Contrary to the “go BIG or go home” mentality seemingly synonymous with entrepreneurship, Paul Singh poses the question, “How do we teach another 50,000 people in our community to make an extra $1,000 a month with skills they already have?”
Paul and Dana Singh, co-founders of Results Junkies, have traveled the world for the past 10 years with a simple investment philosophy inspired by the book Moneyball. The basic premise is, when evaluating a company, they are not necessarily looking for home run hitters, but for players they can count on, and assist if necessary, to simply get on base. They have invested in about 2,600 of these base runners in undervalued markets across 56 countries, understanding that amazing companies do not solely reside in Silicon Valley, New York City, or Boston and nor should investors. For the past week, Paul and Dana parked their Airstream Classic home at The Tech Garden, Central New York’s premier business incubator, to see what Syracuse, New York has to offer.
During their stay, amongst a flurry of other activities, they hold a roundtable discussion on how communities could be building more effective entrepreneurial ecosystems. In addition to challenging the status quo of where great companies are founded and built, the Singh’s call into question the economic development practice of seeking to attract big, “unicorn” employers that will supposedly save the economy. Lookin’ at you, Amazon HQ2. Instead, the conversation centers around how communities can better combat entrepreneurship stereotypes (i.e. must be high risk, wealthy, young, etc.) and provide encouragement and support to everybody who hopes to start a business in order for economies to build a large portfolio of smaller company players. In addition to Results Junkies, many Upstate New York ecosystem players are in attendance for the conversation, including The Tech Garden, GENIUS NY, Upstate Capital, SBA, SBDC, MACNY, Syracuse CoWorks, Syracuse University, and more. Below are some of the myths addressed and outcomes of this conversation.
Myth #1: Cost of Entrepreneurial Admission = Your First Born Child and Mental Health
Paul started his first business after being fired from AOL in order to make his car payments; a familiar story of entrepreneurship born out of financial necessity. He shares that as both an entrepreneur and investor, he does not have formal training. To be an entrepreneur, you do not need to have an epiphany, tell off your boss, risk your life savings, and hope it works out. Contrary to popular belief, entrepreneurs are actually very good at risk mitigation. Keep your job as a security anchor, but start that side hustle. In the age of the gig economy, the question to ask is how communities can make it as easy as possible to take the first step.
Myth #2: The Highly Ambitious Reside Exclusively on the Coasts of the US
Ambition is equally distributed across the country. There was a time when economic ability and output directly correlated to your physical location. however, today the ambition and success born out of that high ambition is not reserved for the East or West Coast metropolises. Both Paul and Dana build and sold successful businesses from small communities in Virginia. In Upstate New York, we see the constant stream of graduates from our top higher education institutions rush to New York City, Boston, LA, or San Francisco under the simple assumption that that is where ambitious people must go in order to experience success. Cities across the US should now improve how they tell their success stories, and leverage that story to retain talent. Once retained, there is still an opportunity to teach people how to hustle and develop other functional skills.
Myth #3: Adults are a Lost Cause so Just Focus on the Next Generation
Investing the time to educate and train our youth to take control of their economic outcomes is a crucial, long-term play for our society and economy. However, in the short term, communities need to develop more on-ramps for adults. Adults have existing experiences and skills that they can monetize more immediately. They need the opportunity to develop more technical skills and understand how they can employ technology to further themselves and their businesses. For example, teaching a bricklayer or plumber how to use digital growth hacks, like Facebook ads, to increase their sales pipelines. Young people may have been brought up on technology, but many have lot to learn when it comes to emotional, social, and communication skills.
Myth #4: We Have the Internet. If You’re Not Succeeding, You’re Not Trying.
Success is at the intersection of what you’re good at, what you like to do, and what a lot of people might want. Unfortunately, our education system and society fails to teach the skills required to know these things. People are not taught and rarely practice the self-awareness needed to know what they are good at or what they like to do. Why? Because it is much easier to continue meeting expectations than figure it out. This ability to understand and meet expectations is what successful students and employees are built on. Finally, without an understanding of ourselves, it is very difficult to be empathetic and intuitive enough to understand what others might want. In addition, there is an assumption in a more holistically connected world that everybody has access to everybody else. However, there are communities where the connection and infrastructure still doesn’t exist. Yes, some places still don’t even have WIFI. Therefore, there is still a need to provide inclusive opportunities for people to connect.
Moral of the Story
Paul Singh shares that English is the only language that the word for entrepreneurship is a noun. In every other language, it is a verb. Verbs require action. Our entrepreneurial ecosystems should be built around getting as many people as possible into the game. Moneyball suggests that winning is a numbers game, and perhaps this applies to our cities as well.
To empower another 50,000 people to earn just $1,000 more a month for themselves, the Upstate New York entrepreneurial ecosystem can focus on:
1. Educating people that entrepreneurship does not require immense risk and can be done in conjunction with their existing jobs,
2. More effectively celebrate and promote its success stories to retain talent
3. Offer technical training to adults, and
4. Ensure that there are inclusive opportunities to connect all aspiring entrepreneurs with peers, prospective mentors, partners, and investors