Serial-entrepreneur, Steve Blank, gave an inspiring “fireside chat” at CUNY on recently. Blank drew a large crowd filled of hopeful and engaged individuals, many of whom were keen on obtaining some insight on the startup world. His message seemed to transcend the stage and truly resonate with members of the audience. This could be attributed to the fact that Blank is an instructor and mentor. He’s been an adjunct professor at various, prestigious universities and created the ultra successful class Hacking for Defense at Stanford University. Despite his long list of achievements, Blank emitted a relaxed, approachable demeanor while offering credible advice on the nature of startups.
On being a Founder:
Blank describes a startup as a “religious experience” noting that you have to be a bit crazy to want to start one. He identifies an entrepreneur as an artist, in a sense that you must have calling to it. Blank went on to say that a real founder is one who keeps on trying after they fail and doesn’t believe in rules. He recalled a quote by Steve Jobs that fully embraces the spirit of entrepreneurship: “people see walls as boundaries but I see other people put the walls there”. Blank also states that you need to be aggressive and have tenacity because being a founder requires you to do unnatural acts.
On NYC Tech Culture:
Blank recognizes that the evolution of the tech ecosystem is completely different than Silicon Valley. He has optimistic outlook on the startup scene in Manhattan and completely debunked the idea that a founder must move to Silicon Valley to make it big. Blank pointed out that the NYC tech culture is more diverse than its west coast counterpart, stating that NYC has more people of color and more women involved. NYC also has a huge advantage because of its access to VC capital. Throughout his talk, Blank mentions the value of aggression and states that in order to be successful you have to be aggressive. He believes if you’re a New Yorker you already have this part down. In Blank’s words “if you’re born in New York you know how to hustle”.
If you’re afraid to fail you aren’t going to succeed. If you are not pushing the envelope then you are competing with other people. Blank insightfully remarks that most commonly the problem you think you have is the symptom of another problem.
On Emerging Markets:
What limits other countries is their access to capital. The level of corruption is inversely related to the level of innovation. However, ICO offers to change this. An ICO is an initial coin offering. ICO’s are commonly used as a fundraising tool. People can purchase tokens in exchange for cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. A tech ecosystem will always follow the capital. The way to test if you are in an entrepreneurial cluster is to see if you can raise 100 million dollars.