Don't hide your ideas, Andrew Hyde of Techstars [Q&A]

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Andrew Hyde, Startup Week director at Techstars, is a globe-trotter with a mission: bridging the gap between community, technology and startups. Last month, he graced Lebanon’s ecosystem at Altcity’s Launch Summit. Wamda caught up with Hyde in Beirut to ask his thoughts on Lebanon’s startup scene.

Wamda: What are some of the most prominent pieces of advice you could give entrepreneurs?

Hyde: I met a lot of people [at Launch Summit] that really were asking that same question: I have this idea, what do you think of it? Very few of them had launched, but they all had an idea.

My advice to help them better figure it out is to start in a company that you respect. It doesn’t have to be the biggest one, and it can be a direct competitor to what you want to do. Email them and ask them if you can be an intern, or hang around the office for a week and see their style.

For example, if you want to be a journalist, ask Wamda if you can come help them write a few pieces and see how the office works and feels. A lot of people don’t want to have an office, staff, or deal with the stress. They want to solve a problem but they don’t realize what’s involved in that.

The other advice would be to study Lean principles on how to launch a minimum viable product.

The third thing is: don’t be afraid to ask for help. I think that’s the biggest error people make. Nobody owes you anything but hopefully the ecosystem is supportive. You’re only gonna get big if you [ask for help].

Andrew Hyde. (Image via LinkedIn)

Wamda: Entrepreneurship has become a global movement. How do you sift through what’s genuine and what’s just hype?

Hyde: It’s helpful to be as honest as possible about what I’m doing. When working on something that you care about, it’s easy to start saying ‘this is gonna be world-changing and it’s gonna be big!’

It’s helpful to share with people the idea that there are stages and levels of entrepreneurship. You could play football by kicking a ball around in a park, and you could play football by suiting up for Real Madrid and playing Messi. Both are football, but there are levels that you’re gonna be embarrassed and hurt if you play wrong. If you lose a bunch of money and disappoint everyone around you, that’s not doing any good.

So day one, you should kick the ball around the field and try out for a small team and hopefully get better and better.

Several speakers at the Launch Summit were encouraging more hardware solutions. What are your thoughts on that?

Hyde: I think infrastructure is massive. It’s what makes the world work. Is that a startup? I feel a lot of businesses should [take on better hardware solutions]. There are entire college majors dedicated to that – they should adopt the principles of Lean and entrepreneurship and become better.

I want people with passion about something to try it out. If you don’t have a passion, don’t search for something that other people think is cool. Find out what makes you tick, start getting experience, and sending emails!

What are you reading these days? What would you advise others to read?

Hyde: I used to read every tech news site, every blog post on tech news. Now, I read a lot more material that is into curiosity. There’s a website called Brain Pickings, that I’m in love with. Wait, But Why is another one. I think [entrepreneurs] need to be more curious and humble. We’re all learning something, how cool is that?

Wamda: Is there anything else you would like to add?

Hyde: We’re in a great time to be an entrepreneur. I started the [Launch Summit] talk by saying you need to give yourself permission for the idea that you can be an entrepreneur. You don’t have to be, it might not be for you by any means, but right now is a good time because there are mentors, and a lot of energy around it. People understand it.

Ten years ago when you told people you were an entrepreneur, people thought you couldn’t get a job. Now they are seeing that this is real!

I started a company that was something for my friends. We had 80 people show up to the first Startup Weekend, and now it’s in 160 countries around the world. So the ability to do something that makes a dent in the world makes it very real. That energizes me and it should energize other people.

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