#10YearChallenge: 10 Startup Founders on the Most Important Lesson Learned in the Last Decade

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The social media space recently went agog with the viral meme known as the #10YearChallenge. Regular people, as well as celebrities, partook in this frenzy; comparing their current pictures to older ones from ten years ago.  It is true that age comes with experience, and as time passes, there are always lessons to learn.

by Sarah Surette

Ten years is a long time to accumulate a wealth of knowledge and experience. When it comes to business, this reflective approach is not just another thoughtless social media activity; it is really beneficial for growth. Today, we’ll be taking the reflective approach, hearing from the horse’s mouth, talking to startup founders, seeing how their companies have evolved over the past decade, learning from their mistakes and the experience they have garnered. This is the startup founder’s #10YearChallenge from our very own Blockleasders.

#1. Ben Churchill, Chairman at BeSure Network

“Curiosity and execution win every time.  Ask open questions and listen, listen, then listen some more. Simply have the curiosity to understand, often with no agenda, and you will be amazed by what emerges. Learning to do this has not only allowed me to get to grips with many different subjects but it also engages others as, quite often, people just like to be heard and it is astonishing what insights people have. But finding ideas is only part one. Great ideas are everywhere but a merely ‘good’ idea well executed has way more power than a great idea poorly executed. So the first question when you think an idea is good is ‘what action do I take to make it happen’.”

#2. Jillian Godsil, Co-Founder at Blockleaders

“There is not just one lesson I have learned in the past decade but a number and they all equally important.

The first one has to be resilience – this is one of the most underrated qualities needed for when things are going wrong or just not quite right. Despite issues, problems, setbacks, every entrepreneur needs to show up and be present.

The second one is about failure. Fail – Fast. There is a famous Irish man’s quote Samuel Beckett

“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”

But I would add one more word to the quote – faster – fail better faster – for we learn so much more from our mistakes than our victories.“

#3. Liina Laas, CEO at CryptoHype Media

“The most important lesson I’ve learned in business and working with companies is: listen to your team and seek advice from outside. No one is all knowing, I have made this mistake myself dismissing a concern from one of my co-founders and it cost me dearly.

Even if you have a different point of view, take a step back and discuss and research the advice given to you. They may be on to something. Critique is difficult to accept but this is the only way we can grow. Often founders are convinced they have thought everything through and dismiss feedback, especially if they have vast knowledge in their field.

This will come back and bite you, especially in the stages of fundraising. If potential investors give you reasons why your project is not investable for them, utilize this feedback. This is invaluable. Even if you don’t agree with it, keep an open mind and if needed and make changes. Often the best advice comes from the outside as business owners tend to tunnel on their idea, if they can be open to receiving advice, great things may happen even faster.“

#4. Morgan Pierce, CMO at Seba Bank

“Entrepreneurs by their very nature are eternal optimists – it takes ‘brute force’ perpetual optimism to face the adversity that inevitably presents itself in the evolution of any start-up. The most important lesson I’ve learned in the last 10 years is that focus is the supreme skill to zero-in on when starting a business.

Focusing, however, is hard for an entrepreneur because they see opportunity around every corner. Every day you need to remind yourself of the original idea, the premise upon which you started the journey. And you can’t let obstacles deviate you from this path, perseverance demands commitment and consistency. Stay focused on incremental advances towards your goal and your vision will eventually materialise.”

#5. Sam Russell, Co-founder Worbli

“With the many challenges I’ve faced throughout my career, there is one thing which has remained a true constant in my success. This vital characteristic is that of persistence. Only through exercising persistence have I been able to push through the good, the bad, and the disappointing times. The best way to ensure that you will achieve your goals is to be unrelenting in your vision and to not give up in the face of failure.

Without this, I would never have been able to bring to life the first blockchain technology network to provide full compliance for financial services and applications to enable financial freedom to the average consumer.”

#6. Loughlin Nestor, Founder at Blocknubie

“One of the most important lessons I have learned is to allow yourself to be agile and flexible in your approach to business. One needs to shift your mindset and actions to embrace change.

Spend your money is by investing. The best way to use money is by reinvesting the money they’ve already earned into other endeavors that have the potential to produce additional income.

Failure is represented by inaction. It’s human nature, we’re afraid to fail and it can become paralyzing. I’ve found that inaction is the antithesis of success. My greatest achievements have been a result of having the guts to reach for what I wanted by taking action. By failing to act, I failed to provide myself with a learning opportunity, or even a chance at success.”

#7. Michael Nye, Host of The Evolvement Podcast

“The most important lesson that I have learned in the blockchain space is perseverance. Even when things look down and dark, you must remain hopeful and push through your doubts, especially if you REALLY believe in what is being built. Without that, you will never make it.”

#8. Peter Alfred-Akedeye, Founder and Chief Technology Architect at Multiven 

“The lessons I’ve learned in the last decade since founding Multiven, and how our conquering Cisco, a $225 Billion behemoth with powerful friends in Washington DC, led to our ground-breaking Decentralised Application that positions us to be the global leader in blockchain-commerce for the multi-Trillion dollar Information Technology products industry.

When I founded Multiven in 2005, I didn’t prepare for the immense resistance we faced trying to compete in the industry and neither did I expect that pursuant to our US federal antitrust complaint of December 1, 2008 against Cisco. The US-government would allow itself to be abused by Cisco, in its plight to maintain its monopoly power, and essentially attempt to derail our federal antitrust litigation, by criminalising competition and pursuing Cisco’s unfounded counterclaims from our civil complaint.

I founded Multiven in the United States with the belief that it was the biggest free market society on Earth where everyone was free to trade and compete for the betterment of mankind. Sadly, this is not the case.

Which leads to one of the biggest lessons I have learned is that, when non-US entrepreneurs out-innovate established monopolies, in the United States, their government will throw caution into the wind and do everything in their power to undermine and discredit you.

We persevered and won our Multiven v Cisco antitrust litigation when Cisco settled it on July 19, 2010 by making software and security updates, critical to preventing cyberattacks for over 70% of Internet users worldwide, to all Multiven customers.”

#9. Vasilli Silin, CEO & Founder at Tokpie

“By being an entrepreneur I have learned the two most important things. The first one is that all of your business ideas must be proofed with some kind of research. Such research must contain a short description of the main value that you are going to provide to your clients and a short questionary.

Perform this research among your friends, relatives, or, even better, do it on specialized forums, for free.

The second one is that before starting your business, you must gather together an initial team, even a small team of 2-5 professionals can make a big difference.”

#10. Andreas Kalteis, CMO at Novem

“I feel that I learned this a long time ago, but constantly need to be reminded of it: the most important thing is to start. With the companies I have started and products or services that were rolled out, it is always the same situation – you think it needs to be better before it can get it out there, but the reality is that as soon as you have your MVP you should get out there. If you roll out fast and then improve it based on customer feedback, your project will be that much better, while also generating revenue.”

Conclusion

With increasing competing pressure, it is difficult for business owners to sit back and reflect, the default instinct is to double down and keep pushing harder. However, reflection helps keep businesses more productive and efficient because you are able to see the bigger picture, learn from mistakes, and readjust priorities. Perhaps for startup founders, the #10YearsChallenge is more than a frivolous pastime, it is an opportunity to catch a breath, learn from yourself and forge ahead towards a brighter future.

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About Author

Blockchain Advocate, Founder, Conference Chair, Keynote Speaker, Crypto Journalist, Broadcaster, CEO, Writer Jillian has held senior positions with global PR companies in Sydney, Singapore, London and Dublin. She was PRO of Iona Technologies (Ireland’s first company to float on NASDAQ). She changed the law in Ireland in 2014 and is a former European Parliamentary candidate (as an independent). She is a co founder and journalist in the Blockleaders.io. She freelances for Irish Tech News, Irish Central, The Irish Independent and The Irish Times. She has her own radio shows on DublinCityFM and EastCoastFM. Her first job after graduating from Trinity College was as a systems analyst with JP Morgan. She is advisor to a number of ICOs, has been named a Crypto Queen by In Zero Conferences as well as listed in the 50 most influential women in the global blockchain rollcall. She is a board member of the US Blockchain Association and of EOS Dublin. She is CEO of Blocknubie. She keynotes and chairs blockchain events around the world – including Kiev, Austin, Muscat, Columbo. Dublin and London. She is a writer and is currently updating her erotica trilogy - Confessions of a Cryptomanic - where sex meets divrorce, repossession, bankruptcy and can bitcoin save the day!

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