Leadership lessons from Siilasmaa – Day 64/139

I attended today an event where four panelists got to present their ideas about growth entrepreneurship. Most of the attendees were likely there to hear the ideas of the big gurus like Risto Siilasmaa and even Marko Parkkinen.

Was it any good?

Well, it was ok. Absolutely nothing spectacular but usual chit-chat about growing your business and making it international etc. However one thing got my attention over the others. Risto Siilasmaa presented his list of four critical factors in a successful start-up.

I disagree with every one of them.

  1. Great idea. Saying it is about the idea sounds like the words of a cynical business angel who has to hear 300 bad pitches per year. Not a single idea out there is great from the start. Think of Google. Two guys wanting to make a search engine bigger than Altavista by using a slightly different algorithm to rank the pages. Think of the milliondollarhomepage.com. Guy wanting to sell pixels on a random website. Idea is great after it has become reality. Before that it’s absolutely worthless.
  2. Competence. With competence Siilasmaa refers to competent people. It is obviously utter rubbish that the pure competence of the team would have anything to do with a start-up’s success. Academic degrees and experience have their place but the true success stories are built by semi-competent people. Or better yet the real experts join a new venture team when it’s exciting and compelling enough. Making a company sound exciting requires drive, ambition and passion. These have nothing to do with competence. This is something anyone can have from day one.
  3. Capital. Saying a company needs capital to be successful is like saying a baby needs diapers to pee. It can protect the outside but will never fix the problems inside, only complicates them. On the other hand, money is the most abundant resource out there. Ask for money and everyone thinks you’re ripping them off. Offer them a good service and eventually someone will give you a generous tip.
  4. Functional infrastructure/environment. This last point was about the need of an environment where you find the necessary consultants and apparently also about the socioeconomic situation on the market. Whichever it was or even if he meant both of them, I don’t agree. The causality is missing in this argument. Is the environment causing the success or is the environment actually a consequence of the success itself?

What’s the bottom line?

Don’t buy every half-baked comment the gurus tell you. Form your own opinion.


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