As a serial entrepreneur, you’ve already launched at least one startup. But before you jump into the next one, you should make sure it’s something you really love. Here’s how to build with purpose.
After beginning more than 40 projects with his team in the span of 14 years, he managed to tap into many different industries: dating, e-commerce, publishing, advertising, jobs, mail, and “almost anything [else] you can imagine.”
Stan said that some of the ventures started to make good money and his team grew from 20 to 100 people in one year. Still, he had that nagging, familiar feeling that it wasn’t his thing.
“At some point, I decided I want to spend my time only on things I really love with people I really enjoy being with,” Stan explained.
So he sat down and started to really evaluate his life, his work, and his passions to find the place where they all intersect.
This would become StartupKit — a tool to help you accelerate your learning process as a startup founder. And it’s an idea that he’s truly passionate about.
What Is Purpose and How Do You Find It?
When you first think about a purpose-driven business, what comes to mind might be the one-for-one model that companies like Warby Parker and Toms champion. That’s a great approach to be sure, but what we’re talking about here is finding purpose in a way that’s more personal.
Finding your capital-P purpose is all about discovering an idea or mission that makes you curious, happy, excited, and dissatisfied.
Why dissatisfied? When you think about your big idea, the current state of its industry should leave you feeling like there’s the potential for improvement — potential that you can hopefully tap into with your startup. Finding your purpose means finding something that hits all of those notes.
Serial entrepreneur Stan found his passion by looking back at his previous startups to find similarities. What he found is that they all share the common thread of learning.
“I co-founded a global accelerator (Geekcelerator) for startups from all over the world with the intention to bring them to Silicon Valley. I also co-founded Tangomeet, a platform where you can learn how to dance the tango online. Tangomeet.com is still growing. I also spend 2-4 hours a day learning new things.”
His natural inclination toward learning led him to his current venture, StartupKit. Finding commonalities in your previous projects and ventures is a great way to discover a passion that may have been hard to distinguish before. These commonalities could be regarding the type of products, the product mission, or the sector the companies are in.
Benefits of Building for Purpose
Finding your purpose will, of course, help you personally. But Stan said it can also guide you to recruit the right people and embody your mission in a way that you couldn’t with a startup to which you don’t feel personally connected.
Things that may have been difficult in other business ventures will fall into place more easily because you’ll have a clearer view and stronger motivation. For example, Stan said that it becomes easier to create stories for your brand and attract new users because your passion will be contagious.
How to Act on Your Purpose
Whether your newfound purpose is something you already know a lot about or something that’s completely new, you need to take some steps to establish yourself in the space before diving in head-first.
Stan said, “I don’t think passion is enough to build a business. I think you need to be a little obsessed with what you’re doing.”
Even as a serial entrepreneur, it’s okay if it takes a while to find the thing you’re obsessed with. But once you find it, here’s what to do.
Become a Pro
For Stan, learning more about the education market led him to finding common patterns and important players.
“The best resource to find out about the future trends is TED.com,” he said. “Watching Sir Ken Robison, Sugata Mitra or Daphne Koller sharing their visions about the future of learning is like getting smart instantly.”
Finding Facebook Groups, LinkedIn Groups, and other communities is ideal for getting a pulse on the market and the people behind it. Do a lot of listening, and you’ll start to cultivate your own voice within these communities that is crafted with your passion in mind.
Stan suggests Product Hunt as a vibrant, positive community for anyone interested in learning more about the startup world.
Build for Customers
Even though the driving force in the early stages is your own purpose, your big idea won’t be successful unless you’re building for your audience.
Stan said, “It is very rewarding to have a profitable company, hundreds of employees, but nothing can compare with having millions of customers.” Keep listening to your customers and make sure you’re fulfilling their needs.
To take that a step further, Stan said you should ask yourself, “Who do you want your customer to become?” or “What do your customers want to achieve?”
The next question is, “How can I use what I already know to solve their problem?”
For Stan, it’s important that the customer is someone close to him, like friends, family, or even himself. By building a product to improve their lives, he has a face for his audience and can see the effects more immediately. Also, by keeping the startup close to home, Stan said it’s easier to prioritize your actions.
How a Serial Entrepreneur Stays Motivated
The hard thing about pursuing your passion as a career is detaching yourself from it.
Often, when a project is personal, every pitfall is amplified and every criticism can hit really close to home. This is only natural. But, it is possible prepare yourself for the hits.
Preparation will help you build your passion into an obsession, and with that motivation comes some extra gumption you’ll need to stay positive. Stan said this will help you build for tough times.
Keeping an eye on the big picture is also a helpful way to help you maintain focus. Display your company mission statement somewhere as a constant reminder of why you’re doing this venture. For example, Stan’s might say “We’re providing an educational space for entrepreneurs.”
It will be easier to avoid blowing small glitches and setbacks out of proportion when you have the big picture providing a daily dose of perspective.
As with any startup, you’ll be eating, sleeping, and breathing the business. But, when it’s something you have a strong personal connection to, it can really permeate every fiber of your being. That’s why Stan says it’s important to come up for air.
“From my experience, every time I found myself in the tunnel without seeing the light, I’d take a break — a few days with kids or few days at the mountains, doing something totally different,” he shared. “When I came back, every time I have a solution.”
Creating a Life Worth Living
When he is 80 years old, Stan wants to look back on his life and be able to answer “yes” when asked if he built a life worth living. For him, through every startup, that’s what it all comes down to.
Even amidst the routine stages of serial entrepreneurship, building with purpose can lead to a greater impact for your users and everyone around you. With a long-term goal for your business and your life, the two will inevitably overlap and hopefully expedite your trip down a motivating path that you were headed to all along.
Stan concluded, “With time, you want to do only meaningful things for yourself. You want to make sure every second you invest in something is worth your attention, your experience, and your expertise. I think that’s why you should look for meaning first when you’re an experienced founder.”
All images via Unsplash.