Finding patterns in chaos

One of the first things you come to accept while working in a startup or anything related to entrepreneurship is the fact that the only thing that remains constant is chaos. The romanticized stories of Bill Gate and Mark Zuckerberg tell us that startups are a fast way to be rich and famous, and that starting one is just as simple. We are only exposed to the rock star lives of the entrepreneurs. However, the truth is grim, startups are either one of the worst or the best career choices you can make. Nothing works as the books or the stories tell you. There is no recipe to a startup success. Or is there?

Working in a startup accelerator puts you in this privileged position where you are exposed to everything about entrepreneurship, from the latest books on the topic to stories of entrepreneurs to analytical thinking of the investors. This exposure has given us an opportunity to just step back and see patterns. The human mind does one thing amazingly, and that is recognizing patterns. All of the startup gurus are doing nothing but seeing patterns where you see chaos.

In my role as the Program Development Associate at NEXT Venture Crop I have done everything to find these patterns. Believe me I am not just seeing things; you too will be able to see these patterns as you really get involved in the field. Let me give you an example, one of the most well documented procedures in entrepreneurship is that of turning ideas into a good product. Almost every book or article you read will tell you one thing and that the best way to convert ideas into a good product boils down to experimentation. Specifically, the steps are; find an idea → create a prototype → give it to the customers → collect feedback → make changes → give it to customers again.

Patterns like these exist all over the startup world, and an accelerator is able to compile all of these learnings into something called a curriculum for the startups. We at NEXT have spent years recognizing these patterns and understanding the market, and hope to disseminate these learnings to startups through our accelerator program. 

The new form of business

We are lucky to be living in an era where progress has been the focus in almost every field. We see it in technology, scientific discoveries, medicine, business and so on. We hold in our hands a device so powerful that it can connect us to this world wide network of knowledge. This ease of access to information has been the fuel to the fire. The motto of this era has been to ‘move forward’, and we are doing that at a tremendous pace.

However, in the mid-20th century we got a rude awakening that the material benefits we were enjoying came with adverse environmental costs, the human greenhouse effect was a reality. It has taken decades since then but we can finally see the governments and businesses pushing towards making their practices environmentally friendly. Consequently, this push to be eco-friendly has caused a paradigm shift in the definition of a business and given rise to a new form of business, the for-profit social enterprises or the hybrids.

There hybrid businesses aim to bring a compromise between the traditional profit driven enterprises, and the not-for-profit organisations. They have been able to do so by ingraining the concept of sustainability in their business model. Various papers in this topic define a sustainable business as any organization or company that ensures that all the processes, products and manufacturing activities address the needs and concerns of the stakeholders. These businesses are environmentally and socially aware of the impact of their business activities and final products, and try to reduce this impact while still maintaining profit.

This concept of business sustainability is new in itself, therefore finding examples in the real world that embody the concept is very hard. However, one of the most well documented cases is that of Grameen Bank. Where they are working towards empowering the impoverished population by providing them with micro-credit loans without any collaterals. You can also find other examples in the Global 100 Sustainability Index. What all of these examples have in common is the fact that they are working towards making sure that they are making a positive environmental and social impact. Most of you at this point will be debating whether the CSR policies of the big corporations could qualify them as being a sustainable business. However, to me the impact the organizations create is more important than the debate on what we can call them.

We as customers also play a crucial role in this change, if we start caring about where the products we buy come from, it forces the businesses to change how they operate. Those that are at the edge of this change will succeed those that remain ignorant will become obsolete. This is the rule of nature and that of business, the survival of the most adaptable.

Pranjal Ghimire