding exercise, but at the same time it creates some of the most difficult situations imaginable.

A typical startup goes through several ups and downs before it hits that most coveted hockey stick ramp up. Many of them fail within the first three years due to a variety of challenges. Successful founders are more than just lucky. They put in the hard work and the struggle. They were smart, whether they had a strategic funding or had an early on consulting revenue. And, it’s important to remember, many did everything right and still failed.

Even with all the risks, startups offer a lot of opportunities to young graduates, including a chance to:

  • Learn to solve a problem in a fitting manner
  • Understand non-siloed thinking while learning the activities of each business function
  • Relentlessly pursue the critical goal of adding value
  • Understand the ins and outs of building a great team and successfully overcoming challenges with them
  • Gain career-building skills
  • Help make a vision come to life in reality

Learn to solve a problem in a fitting manner

Successful startups solve a real problem that people have. The first step is to talk to the target group of users. They will be glad to help because they have a problem that needs a solution. These are the people who can get into the nitty gritty of the problem. In the end, you need to be able to offer big value that will convince end users to switch to your solution. These companies are able to express their value proposition simply and elegantly.  Users will be anxious to climb on board.

Understand a non-siloed thinking while learning the activities of each business function

It is very important to understand the true goals of every organizational activity. For example, the goal of marketing is very simple: collecting leads which are pursued by sales and eventually result in a new customer. Similarly, there is no point in spending $1 million in product development and another $1 million in product marketing. A product that solves a problem thoroughly is the first and the foremost thing, especially in the consumer world. If your product does not speak for itself, if there is no solid differentiation, there is no point in even making the product. That is why Steve Jobs declared that Apple wouldn’t be part of Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Instead, Apple had its own show on its campus. The premise here is that product excellence gets attention—so if you focus on that and being groundbreaking and innovative the attention will naturally follow.  Another leader, Tesla, spends zero dollars on marketing its cars. The Tesla cars are so ground breaking and innovative that it sells itself. The product needs to speak for itself.

Relentlessly pursue the critical goal of adding value

Great employees focus on adding value to the end customer. If your task/project/activity doesn’t add value to your end user, then don’t do it. Of course, you can’t take this literally. In a startup, direct customer value may be hard to discern. However, it remains an important question that in turn build a culture that thinks about the customer at every turn.  That customer focus helps you learn the industry and its evolving trends (that means, building domain expertise). Startups need to be relentless in this. 

Understand the ins and outs of building a great team 

The team determines the success of a startup. A tight team defined by contagious energy, enthusiasm, loyalty, and ability to work together seamlessly produces more than the sum of the individuals.  A team that overcomes diversity together provides a great learning ground for a young professional. Of course, a tiny startup with a grand vision may have a hard time attracting top talent. However, a real team can see the vision and work together to get to the goal.

Gain career-building skills

While beginning a career, it is very important to choose for reasons that get beyond just a salary. Find a role that you call fall in love with and the quality of your work will show it. When you love what you do, you are willing to go the extra mile or two and you want to put your own signature on it, and innovate at it.

Help make a vision come to life in reality

One of the coolest experiences I had was working with an entrepreneur in real life.  I had already had two failed companies on my resume. Knowing I needed to earn my sales and marketing chops,  I joined the MBA program at Georgia Tech with the goal of having a company with real customers when I graduated.  My professor Dr. Saby Mitra connected me with the ATDC where I met an entrepreneur who was building a smart water meter. It was fascinating see his vision and, after almost a year, they had gotten funding and had a working product. He succeeded fueled by sheer persistence and vision—and he had built a company that was functioning as a new business entity.

So, what do you think? Do you have the stomach to be part of a startup? If you are building a vision, do you know how to attract the best of the young talent. Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.

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