This is a three part little essay on cultural patterns that CEE startups have to leave behind to succeed.
I’m a Hungarian entrepreneur/freelancer, who have lived and/or worked in the UK, Italy and Spain. I’m not interested in finding excuses or brood over the past. My goal is to observe, understand and ultimately find solutions that bring us forward. You can read the first part here.
In order to be able to maintain balanced conversations we also need a more realistic view on our achievements and assets. Probably because of unrealistic expectations and WhatsApp-like stories we seriously undervalue achievements. We are not happy with a quarter million searches per month or 200 000 paying customers who actually turn in profit, because we want global coverage and constant growth, only the sky is the limit. These are not bad goals, obviously. But they can make the strengths and advantages we already have under our belts look little.
And adequate understanding of our achievement is necessary to be able to see our opportunities and make good decisions. Without correct measurement, you might not be able to react to feedback and changes in the environment properly or won’t pursue projects that realistically seen are promising.
Then again, applied to communication, when you are aware of the value of your experience, you have a way to turn meetings with potential mentors and partners into an exchange of knowledge, honouring both their time and your relationship.
If you grew up in countries under 4 decades of oppression from a political ideology that in theory idealize sharing and equal shares of work as well as income, and in reality enforces sharing for most but keeps the booty for a chosen few, you can’t help but have a higher than average suspicion towards well to do or downright rich folks. Add in massive, visible corruption and typically unfair taxation systems resulting in the national championship of utilizing loopholes and the result is a very awkward attitude.
How many times do you hear a startup joking about how they’d rather play with the money of investors than their own? I have the impression that we rely too much on seed-angel-VC funding jumps when planning businesses, simply because this is how everyone else seems to be doing it and because somehow we feel we deserve it. This makes us pitch in fundamentally wrong ways and obsess about persuasion and selling the idea, instead of backing it up with a solid foundation of data and results.
In reality, your relationship with your investor is a long term one. It ideally helps you along the way with money as well as connections and knowledge. And, as people who have actually raised funds and then bankrupted companies will tell you, the responsibility of losing somebody else’s money and the trust they’ve put in you is nowhere near as easy as it looks at first glance.
As in all matters of business open eyes and attention to details are all super important when closing funds. After all, there is data showing how having unfair advantage in money can make anyone a meaner person, and your future can depend on that term sheet in front of you. Makes it even more important to look for partners and supporters, not opponents to constantly fight.
Next up: what others think matter and failure is well, failure.
 The other, equally harmful side of the coin is when we get just way too cocky. Poor estimation of assets and environment, a fairly typical “I will know it much better” attitude are all springing from the same root. We need to learn how to approach with a realistic – not to dark but also not to bright – attitude.