The Palestinian Entrepreneurial Spirit – Part 4 Ownership

Who owns what?  Should I share my company with others or keep it all for myself?  Do I need a partner or partners?  It’s human nature to want to keep as much as we can for ourselves.  There’s nothing wrong with it, that’s just how we are.  However, partnering in many cases can be very beneficial for the startup.   Unfortunately, I rarely see Palestinian entrepreneurs who join forces with others to come up with something amazing.  If it’s our idea, our business, we’ll stay on top of things and we get to keep 100% of the business.  While that can be fine in some cases, looking at most of the popular success stories in the startup world, Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, Apple and others, these companies started with at least two founders.  I’m not saying that one person alone can’t succeed, it’s just that it’s so much harder going it alone, and for a number of reasons:

1. Investors are more interested in teams.  Many investors will dismiss or negatively look at a one-man team.  Y Combinator is an example of an accelerator that will rarely accept a single entrepreneur for a startup.  It’s clearly stated in their application process that they prefer teams of 2 or 3 and rarely accept individual entrepreneurs.  In many cases, they like to see that the team members compliment each others’ skills, so if someone is strong technically, another has good market knowledge and maybe another has organizational skills.

2. Other people to bounce ideas off.  Discussions and brainstorming sessions can be a great way to solve problems or expand on ideas.  A few weeks ago, I came up with a brilliant idea for a startup.  The idea was to modify QR codes to hold much more than 7,049 bits of data.  That way, a single modified QR code could hold an entire image or brochure or event short video.  Being excited about my idea, I mentioned it to a close friend and asked him what his thoughts were.  He simply mentioned that while this might be a good solution here in Palestine, no one outside would use it because they have access to Internet over mobile phones (3G and 4G networks).  I immediately realized that my great idea wasn’t too great and that it wouldn’t have a global market.  I was so worked up about my idea that I didn’t even pay attention to something so obvious.  Had I kept the idea to myself, I could have wasted days, weeks or who knows, maybe even months working on an idea that had very little chance of success.

3. Keep the momentum going.  When I was in university, studying for really difficult courses, I found that studying in groups was always a better choice.  When one person would start to get tired or slack off, others would bring him back in the loop and renew his energy.  A little while later, someone else would start to lag, and the rest of the team would bring him back in.  I usually found my most effective studying was done in pairs.  Whenever one would start to dose off, the other person who be on top of things.  Starting a company is hard and can be very discouraging at times, definitely much harder than studying for exam or writing a paper.  It’s important that each entrepreneur has someone that can lift their spirits up when the going gets tough.

I hope to see more real collaboration between Palestinian entrepreneurs.  Personally, I’d rather have 50% of a million dollar company, than 100% of a company worth $100 dollars.  We study it in school and we read stories when we were children about the importance of team work and unity, however unfortunately, we seldom apply it to ourselves.


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