On the road to success or Throw Momma From The Train

Posted on January 12, 2012 by


When I was living in Shanghai I met an entrepreneur. He was Brazilian and full of Brazilian fire. Always by his side: his Chinese girlfriend. And her mother. The monster in law didn’t want him to be an entrepreneur but a teacher, even though he was very successful. I just learnt they broke up: a Brazilian-Shanghainese dynasty war, I guess.

I started to think about the role of mentality for entrepreneurs. Chinese entrepreneur Gai Bowei agrees that most Chinese people are not too keen about startups (I met exceptions). They prefer working in a beautiful office of a big company. It gives them security and recognition. They also prefer cash over equity. So how is it in Berlin? Which mentality do you find in startups? How should the mentality be like? How important is it for success?


…has become a term. Let’s hope it’s not what the French newspaper Le Monde referred to:  the drive to found a startup because there are no perspectives and jobs in Berlin. Luckily, I found it in more positive contexts. Startup-mentality means entrepreneurial spirit, creativity, dynamics and the ability to move something, even if you are not the founder yourself. Timo Zimmermann also refers to innovation and closeness to customers. Of course, we can never speak about ALL startups but if we compare those associations with Emily’s motives to work for startups, they seem to match with the general impression.

Why do most startups fail?

According to the latest statistics, the main factor that determines the success of a startup is the personality of the entrepreneur (followed by marketing). And Twitter co-founder Biz Stone even gives advice on how to conserve the startup-mentality. That gives reason to develop the ideal startup-mentality, one that favors success!

On the road to success

So how should this ideal mentality look like and how can it be achieved? In times in which we are trained to focus on performance more than ever, success psychology has boomed in the last years. The list of success literature and approaches is endless. Definite purpose, self-awareness, self-confidence, persistence, sexual transmutation, a positive attitude and the willingness to step outside your comfort zone are just a few common terms I came across.

In connection to startups I mostly found lists to check whether or not you could be a good entrepreneur. Like the one of Marty Zimmermann from Cayenne Consulting. According to him a good entrepreneur should be creative and logical, energized by risk, a visionary leader, motivated and patient and the “jack of all trades”.

That’s a long list. You can convert those criteria into goals but they don’t deliver the recipe for success. One piece of advice Zimmermann gives is to look for the input of others. This could also be reflected in the organizational structure. Since hierarchies in startups tend to be flat and the number of employees small that’s something you can absolutely work on! Apart from that, he believes that the key lies in doing something you enjoy and he regards success as a state of mind that can be derived from confidence, self-esteem and a strong will.

The radar

Don’t you know that feeling…you see someone and something in his expression tells you that this person is really someone or will be someone? I recently came talking to one of that kind of persons. It turned out he was indeed quite a successful entrepreneur, his super-recipe: “You need COURAGE, as always in life!”

So, don’t take those lists too seriously and don’t let them discourage you! Still, you should be aware that some of the mentioned criteria can easily be observed. The monster in law was unable to see the burning enthusiasm in her son in law because she was too focused on her own believes and limited by her own identity.

But you can be sure that at least the investors you need have a radar for it! So, one aspect that should definitely be considered when thinking about mentality of success is observation. Not only observation of others as I described in my previous post but also self-awareness!

Posted in: strategy