The most successful startups pivot at least twice

The ten Dutch startups that are on a Digital Mission to West Coast USA right now, are learning a lot these days about doing business and pitching in the United States. As in previous years a visit to UC Berkeley Sutardja Center for Entrepreneurship & Technology was part of the visit to West Coast USA. We talked to UC Berkeley’s Gigi Wang about her experiences with this year's digital mission.

Gigi is an Industry Fellow & Faculty at the Sutardja Center and runs her own consulting firm, MG-Team.  She has been a partner of the Dutch Consulate in San Francisco since 2014 as well and hosted the inaugural Silicon Valley Tour for ASC in September 2019. She has taught many start-ups around the world and helped them on their way to success. Gigi: “That’s how I’ve got my nickname; the entrepreneurs call me Startup Mama. Isn’t that funny?”

Watch the 10 pitches of the 2021 Academic Startup Program

Winning mindset for startups

Gigi starts by saying that this year’s group of ASC startups is amazing like the ones from 2019. “They are very enthusiastic, and although they are watching their screens all the time, there isn’t a dull moment, the entrepreneurs keep on being interactive.” Gigi’s mission is to teach the startups key characteristics of a mindset leading to successful innovation & entrepreneurship. Gigi: “The most successful innovators have a growth mindset and associated behaviours. For example, to build a successful business you’ve got to be able to go out of your comfort zone. They’ve also learned the importance of trust and how to increase that, if applicable, in order for start-ups to execute faster.”

The importance of pivoting

Gigi continues by explaining: “We also talked about the ability to take chances, what prevents an entrepreneur from taking them and the importance of experimenting. Because as a real entrepreneur, you’re going where no one has gone before. You’re introducing a new way of doing things, a new business. As a group, we also talked about making failures. When something doesn’t work, that’s not really a failure, provided you reflect and learn from that and pivot. Studies have shown that the most successful startups pivot at least twice. These are all important elements of a growth mindset.”

Gigi explains: “You can improve your mindset by making yourself aware of your behaviour and by experiential learning, by doing. I’m sure that the ASC startups will have even more confidence in themselves after their visit to UC Berkeley and go out there and grow! As in previous years, the quality of the 2020 ASC contestants is extremely high.

Get the attention of your audience before you talk about your product

This year, because the program is online, the organisations that contribute made special efforts to connect with the startups on an individual level in 1:1 sessions. For example, they’ve all received constructive feedback on their plans and pitch, to make those even better. Gigi: “It’s so important that they understand that they should get the interest of their audience first, before they start telling what they do. In addition, communicating the value of your product is particularly important. And don’t forget when you’re a start-up you have to start promoting yourself and your team as well. That’s how you build trust and overcome failures.”

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