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StartUps & Downs: Five Lessons Learned

Last week we hosted StartUps/Downs in the Student Hotel Maastricht. 5 entrepreneurs from different sectors (social impact, to tech), at different phases of their entrepreneurial journey (pre-funding to serial), shared the highest highs and lowest low of their entrepreneurial journeys so far. Their stories were emotional, engaging and insightful. Here are the top 5 lessons that were learned during the evening:

1. Start yesterday

You’re never ready to start, there’s no such thing as the perfect plan. While you wait for the “perfect” time to start you’ll actually miss out on valuable opportunities to learn. We’re used to waiting for permission before starting something. However, entrepreneurship isn’t something you can study, it’s something you learn by doing, so the sooner you start, the better you’ll get at it. This, of course, means things won’t always go according to plan (in fact they rarely do). Your entire project could fail, but by starting you’ll begin to build the experience, connections and skills to take advantage of the “perfect” time or plan when it does show up.


2. Build for tomorrow

A great idea today isn’t always a great idea tomorrow. Things change quickly so a successful entrepreneur has to think two, four, even ten years ahead. Keep updated about the latest developments around the world. Talk with experts, go to meetups, read as much as you can about trends, cutting edge developments and exciting new opportunities. The more input you have, the easier it will be to predict where the opportunities will be in the future.


3. Create networks, not hierarchies

In the age of connectivity, it’s far easier to collaborate and engage with talented people around the world. It’s no longer import whether you’re “in charge” since hierarchies often control individuals and slow down progress. Build connections with like-minded individuals, focus on collaboration over competition and invest in your network.


4. Quit while you’re ahead

A successful entrepreneur plants seeds, working on multiple ideas, always looking for new opportunities. However, not all ideas work out. When you see an idea is no longer growing, stop investing in it. It’s better to pivot or stop sooner and minimize losses than to keep wasting time and money because you’re emotionally attached to an idea. Be honest with yourself, good ideas generally catch on quickly, if it’s not working there tends to be a reason. There’s no shame in throwing in the towel and moving on to the next project. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule but those tend to be exactly that: the exception and not the rule.

5. In the end, it’s all about people

It may be your staff, clients or collaborators, what matters most is the impact you have on the people around you. The common thread between the entrepreneurs who spoke during the evening were stories about human connection. Whether it was feeling as if they’d let someone they cared about down, or having helped someone overcome personal challenges, people were are the centre of everyone’s motivations, profit was barely even mentioned. 

Thanks to Ernst Jan van Klinken (Freelance Intrapreneur), Joshua Glass (The Treehouse), Fred Manders (Activitree), Bert Schindler (Qeske), and of course our own Marc Ernst (Team Academy) for generously sharing your time and insights! Thanks to our cohosts and sponsors Founders Club Maastricht, The Student Hotel Maastricht, Collab Maastricht, Enactus Maastricht University, Enactus Zuyd, AC.E, & UWC Maastricht for your support. Looking forward to doing it again soon!

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