b:section class='header MyOctopus: How to Build a Tech Startup From the Wilderness

Friday, 29 January 2016

How to Build a Tech Startup From the Wilderness


The intricate world of PCB electronics and machine code seems to be worlds apart from the ancient mist and legend steeped granite mountains of Wicklow, Ireland. The legendary Irish hero Fionn MacCumhail is said to have hunted on these slopes (more about him below). Yes, it is far from the ocean, and further still from the high tech world of a hardware startup and the Sci-Fi realm of AI managed smart-homes. Nonetheless, this is where MyOctopus was born, during a hill-walk between two old friends Larry and Sylwi, in April 2015.


2015 is the year MyOctopus was founded and the year our idea became very very real. But this is a story about belief, not about MyOctopus. You can find out all about MyOctopus here www.myoctopus.io and on Twitter.
How are belief, vision, startup ecosystems and the wild Wicklow mountains of legendary Fionn MacCumhaill fame connected? Bear with this archaeologist turned digital anthropologist, and I will explain all…

Entrepreneurs are ordinary people, but entrepreneurs also have some interesting traits — both team-players and independent thinkers, creative and strategic thinkers, outsiders and insiders, people with strong self belief and the right amount of doubt to remain ever flexible and questioning. Entrepreneurs have strong belief — in themselves, in their ideas, in people, in the world. Entrepreneurs are badasses, and badasses are wild.

Startup thinking involves life paths that are sometimes ‘in the wilderness’, far from the normal well rutted tracks of everyday human thought. To stay in the innovative, productive entrepreneurial mindset, you need to keep part of your thought ‘in the wild’, out there where the horizon is open and the air is quiet. Great ideas get born here, and also get nourished and renewed where the view is bigger. Vision creates belief.When you have a vision, and belief in it, you glow. Yes, seriously, you do.

When you talk about your idea with people, they are magnetized, they are interested, they ask questions, they want to know more. Belief rubs off. The belief of our original founders Sylwi & Larry called me into the vast oceans of MyOctopus. It has drawn in many others; we now have code contributors, supporters, 700+ twitter followers, and a cohesive brand. All this in a few months! So go for a walk somewhere wild and natural, and mull over your idea. Inspiration can come from the most unlikely places. Inspiration feeds belief.

You need belief. There will challenges, obstacles, maybe even mountains in your way.

Obstacles are interesting — you have this idea, you believe in it, and you want to share it with the world; if it is solving your problem, it will obviously solve it for others too, hey? And maybe it will make you a bit of money along the way too. But, it seems that many people are already building on your idea, or that the market is not interested, or that what you want to make is too expensive, or you have become snowed under, you have become caught in The Struggle.
The world of startup ecosystems is dynamic, inspiring and supportive. Entrepreneurs in general are positive, creative thinkers, teamworkers and motivated visionaries. It can become intense and confusing sometimes — there are so many good ideas, so many ways people are actioning, scaling, creating, that you need to find your balance.

There are a few steps in-between the idea and the game-changing startup becoming successful. Take companies like AirBnB, Uber, Slack, or Trello. They faced obstacles, issues and doldrums. They had times where they felt dead in the water. What makes them successful however, isn’t just a good idea and a gap in the market — it is also how they viewed obstacles — in the case of AirBnB, they hired professional photographers to show their customers off better to other customers, and also to overcome some bad PR and lack of movement in the market.

Sometimes you need to re-frame your ideas, look at them from a different angle. You need to find your wilderness, your idea space, your place where you can be in that particular innovative, wide thinking, world changing perspective that originally gave birth to your idea.
With belief, and your wilderness as a font of inspiration, you will innovate your way around seeming obstacles, or incorporate them, or simply relax and enjoy the scenery, allow the detour to inspire you and open up your thinking. You can go with this rhythm, allow events to show you another view. Once you have begun that walk, you will continue, no matter what; even if there is a boulder in your path, you have to get back to you car / bus-stop / cup of tea or latte ;) Always remember these ancient words:

“Where there is a will, there is a way.”

For me, watching clouds, or a walk by the ocean, often allows some ideas to surface; certain problems just ‘click’ — that image, that tweet, that phrase is just there, perfect and entire after I have been distracted by a jellyfish, or some birdsong, or cloud colours. I find I need this wilderness connection more since I started swimming with MyOctopus, but my experience of the openness and true reality of the wild wide open is now more intense, more real and more fulfilling.
Sometimes, you need to go back into that wilderness, back up that mountain trail, to get some perspective, see the overview again, get back to where that idea began, or maybe just to watch the clouds move across the sky and listen to the great outdoors.

Attracting people into your startup with belief and a strong but flexible vision will also help to inspire you — the people you have drawn in may start to annoy you with questions, and ideas that are different to your vision (I’m sure I was probably very annoying last August and September!). RELAX. This is all part of the process. They have been enchanted by your belief, they are not trying to undermine it. They will help you to strengthen your vision, or will help you to refine it, pare it down, or to open it up. The enthusiasm of new team members can also pick you up when you are having one of those days.
Again, Belief is infectious. It has now created your team around you. You have taken your idea out into the world, the path has opened up before you, New avenues have opened up just when you thought it had all dried up.

So to keep your belief strong and vibrant, find your wilderness, and make it part of your life. Startups are not a day job, being involved will change your life and your lifestyle; it will change you as you plan and work to change the world. For us, 2016 will be the year that MyOctopus swims out in the ever expanding IoT and Machine Learning / Data ocean, the year we create a vibrant and innovative community and a responsive, self learning smart-home platform, unique to each home and user. Many uncharted paths and ocean currents lie before us, but we believe that we can do it. And so can you — just believe in yourself, and find your wilderness.
Written for MyOctopus by Em https://medium.com/@emmadowling

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