From our first moment of contact with Valley Venture Mentors we knew that there was something special. There was a sense of enthusiasm, welcoming smiles, and a strong sense of community. There was a sense that if you were driven enough to grow your business, that you really could do it – you could create the next Google, or Uber, or even the next Smucker’s (yes, jam). VVM didn’t care what you were working on, except that: 1) it had to be economically viable (even if only an “idea”), 2) it had to be scalable, and 3) you had to have an almost maniacal passion to see it through. As our executive director, and star of the show – Paul Silva – calls it: a desire for “benign world domination”. Of course, once we heard this phrase, we knew that we had found like-minded individuals – a family, if you will?
It would be difficult to even recount the number of times that Ian and I had thought along similar lines in the office over the prevailing years – “benign world expansion”, etc., etc. The 80s new wave rock group “Tears for Fears” comes to mind, as they summarized the feeling quite succinctly in one of their songs. But alas, start-ups are hard. Oftentimes, in fact – almost always – even with a great idea, product, market, and team, it can seem like wandering through the wilderness. Sometimes even with the best team, it can feel like being one of those isolated pockets of human existence that you sometimes read about being discovered in the Amazon – self sufficient, but alone.
Our experience before VVM was like being one of those tribes. Traveling through the wilderness. Scouting. Learning. Building. Harnessing opportunities. Searching through the darkness – taking advantage of light. Following trails – at times profitable, other times leading to dead ends. Suddenly however, after enough searching, the trails pointed in one direction. We had heard that there was a friendly settlement nearby – something called “VVM”?? We explored the first meeting – that meeting was on February 12th.
We had finally found another – much larger – tribe who spoke our language, and shared our beliefs. Could it be? Until then we had only theorized that there just “must” be people nearby who understand us and our struggles, and who wanted us to succeed – who did not want to be paid to assume that role (there are many of those – their tribe is called “paid consultants”). Did these purely altruistic people really exist? Were there people out there who just “cared” about start-ups? Were there people who cared about the start-up community and whom wanted to help – apart from financial gain? Finally, we could answer those questions in the affirmative. We had found our like-minded “tribe”; we had found the group of people who until then had been purely theoretical. It was as if we had unlocked a missing component of our journey as a start-up.
The journey still has much further to go, but now we don’t have to travel alone. Tribes are more effective than going it alone, especially when you have a long journey. As the old proverb says: if you want to go fast, go alone, but if you want to go far, go with others. Indeed, a start-up is about going with others. The “team”, “tribe”, “group”, is usually the most important component of a start-up. If you see yourself in this type of journey, I urge you to apply to Valley Venture Mentors. VVM won’t solve all of your problems, but as with John Lennon’s definition of “love” – the more you put into it, the more you get out. If you really desire to succeed, you will not regret joining. Good luck on the journey.