Military entrepreneurship takes patience.
Several years ago, I had the pleasure of managing the Bunker Labs Washington, DC program. Bunker Labs’ mission is to integrate military veterans into the greater business ecosystem by launching sustainable and scalable startups. We offered three primary components over a 21-week program: education, mentorship, and access to capital. We built upon Bunker Labs’ national network of more than 500 global leaders and industry partners.
There couldn’t have been a better time for a startup to enroll in an entrepreneurship program. In 2015, 1/3 of U.S. startups that raised a Series A went through an accelerator and accelerators continue to achieve positive results.
Entrepreneurship is the activity of setting up and de-risking a business in the hope of profit. I have mentored and advised countless entrepreneurs about what entrepreneurship is and the successes & failures that come with it. Like today, when I speak with founders, I try to do my best to share some advice about entrepreneurship’s long journey.
After synthesizing the stories of scar tissue formed from past experiences, mainly in failure, I realized a central theme that inevitably leads to success — patience.
Much like Aesop Fable’s The Tortoise and the Hare, races are not always won by the swift. The story is about a hare who ridicules a slow-moving tortoise. The hare leaves the tortoise behind and, overconfidently, takes a nap midway through the race. The tortoise continues to move without stopping and wins. This fable is a reminder that you can be more successful by doing things patiently.
In this case, the tortoise symbolizes a veteran or military entrepreneur. A veteran entrepreneur’s path isn’t always linear, but those who came before, those who are currently building, and those who come after will find a time in their journey when they are the tortoise, and they’ll win.
Below are the top lessons that I believe founders can learn a tremendous amount from, especially in how to deal with and navigate failure:
- Failures should ultimately lead to successes.
- If you have no faults, then you’re not stretching yourself.
- Overnight success can take 25 years.
- Something has to be driving you more than money.
- If you’re in it for the money, go work on Wall Street.
- Military entrepreneurship is about playing the long game.
- Surround yourself with a team of good people.
- Believe in what you’re doing.
- Humble yourself to the data.
- Bootstrap and be customer-funded as long as possible.
- On average, it takes $30,000 to launch a company, and the majority of minority founders, like veterans, don’t have that network to tap, so you have to be creative.
Ataata, a veteran-led and humble ventures startup, that was acquired by Mimecast, exemplifies The Tortoise and the Hare’s message. Ataata took their time, creating funny security awareness training videos for an often tedious task at many of the world’s leading corporations. Acquiring customers with supporting metrics to prove Ataata’s effectiveness against competing startups was a slow, arduous path. But in their case, patience was a competitive advantage. Moving fast and breaking things doesn’t apply to all businesses. If it feels like you’re going nowhere, keep moving forward. You might catch the hare resting.