Whenever I visit Silicon Valley, I always get to hear fascinating stories about how experienced professionals work with innovations and take part in mentoring various projects. They steer newcomers through their own networks and introduce them to experts. It feels like the whole community is living in a “pay it forward” culture where encouragement is a norm, and failure is just a step in the learning path.
Successful startup entrepreneurs invest their money in new companies, act as mentors, and evangelize in investor communities. New entrepreneurs, innovators, and researchers obtain valuable knowledge, tips and tricks, as well as professional networks. Later on, they can themselves share these very same things with the next generation, causing the whole community to become better and stronger. It is no coincidence that Silicon Valley keeps its position as one of the startup epicenters of the world.
At best, the senior professionals and advisors are crucial for the success of a new entrepreneur or for example, a research group. In addition to good advice and ideas, also positivity, optimism, willpower, and grit is shared. In other words, sisu is passed on.
At worst, the seniors can poison the atmosphere, discourage the entrepreneur, and doom even the best ideas. I recall one such case a few years back: a group of researchers was excited about getting a chance to present to a prestigious group of advisors. Expectations were high. However, instead of support and constructive feedback, the advisors questioned everything: why are we here, what is in it for us, why don’t you show us anything of interest?
We should all think carefully whether to join various boards or management teams, or engage in mentorships. Time and motivation to help are good indicators to consider before jumping in. Board members and advisors are most likely busy people. However, successful advising and helping others can actually relieve stress. According to Inka Mero, a startup investor and board member, “a good way to relieve stress is to help others. I believe this to be one reason for some people to be good in leading others. They don’t push but give positive assistance.” Link to the original article (in Finnish).
It was recently reported that Finnish startups are now the most attractive in Europe. This is an excellent situation for Finnish entrepreneurship and innovation efforts. However, the road ahead is bumpy. It takes a lot of knowledge, skills, and in particular, sisu to overcome the challenges. Luckily, all of these can be transferred from one person to another. Real life stories teach, motivate, and make the eyes sparkle. At the same time, we strengthen the Finnish version of the pay it forward culture. We are passing on sisu!
Dear reader, I challenge you to tell your story. What successful pivot or innovative way of working have you been able to pass on? Correspondingly, what are you grateful of; what has been golden regarding your career?