Derek Lundgren Bittar

@dereklbittar

The Ultimate Survival Guide for Entrepreneurs in Emerging Startup Ecosystems

October 29th 2017

If you are an entrepreneur outside a mature startup ecosystem, reading this fun guide will increase your odds of surviving.

⚠️ Warning ⚠️

Reading this guide might increase your odds to survive and thrive. Not reading it won’t change anything, because you won’t know what could have changed. So, good luck with not reading it!

In case you don’t know whether you’re in an emerging startup ecosystem, that’s because you are and you have no idea about entrepreneurship. No worries, you’ll be fine! Just read along.

This is a fun guide and should be read as such. Nevertheless, you’ll find thoughtful pieces of advice for your venture’s success. If there’s anything you might share to help fellow entrepreneurs survive, please don’t hesitate to comment below.

{🍑} Butt-Naked

I know the story about this guy who’s a sleepwalker. He was visiting China for business and staying in a luxury hotel. He woke up from this weird dream in which he wasn’t able to open the bathroom’s door.

He was standing in front of the door with his bladder about to burst. But hey, if you had a sleepwalking issue, I guess you would be wise enough not to sleep naked in a hotel room, right?? Well, he wasn’t.

A bright, warm light on his head woke him up. He had locked himself outside his room, on the 80th floor of a luxury hotel in Shanghai. He was butt-naked! No cellphone, no room-key, just an unbearable need to empty the bladder.

Think fast

That’s when quick solutions must take place! In such large hotels, it wouldn’t take long for someone to show up. In China, walking naked in public spaces is sexual harassment. So, he sprinted, bare-naked, towards the EXIT sign.

Please take a moment to visualize: a mid-aged man running naked through the long corridors of a five stars hotel. Quite a thrilling moment in life.

He quickly walked through the fire exit door. Closing the door behind him, he finally took a breath. He found himself in a small room that separated the circulation area from the emergency stairways. Just like in a Leisure Suit Larry game, there he found all tools needed to “win the phase”.

An intercom at the wall. A couple of empty laundry bags laying on the floor — those items must have been there on purpose. He tied two laundry bags together and wrapped them around the waist, covering his intimate parts and giving him a Tarzan look.

Dial nine

If you find yourself in the same situation one day, the only thing you need to remember is to dial nine. Nine is the universal number to reach the reception or an attendant — either should be able to provide help.

The number nine is located on the second row starting from the bottom, to the right of the keypad — just in case for some reason your vision is impaired. Quite a life saver!

Stay Cool

Help came 10 minutes later. Upon opening the emergency exit-door, the front desk’s assistant jumped back with a surprised look while staring at the man’s odd outfit. Trying to act as casual as possible, the adventurous naked man followed calmly through the five stars hotel’s corridors back to his room.

With a magic swipe of a master-key, the front desk’s assistant opened the door, putting an end to this unexpected adventure. A relief could never be so blissful! So much for a short but unforgettable experience in China.

The butt-naked philosophy

Being an entrepreneur in an emerging startup ecosystem is equivalent to being butt-naked in public space. It is not cool to be butt-naked in public areas. Knowingly, you need to act fast to find solutions to make your startup thrive.

Stay unrestful until your startup starts generating revenues. Move quickly towards breakeven. When you reach it for the first time, remember to take a deep breath! Your venture has just begun, and you still have a long thrilling ride ahead.

For better or for worse; Eventually, you will find the EXIT sign.

{🍑}_butt-naked
_think.fast 🤔⚡️
_dial.nine 9️⃣
_stay.cool 😎
_butt-naked.philosophy 👳🏾

{🚽} Essentials

In this section, I will introduce you to the idea of becoming a digital nomad. Becoming a digital nomad requires preparation in every sense. But most importantly, you’ll need to make sure that you have the correct equipment for your undertaking.

Being a digital nomad

First and foremost, you don’t talk about being a digital nomad in the first person. You shall never say “I’m a digital nomad”. Others might say “He’s a digital nomad”. You may acknowledge. It’s a title you’ll earn.

Being a digital nomad is the synonym of preparedness. You must be mentally prepared to deal with the stresses of coffee lines, poor Wi-Fi, canceled meetings and last minute flights.

Unconstrained access to coffee

You must be aware of your survival needs, especially of the constant need for — and ways of obtaining — coffee.

In general, an entrepreneur’s body cannot survive longer than three hours without a cup of coffee. So, you must rest sure that you’ll have open access to this fundamental source of energy.

Along your way, you will find two primary sources of coffee: paid and unpaid sources. Unpaid sources of coffee are not to be found in the outdoors. You are likely to find them in conferences, supermarket tastings, and hotel receptions.

Don’t be ashamed of providing yourself a free productivity boost.

Laptop, the ultimate survival tool

A LapTop is your most important survival tool. It must be chosen wisely and handled with care. It must be kept in perfect working conditions.

Wrapping your laptop in tech stickers proves seniority and improves credibility. Each sticker represents a war-badge that will indicate your rank within the ecosystem.

It is essential to learn how to read those badges, so you know if your fellow entrepreneur outranks you before engaging in heated discussions.

Never carry sharp objects

A digital nomad’s raison d’être is to be 100% mobile. He or she must be ready to get on a plane at any time. The most humiliating situation a digital nomad may go through is being frisked at an airport’s x-ray. The digital nomad knows what to carry on and walks smoothly through the security check.

{🚽}_essentials
_being.a.digital.nomad 🏃🏽
_unconstrained.access.to.coffee ☕️
_laptop.the.ultimate.survival.tool 💻🎖
_never.carry.sharp.objects 🚫🔪

{👾} Strategy

Whether on an elevator pitch or undergoing sleepless nights of due diligence — both may lead to a heart attack — the same disciplines and quick thinking are needed. The following strategies can significantly increase your chances of surviving.

Time Warping

The most valuable asset for an entrepreneur is time. An excellent expression of Silicon Valley’s success is its culture of efficiently managing time.

Outsiders are often surprised by the fact that productive meetings won’t last longer than half an hour. Depending on the notoriety of the person you’re meeting with, a fifteen minutes meeting is a privilege for few.

Be laser sharp. Objectiveness is an excellent skill to have. If you can adjourn the meeting five minutes earlier, do so. It means you have managed to bend time and you’re now a time-traveler.

Allow the other party to decide whether to close the meeting earlier or not. That strategy generates a positive chemistry in a busy investor’s brain.

Use this ability wisely in your ecosystem. With cultural adaptations, you’ll show a differential among entrepreneurs. Investors prefer sharp founders.

Never be late

Being on time is a critical factor in building trust. Unconsciously, a delay can be interpreted as lack of interest or worse, lack of respect. There are cultures, where delays are acceptable. You’ll never know how the other party will perceive it.

It doesn’t matter if you’re pitching to an institutional investor or an angel. Investors are always in a hurry. Arrive at the latest five minutes before the meeting.

Same day feedback

It is crucial never to exceed the 24 hours limit to follow up on an investor’s meeting. Don’t wait until the next day to send a thank you note.

Any symptoms of ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) can sabotage that relationship you’ve spent valuable time building. Follow up immediately after the meeting. That’s a simple action that will save you time and show that you’re an organized and trustworthy entrepreneur.

2-Step Verification

Also known as two-factor authentication, this extra layer of security has become a vital annoyance in our every-days. No matter if it’s from Apple, Facebook, Google, or other tech services, you just have to live with it. It ensures that you’re the only person who can access your account, even if someone knows your password.

Venture Capital is all about networking. You meet people, who introduce you to people and vice-versa. Repeatedly introducing different people that may have productive business generates good karma and eventually leads to payback. So, network wisely and collaboratively.

You can hack the 2-Step Verification of real life. Building trust in a one-hour meeting isn’t straightforward. More and more people tend to rely on common references to find endorsement. So, you shouldn’t wait for people to talk good about you! For every critical meeting find a common friend that can endorse you.

Know your deltas

Disciplined entrepreneurs usually do their homework and prepare a beautiful pitch presentation of their startup. Yet, the majority fail at knowing their numbers by heart.

Knowing your revenues is an obvious advice. Most of the smart-investors aren’t concerned about your nominal terms. They are seeking for deltas and ratios that may reveal an exponential startup. Know your growth rates, customer acquisition costs, lifetime value of customers, burn rate, runway among other indicators.

{👾}_strategy
_time.warping ⏰👽
_never.be.late 🕛
_same.day.feedback 🗣
_2-step.verification 👥
_know.your.deltas 🤓

{⛅️} Climate & Terrain

No ties

Although these basic survival strategies and techniques apply to any emerging startup ecosystem, conditions vary widely around the world. You can use the following map to help you choose the appropriate clothing.

As long as you’re not wearing a tie for your pitch, you’re doing good — hoodies are only for billionaires.

Image courtesy of the UK Meteorological Office

The Starbucks-meter

If you haven’t yet figured out whether you’re in an emerging startup ecosystem or not, this sophisticated measuring tool will help you locate your startup.

Besides the Bay Area and Israel, there are only two sorts of startup ecosystems. Those where you can find a Starbucks and those where you can’t. If you’re in the ladder, you’re a real deal emerging startup ecosystem entrepreneur. You’re a real survivor! Or, you’re the craziest person on Earth, and this guide was designed to support you.

{⛅️}_climate.&.terrain
_no.ties 🚫👔
_the.starbucks-meter 🌟🌡

{🍖} Food

As an entrepreneur, you shouldn’t need hunting skills. But in case you do, I advise you to reconsider the idea of starting your business wherever this is. So, let’s start from the assumption that you won’t be hunting for food anytime soon.

Seven days to build

You still have to worry about eating. Maybe you’ll be preparing food. But, assuming it takes 30 min to make one meal, let’s do the math: if you cook once a day for 365 days, it means that you spend more than seven days per year cooking.

Christians believe that God built the Earth in six days and rested on the seventh. Taken from that perspective, imagine what you could do for your startup! So, you’d better find somewhere cheap to eat.

“May I?”

Here’s an integral part of your survival strategy. Politeness is never too much! When eating with prospective investors for lunch or dinner, it is essential to not be on your elbows chewing with open mouth. That’s your opportunity to show manners and make your parents proud.

But manners can play in your favor — this advice is only valid when repeatedly performed— At the restaurant when the check arrives, don’t offer to split. Just ask: “May I?” Investors know you’re struggling every day to pay your bills. An incontrollable sentiment of parenthood will be triggered, and investors will do what they do best: Write checks!

{🍖}_food
_seven.days.to.build ⛪
_may.I.? 🙄

{🏡} Camp Craft

I have a good friend who became a hard-core serial entrepreneur that never succeeded. What also means that he never made enough money to pay for a satisfactory living. He developed ultimate survival skills, and his experience was crucial for drafting this guide.

Trust your backpack

During days of struggle, my friend and fellow entrepreneur moved twelve times in less than a year and never paid a penny for rent. He deserved a True Digital Nomad award.

Living at different friends’ houses. Being 100% mobile. Not knowing where to go next. But always carrying your startup with yourself. You have to trust your backpack, your laptop, and your digital nomad instincts!

Rely on friends

Play hard, party hard. You may be a genius entrepreneur who can code and envision the future better than anyone. You still need friends to succeed. Family’s support, trustworthy relationships, and networking. You need to keep a life-balance.

Anxiety may impair your vision of the future. Take a break. Enjoy life. Moments of productive procrastination lead to higher productivity. So, remember to stay close to your friends, they will be there no matter if you succeed or fail.

{🏡}_camp.craft
_trust.your.backpack 💼
_rely.on.friends 👯

😷 Health

Dodging a heart-attack

I mentioned that you should find somewhere cheap to eat. Well, let’s focus on the idea of eating cheap while staying healthy. That leads to the thin balance, in which you eat cheap but still avoid a lifestyle that can lead to a heart attack.

Not too long ago, I experienced the drama of having a close friend and entrepreneur suffer a heart-attack. Those were critical days for his startup. It was a life-changing event for his family. Fortunately, they all made it through!

Success is a road

After his heart-attack, some investors gave up on him; other stood firmly by his side. One year past, he managed to double his startup’s revenues. He is a real survivor. More than a friend, he is an inspiration.

As we walked through the valley of shadows, investor, and entrepreneur, we knew many would fail us. We still have a long way, but we’re comforted by the knowledge that success is a road, not a destination.

{😷}_health
_dodging.a.heart-attack 💔
_success.is.a.road 🏆

{🤑} Exit

Exiting isn’t a purpose

Some startups grow fast; other startups grow steady; many startups fail.

I am not keen to advising founders to focus on finding ways to exit. A startup’s primary purpose is to develop indispensable products. Exit opportunities are a consequence of developing indispensable products.

In emerging startup ecosystems, exiting is not as straightforward as it is in developed startup ecosystems. Dedicate yourself to building a startup that survives and thrives. Eventually, exit opportunities will knock at your door.

{🤑}_exit
_exiting.isn't.a.purpose 🔥🚪

Will you continue sitting there waiting for your startup to take off? Why are you still procrastinating and reading this stupid guide? Remember you’re butt-naked in a public space!

✅ TL;DR

Thanks for reading this far, or not! What matters is you’re here. Print this cheat-sheet; it has been designed to fit in your pocket. Keep it handy; it may save you from the most unexpected situations.

{🍑}_butt-naked
_think.fast 🤔⚡️
_dial.nine 9️⃣
_stay.cool 😎
_butt-naked.philosophy 👳🏾
{🚽}_essentials
_being.a.digital.nomad 🏃🏽
_unconstrained.access.to.coffee ☕️
_laptop.the.ultimate.survival.tool 💻🎖
_never.carry.sharp.objects 🚫🔪
{👾}_strategy
_time.warping ⏰👽
_never.be.late 🕛
_same.day.feedback 🗣
_2-step.verification 👥
_know.your.deltas 🤓
{⛅️}_climate.&.terrain
_no.ties 🚫👔
_the.starbucks-meter 🌟🌡
{🍖}_food
_seven.days.to.build ⛪
_may.I.? 🙄
{🏡}_camp.craft
_trust.your.backpack 💼
_rely.on.friends 👯
{😷}_health
_dodging.a.heart-attack 💔
_success.is.a.road 🏆
{🤑}_exit
_exiting.isn't.a.purpose 🔥🚪

Best of Luck Out There!

Derek L. Bittar is the co-founder and managing partner of IndicatorCapital. He writes and travels with the mission to help entrepreneurs thrive in emerging startup ecosystems.

Important Disclaimer
This story (or article) has been prepared for informational / entertainment purposes only, and is not intended to provide investment advice or any offer or sale of any investments. This story is the author’s opinion and is for information purposes only.

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