Why the Australian startup ecosystem needs more “lighthouses”

“The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.”

– Steve Jobs

When we’re young we crave to be the same as everyone else, and for budding entrepreneurs this often means shunning their creativity and innovative streak.

What would happen if instead we provided these entrepreneurs with a lighthouse, telling them it’s okay to step away from the norm and help them to realise their potential?

Now, I use the word lighthouse as a metaphor for the many different ways we can help these young people. For example, we can:

  • Guide these young people to networks they don’t know of and don’t have access to
  • Focus on developing their skills and guiding them towards the solutions they’re seeking now
  • Be great listeners. Often, these young people need someone to listen to who will embrace and encourage their creativity and innovative ways
  • Inform them of organisations who are dedicated to sorting information into a form that’s easy to find and access online
  • Help to cultivate innovation awards and incentives that invite young people to present and hone their new ideas
  • Host and facilitate events that celebrate creativity and innovation

The work we do at iGen Foundation tells us that young entrepreneurs are hungry for solutions having identified the problems they’re facing.

More often than not, we’re told they can’t find what they need which means they tend to stumble about looking for information here and there. As you can imagine, this approach is incredibly hit or miss: sometimes they find it, most times they don’t and in most cases, it all just gets too hard and overwhelming.

If you ask me, it’s just a waste when these young people with so much potential stumble. All that energy, enthusiasm, inspiration and traits that define tomorrow’s leaders, flushed down the drain.

Lost because the people who needed to never listened or asked this simple question: “what do you need?”

Solutions for a business problem, someone who believes in them enough to point them in the right direction, access to networks they may be unaware of or can’t access alone, a person who’s willing to take a step back and consider the real impact of the words, ‘we’ve always done it this way’, and allocate resources differently, a mentor to help refine their idea and who will encourage resilience when they fall over (after all, every journey has its low points).

Australia needs to facilitate the growth of more startups and increase their likelihood of survival – they’re critical to Australia’s economic engine.

Scale and capability are two factors that are both integral when building a thriving local entrepreneurial ecology. It’s time for us to get real and build both.

We know entrepreneurial performance will shape our future and sustain the lifestyle enjoyed by us all. Students, investors, employees – the list goes on.

Now, I’ve got a question for you: “Are you ready to help celebrate these young people and contribute positively so that entrepreneurs swim instead of sink?”

Business leaders, economic workers, youth development workers, councillors, teachers – whatever you do, you’ve got the power to flick that switch so that your lighthouse shines brightly.

This piece was first published on LinkedIn.

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