Mit dem Januar endete auch Jonas viermonatiger EYE-Austausch in Lissabon. In seinem letzten Bericht lässt er uns daran teilhaben, was er aus dieser Zeit für sich persönlich und beruflich mitnehmen wird.
Is it over or has it just begun? Well, the EYE program is over, but my journey as an entrepreneur has merely started. Below I will layout a short resume of the 4-month program, share my learnings and successes, and give recommendations and inspiration to future participants.
All in all, I can say that the program was a success. Becoming part of beta-i, one of the leading players in Lisbon’s start-up scene, provided for an intensive head dive into the Portuguese Start-up Ecosystem. The connections I made there and on various events across all Lisbon have been and will be invaluable, and I am grateful to have met so many inspiring and motivated individuals. Moreover, moving to Lisbon and getting involved with the idea of Conscious Capitalism or Capitalism 2.0 (using the power of business as a force for good by focusing on all stakeholders and not just shareholders) and advocating for it has been nothing short of life-changing. It broadened my horizon and opened many opportunities.
How it all began
In October 2019, I started working on my original idea: a Lacrosse Platform to teach new Lacrosse players essential parts of the game, such as fitness, agility, mentality, and stick skill. It grew from 0 to 100 readers a month and got 1,500+ pageviews so far. While I still produce content for the platform and work on partnerships in Germany, in December, I started focusing on other projects.
Visiting an event of makesense, an organization that inspires and empowers citizens and entrepreneurs to build a sustainable society together, I became intrigued by the idea that you can use the power of business towards the greater good. The key here is to build innovative business models around social or environmental problems. This realization changed my perspective, thus, the community of changemakers “influenced” me to explore a business idea with a real positive social impact.
The benefits of having access to mentors
Along with this development, I could always reach out to various people at beta-i to get feedback, support on methodologies, and a sparring partner. Additionally, I was able to attend diverse events on entrepreneurship and innovation that taught me a lot. I don’t think I would be where I am now, without the EYE program and the connection and mentorship it facilitated.
Especially starting with a completely new idea can be overwhelming when you are alone and have never done it before. With the Lacrosse platform, I already knew from my experience, that people were looking for Lacrosse help online. However, how do you explore a new problem and make progress in defining it? This part is where Design Thinking comes into play, and that is one methodology that I picked up through the mentorship with beta-i.
With an innovation specialist, we started the process of defining the exact problem we are tackling – what sounds easy is hard. The next step is designing the qualitative and quantitative research process to get a better understanding of the problem. Afterward, to then be able to test the underlying hypothesis about the issue. Here we are at right now, while we are developing the product parallel.
If you want to help us, please consider being part of a solution for a social challenge by sharing your opinion in our questionnaire about problems related to the educational needs of the 21st century.
Learnings about Entrepreneurship
During that time, I learned a lot about Entrepreneurship (and myself), which I am happy to share:
There are different types of entrepreneurs: the ones that want to get rich by a successful exit, the ones that live for their product and innovations, and the ones that seek to create a positive impact on society and the environment (so-called social entrepreneurs). I consider myself to be the latter. I think it is important to have this clear before starting entrepreneur because it is a challenging endeavour. From my experience, social entrepreneurs are more resilient that traditional entrepreneurs because they are motivated in solving a concrete problem, they are passionate about. In contrast, traditional entrepreneurs are more motivated by their innovation and product, “their baby” if you wish. So, with every pivot in the product to better solve a customer need, their passion fades a bit more.
Then, I realized am not a CEO type, but more of a marketer/networker/speaker/business developer, that likes to connect and collaborate and always seeks out new ways to work more efficiently. That’s why I am thrilled to have found a passionate co-founder with a more strategic approach and serenity. Realizing this and swallowing my ego provides for a fruitful, collaborative, and synergistic relationship.
Another truth I became aware off: You don’t become an entrepreneur overnight. There is no shortcut; entrepreneurship is a lifestyle in which you embrace challenges and overcome them. In my experience, successful entrepreneurial endeavours require passion, determination, prioritization (which leads to focus), grit, the right tools/methodologies, and the ability to ask for help.
The freedom of being an entrepreneur is both a blessing and a curse. The opportunity to schedule the time as you wish can be a treat, but it can also be overwhelming to prioritize the right tasks. Regarding productivity techniques, I found journaling, Trello workflows, and weekly strategy meetings with my co-founder most useful. However, having a larger goal in mind when setting weekly and daily goals is the key to making meaningful progress.
I hope these learnings help new Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs Scholars 🙂
My recommendation to you if you are thinking about applying for the program: DO IT!
Maybe you are unsure if entrepreneurship is the right thing, but the only way to figure it out is by tying it out. I also recommend journaling to document your journey. The experiences and acquaintances you will make on the road will be invaluable to your personal as well as your professional development. Even if you decide later to quit entrepreneurship: all companies, especially start-ups, look for creative individuals with an entrepreneurial mindset.
To end, I want to raise awareness about something dear to my heart: The most significant threats to our planets are of environmental and social nature. The force of capitalism has brought us great innovation and prosperity but at the cost of social and ecological balance.
So, if you start your journey as an entrepreneur, I urge you to consider being part of the solution, not the problem. Rediscover your humanity, focus on a social or environmental issue you are passionate about, seek to validate it, and build a business around it to create a positive impact in the world.
Good luck on your journey and enjoy the ride, Jonas