The Greatest Gift I Ever Received: How Living with Mental Illness Made Me a Better Person

By Matthew Helt, Program Director, Techstars Startup Week

Photo courtesy of Colin Keogh

NOTE: If you are someone who lives with mental illness, and you find that reading about it can trigger your symptoms, please be warned that this post contains details that you might find disturbing.

A Mind At War With Itself

My mind was at war with itself.

I woke up on Friday, March 1, 2002, with what I thought were two choices that I had left. Just two choices. Either I was going to die, or I was going to spend the rest of my life in a mental hospital.

March 1, as it happened, was the last day of my 26th year. The next day, Saturday, March 2, I would turn 27 years old. That was an age that had frightened me for over a year. I was convinced that I would die when I turned 27 because all my music idols died at that age. I knew this was a completely irrational thought, but nonetheless it remained firmly cemented in my mind.

What led up to this date was a series of events that shaped the person I was to become. I was a person who had a pretty healthy ego, but I was also very fragile. I was nervous and anxious most of my life, but I did my best to hide it. When I was young I was considered shy because most adults didn’t understand that I was terrified of the world.

So what caused me to give in to the irrational fear I was holding on to?

A Dive Through the Sky

When I was 25 I decided that the best thing I could do to get over my fear of heights was to go skydiving. I went through the training to do the first jump by myself, and got myself psyched up to do it. When the moment finally arrived for me to jump out of the plane, I could barely breathe. I pressed on, though, as I didn’t want to upset the people behind me, who would be forced to land if I didn’t jump. I held onto the strut under the wing, legs dangling 3,300 feet above the ground, and forgot to let go. I looked to my left and the dive instructor pointed up, which meant I needed to tilt my head back and that reminded me to let go. I remember seeing the plane fly away from me and thinking, “Where am I? What’s happening?”

Moments later my chute opened, and I was flying through the air. A voice on the radio that was attached to my left shoulder talked me through the motions of steering myself to the landing site. I’m sure if the radio wasn’t there I would’ve landed in a cornfield far from the landing zone because I was in the middle of full blown panic attack. I could barely get air into my lungs, and my heart felt like it was going to explode.

When I got close to the ground I heard voice yell, “Flare! Flare! Flare!” Because I panicked I forgot all my training and failed to flare, so I hit the ground hard. A stinging sensation flowed up my legs as my feet hit the landing spot. I laid there for a minute and decided I wasn’t severely hurt. Later on I’d find out that I ruptured a disc in my back.

Panic Attack

A week later I was at work and a woman I worked with came up to talk to me about something. Without warning, I had a panic attack. I didn’t know what was happening, but I suddenly couldn’t breathe. My heart raced and all I wanted to do was run away. I thought I was sick, so I quickly excused myself and ran to the bathroom. After several minutes I had calmed down, and could go back to my cubicle.

This led to a more than two-year period of time of frequent panic attacks. It was so bad that I was having five to ten panic attacks a day, and the only cure I discovered was alcohol. I’d suffer all day, praying that I didn’t have to go to a meeting or present in front of anyone. One-on-one conversations were frightening enough. I’d get home from work and immediately reach for a drink.

Eventually I convinced myself that I had a heart condition and went to see a cardiologist. After months of tests, they told me nothing was wrong with my heart. They believed it was all in my head. That didn’t make any sense to me. Why was I having heart attack symptoms several times a day? If it was all in my head, why did I feel such intense pain in my chest, up my neck, and down my left arm?

Out of Control

But they were right. Eventually I hit a point of crisis. At two weeks before my 27th birthday, my wife told me she was pregnant with our first child. It was hard for me to feel any joy in that moment because I was suffering so terribly. I decided I needed help, so I went to see my doctor find out if there was some sort of medication that could help me. He ended up prescribing Paxil, which I later found out was a terrible choice. After four days of being on it, I found that the side effects were horrendous, so I took myself off. That was an almost fatal error. I had not been told that I should not, under any circumstances, take myself off of it. I should have instead gone to my doctor to find a better fit. Over the course of a week my brain started to malfunction. I was spiraling out of control internally, but somehow, miraculously, kept it together on the outside.

Except when I couldn’t anymore. On the evening of Thursday, February 28, I went to bed early. My mind was swirling and I couldn’t keep the panic at bay. I thought that I would just go to bed and sleep my way through it. That’s when I heard two men having a conversation in the living room. I knew no one was there, but I could hear the voices. My body was filled with terror as I knew I was witnessing the collapse of my mind—I was completely out of control.

The next morning, I woke up to find that the terror had not subsided. I knew what awaited me. My birthday was the next day, and I was going to die. Either that, or I was going to spend the rest of my life in a mental hospital.

I went through my morning routine, but I was mostly on auto-pilot. When I arrived at work, I found several people waiting to talk to me about projects they were waiting on. I sat down for a few minutes, then stood up. I looked at my boss and said, “I need to leave right now, or I’m going to hurt someone.” I walked out the door and called my wife. I told her I was headed to the hospital and she should meet me there.

Panic attacks weren’t the only thing that I had wrong with me. I also had terribly intrusive thoughts. Thoughts that were often incredibly violent, both towards myself and others. I’m not a violent person, so I was deeply troubled by what my mind was telling me to do.

When I went to hospital, the staff did a psychiatric evaluation and asked me if I felt safe if I went home. I quickly replied, “No.” I understood that I was not safe and the hospital was the only place I belonged. At that moment, I was not someone who should be left alone, and I was afraid I was going to give in to my thoughts. I was admitted and told that I would be there until I was stable and felt that I was no longer a danger to myself or anyone around me.

I met with doctors off and on throughout the rest of the day. They put me on Xanax to stop the panic and Luvox to stop the intrusive thoughts. I was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, or OCD. For the first time, my condition had names attached to it. Weirdly, just having a diagnosis provided a small amount of relief.

I woke up the next day, on my 27th birthday, in a hospital room by myself. Nurses checked on me every 15 minutes throughout the night to make sure I was okay. I looked around my room, took a deep breath, and waited for the panic to kick in. It didn’t. I waited for the intrusive thoughts to start screaming at me to do terrible things. They didn’t.

What It Feels Like to be a Normal Person

For the first time in several years I felt what it feels like to be a normal person, or as I recently learned to call them, neurotypical. I’m not neurotypical. I have a brain condition. Most people would call me mentally ill. I’ve learned to accept that I’m mentally ill, but there’s a stigma, a very strong stigma, that goes along with that label.

I’ve lived with this condition for over 16 years now. I obviously had it longer than that, with clear signs of OCD and anxiety in my childhood, but my healing began on my 27th birthday. Because my breakdown had a very public component to it, I was outed. Telling your boss you need to leave work or else you’re going to hurt someone has very real consequences. All my co-workers had heard what happened, and I had to meet with HR before returning to work. My doctors had to sign off on my stability. This all makes sense, as they needed to ensure the safety of their employees.

“If this can happen to you it can happen to any of us”

The interesting thing that happened when I returned to work was not that I was shunned or that anyone was afraid of me, but the questions and comments I got. People genuinely cared about my wellbeing. One person even said to me, “Matt, you’re the most put together person in this department. If this can happen to you it can happen to any of us.”

In the Name of Success

As entrepreneurs, we’re driven to succeed by any means possible. Because of this we often neglect our health. We don’t get enough sleep, we drink too much caffeine, we eat unhealthy food. There’s a reason that mental illness is so prevalent among founders. We abuse ourselves in the name of success.

Besides medication, there are a lot of things I do to help maintain my mental well-being. Mindfulness and meditation have been key for my healing. Through the practice of meditation, I discovered there isn’t “one” Matt. There’s a multitude of voices and thoughts all competing for my attention.

My most profound discovery was that there’s one particular voice, my ego, that’s incredibly destructive. It’s the voice that’s constantly saying, “You deserve recognition. You deserve more than others. You’re special. You’re smart.” And on and on and on. When I sat in meditation, I found that that voice wasn’t who I am. When I took the role of observer, instead of participant, I realized who I authentically was. At my root, I don’t need recognition. I don’t need praise. That ego was a false sense of self, constructed over many years.

Many people come to believe that the ego voice is who they are. It’s a voice in your head, so why isn’t it you? I had multiple thoughts in my head all competing for attention—multiple impulses pushing me in many directions. The violent thoughts actually helped me understand that, at my root, I’m a peaceful person who doesn’t wish any harm to anyone. Through the process of observing, and not acting, I could distinguish between all the different thoughts. I felt liberated.

Our Thoughts Are Not Who We Are

The biggest lesson for me was that our thoughts are not who we are. It’s an illusion that our minds have created. If you suffer from a brain condition, it can be torture because you come to believe that you are sick and irredeemable. I’ve come to understand that my condition is the greatest gift I could have ever received. It helped me wake up to who I fundamentally am. The thoughts are still there, and I know I’ll never completely be rid of them, but I have a working relationship with them. When they arise, I watch them bubble up—and I let them go. In the past, they’d latch on so tight that it was very difficult to get past them. Now I observe them and refuse to participate—with my ego, with my intrusive thoughts, and with my obsessive thinking. I often even laugh at my thoughts. There’s nothing more powerful than laughing at something that most would think was extremely disturbing.

You Are Not Alone

If you wonder why I’m willing to share such an intimate story, I can tell you that there are a couple of reasons.

First, there’s a selfish component here. I know that part of my healing process is to share what I went through with others. I went from not being able to have a one-on-one conversation without having a panic attack, to now being able to stand in front of a room full of people and share my story. That journey is one that I could never have imagined. Every time I tell my story I feel better.

The second reason is that I feel people need to know they’re not alone. Suffering in silence is unacceptable, and I don’t want anyone to go through what I went through. I’ve made it my mission to help whomever I can. We need advocates who are willing to share their stories so that others may find the healing they so desperately need. I advise a group in Boulder, CO called Open Labs. Their mission is to eliminate the stigma of mental illness by having people like me tell our stories. It’s terrible that as a society we shame those who have a brain condition. If you have an illness with any other part of your body, you’d seek medical treatment and get sympathy from others. But for some reason if you have an issue with your brain you’re treated differently. We need to end this stigma by openly sharing our stories with each other. I am committed to telling my story as many times as it takes if it will help even a small amount in ending the ridiculous stigma that exists for those of us living with a brain condition.

If anything about my story sounds familiar to you, get help. Don’t wait any longer. Or if someone you know is suffering, encourage them to get help. Tell them that you’ll support them and help them through this. I was lucky that I have an incredible wife who was there for me. Her support was instrumental in getting me to where I am today.

Entrepreneurship Can Be Lonely

Entrepreneurship can be a lonely thing. Suffering from a brain condition and feeling like no one around you understands what’s happening is even more lonely. The good news is that there are people who can help you. You just need to be brave enough to get the help you need. Admitting you are not well is not failure. It’s the opposite. Seeking help is one of the best things you can do—for yourself, for your loved ones, and for your business. Getting help was truly the greatest gift I could ever give myself. I’m grateful every single day that I took that step, and I’m humbled by the person I became through this healing process.

If you’re in need of help, please find someone in your community who is trained to deal with these illnesses today. There’s no reason to wait. Block 30 minutes in your calendar to call someone and make an appointment. It’ll be the greatest gift you can give yourself. I’m living proof that someone with severe mental illness can thrive and live a fulfilling, meaningful life. You can too.

***

We’re with Matt here: if you need help, get help. Successful entrepreneurs take care of themselves!

National Suicide Prevention Hotline – 800-273-8255








Michael McLeod Talks With ABC About Indigenous Entrepreneurship

Listen to Michael McLeod talk about Indigenous entrepreneurship and Australia’s First Indigenous Startup Weekend.

Michael is a Ngarrindjeri Monaro man from Southern NSW, who is a judge and Keynote speaker at Australia’s First Indigenous Startup Weekend.

Michael’s business is called Message Stick, which is a unique business in that it is owned by Aboriginal Australians. The company was started in 2003 to show that Aboriginal Australians can own and manage a services business that engages with large corporations and Government agencies. The business does not seek any sponsorship, donations or social grants whatsoever. They seek only the opportunity to prove themselves and to be treated as worthy business partners.

Michael’s future is aimed at advocating the need for Australian society (particularly the private sector and our Governments) to embrace, and support, the challenge Indigenous people face when his people begin the journey towards economic independence.

His Message Stick business model is aimed at proving that Indigenous and non-indigenous people can work together to achieve generic economic results – yet still fully support, and participate in, community growth.








Startup Weekend Bahrain – Introduction Seminars

Tenmou experts recently held exclusive pre-event seminars for university students at Bahrain Polytechnic, University of Bahrain and Ahlia University. The seminars held were to introduce the concept of Startup Weekend Bahrain to young minds and encourage them to the idea of entrepreneurship.

The introduction seminar proceeded with briefing the students about the idea behind Startup Weekend and the step-by-step process of the event. The seminars were in cooperation with several Bahraini entrepreneurs i.e. Mr. Ali Mahmood (CEO of uTrack TV – 1st place winner 2012), Mr. Yonis Attiya (CEO of Limefish – 3rd place winner 2014) and Mr. Ali AlSayed (CEO of MADigital) to speak about their experience with Startup Weekend and/or the meaning of being an entrepreneur.

Startup Weekend Bahrain 2015 – Introduction Seminars 2015

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HR Manager, Ms. Zahra Al Abbad briefing Ahlia University students on Startup Weekend Bahrain.
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PR & Marketing Executive, Ms. Amina Naar briefing Bahrain Polytechnic students on Startup Weekend Bahrain.
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CEO of uTrack TV, Mr. Ali Mahmood talking about his experience of participating and winning Startup Weekend Bahrain 2012.







Tips to survive a Startup Weekend

You’ve probably heard, read or even been part of a Startup Weekend. So you probably know that it is a 54 hour race to develop an idea into a startup. It takes place from Friday to Sunday; you have the opportunity to go on stage and pitch a startup idea; if your idea is selected you will form a team, develop it and present what your team has created to a panel of judges. Simple, right?

The whole event is designed to help you to learn and apply techniques like the Elevator Pitch, Business Model Canvas and the Lean Startup methodology. Startup Weekend aims to connect you with potential partners and co-founders who can combine their resources and abilities to build a validated prototype as fast as possible.

If you’re attending for the first time it’s important to understand that this is a massive learning exercise, so don’t expect to walk away with the next Facebook or Tesla after just one weekend.

Here are some tips to clarify what the weekend is all about:

Trust the process (honesty is the best policy)

 

Time to pitch! – SWAKL, June 2015

On Friday attendees will have 60 seconds to give their best idea. After pitches are finished, all attendees will vote on their favorites, and using these votes the top ideas will be selected to be worked on over the weekend. Maybe your friend proposed an idea, but that is not reason enough to vote for him. If we want to give value to Startup Weekend and the efforts of many people who organise it, we have to get the best ideas to the the finals. Here is where the policy of honesty applies: Vote for the idea you think is addressing a real problem and is innovative, interesting, and could have a global impact. This way we all have an awesome experience.

Build your capability, not a business

Can I pitch my existing business? Is this event the ideal place to promote my products or services? It is not. Startup Weekend is designed to be the most effective platform for creating new businesses from an idea to a prototype over the weekend. If you have an idea and it is selected, it is an excellent opportunity to find talented people to help you develop it – the central value for participants is the spirit of complete collaboration. The most important thing is to team up with new people and learn new things.

There is no age limit to participate!

Around the world, the age of Startup Weekend participants ranges between 11 and 76 years. Startup Weekend is open to everybody. Anyone can have a good idea and the skills needed to achieve it, whether a business person, designer or developer. Our main mission is to promote entrepreneurship to all.

In Startup Weekend we are all equal

Team work! – SWAKL, June 2015

“Judges and mentors know everything”. False. Every Startup Weekend we have excellent mentors and judges, all of them from different experiences and backgrounds. They may offer suggestions and opinions, share a personal experience, speak out their minds about the product but this does not mean that they have the final word.

We must consider this world of entrepreneurship, as a space where everyone must contribute something. Maybe some entrepreneurs are more experienced or have achieved success earlier, but that should not make a difference between entrepreneurs, judges and/or mentors. We have seen partners or co-founders of companies that already have some popularity sitting at a table to continue undertaking Startup Weekend, and transmitting their experience and knowledge to amateurs entrepreneurs.

No talk, all action!

Startup Weekend is the perfect place to experience startup life, the “rules” are simple: Come share ideas, form teams, and launch startups.
And very importantly, not everyone can be a winner but we can guarantee you this: Work hard, play hard, be open to learning and you will never forget this weekend.

So… Are you ready to participate in Startup Weekend Auckland?








Colorful swags Yummy meals and Amazing people at #SWDub

It’s day 1 of the Startup Weekend Dublin and the room is packed with almost 100 people looking to have an amazing time in the next 54 hours at Google HQ.

One can almost have the feeling as you walk through the door that it’s going to be the best edition so far. “Such a great diversity in the room, feel almost like having one person per country” – Aimee said, she’s one of the organizers for this edition.

The doors opened to participants who streamed in to pick up colorful swags with the new Startup Weekend Dublin brand courtesy of our sponsors – The T-Shirt Company. IMG_20150710_185942[1]

Dinner was made possible by another fantastic sponsor – Burritos and Blues. They’ve been always there keeping our belly right and they surprised us with an interesting item on the menu – The Silver Bullet. You’d have to ask Paddy Quinlan about that. Let’s just say spicy is the word.

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We definitely give it up to the amazing people who have come in to experience this weekend. It’s definitely going to epic. There are many new faces in the room and a few returnees. We’ve got a good representation of genders and cultures in the room too.

IMG_20150710_190052[1]Many thanks to our other sponsors who help to make it happen – Bank of Ireland, Google, DCU Ryan Academy and Slattery’s Pub.

Let the fun begin!








Startup Weekend Volos: Google Developer Group (GDG) will be here!!!

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Google Developer Group (GDG) Playground aims at creating a vibrant and productive Google-focused community. We want to bring together passion 4 Innovation, to share latest developments, to ignite creativity and productivity so to create new products and services or update already existing ones, based on Google technology and tools, but not only ;-).

At GDG Playground we believe that people and sharing matter, we believe that environment reflects community’s value.

Let’s come and play with Google!

Disclaimer: GDG Playground is an independent group; our activities and the opinions expressed on this +Page should in no way be linked to Google, the corporation.

 








Startup Weekend Volos: Demitrios Pournarakis as a Mentor

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Demitrios is the head of product design and a co-founder of
nimbata (www.nimbata.com), an enterprise analytics company
specializing in call tracking and voice applications on the cloud.
He has previous 5 year working experience in the private sector
as an IT consultant at IBM, while currently being a Research
Associate at the Athens University of Economics and Business, ISTLab.
He holds a BSc in Business Administration from AUEB, an MSc in Information Systems
from City University London and an iMBA from AUEB and is currently in the 2nd year of
his PhD at AUEB, specializing on Brand Equity and Social Network Analysis.
Open to discussion on Web Design (HTML, CSS, Inkscape), Data Analysis (SQL, R),
Digital Marketing, Product Branding and Social Network Science.

 








Our Startup Weekend Story…introducing planabee

Planabee founders: Celina Ploskonka (left) and Laura Thomas (right)
Planabee founders: Celina Ploskonka (left) and Laura Thomas (right)

This is a guest post by Celina Ploskonka, founder of Planabee and Startup Weekend Sheffield attendee. Celina attended Startup Weekend in March 2014 and her team came in third at final presentations.
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Last year I was lucky enough to win a ticket to Startup Weekend Sheffield, a three day event during which you work as part of a group to turn a concept into a minimum viable product. I went along to the event with very few expectations, having never attended an event like this previously, and it ended up being the starting point for our new and exciting business idea, planabee – a mobile website providing  people who plan events with a supplier search and booking system, event planning tool and social hub all in one place.

During the weekend I met a whole host of interesting and extremely useful people from a range of backgrounds and industries. It was a new and exciting experience to work alongside my ‘dream team’ and it gave me a real insight into the stages involved when developing a new product. I met some great people who provided me with inspiration and support throughout the weekend, and thereafter, which really got planabee off to the best possible start. Prior to this event I had very little experience in pitching a business idea to an audience, and in all honesty I found the idea completely terrifying, but after going on to finish third at the event not only was I really proud I also gained a huge confidence boost and have since gone on to do countless other pitches and presentations.

Since the Startup Weekend my business partner and I have been on a whirlwind journey and planabee has developed and come a long way since the initial idea. We’ve spent the past few months fine-tuning our concept, conducting thorough market research, finalising our business plan and looking into several funding options. We’re hopeful to begin our software development within the next few weeks, with the aim of launching our finish product to the market at the beginning of next year. Overall this has been a fantastic journey, which wouldn’t have come about if it wasn’t for Startup Weekend Sheffield, so we’re extremely grateful and would encourage any other young entrepreneurs to go along because you never know what you might get out of it!








It's Not About The "Boy's Club" Anymore: 5 Lessons From Womens Startup Lab by Ari Horie

It’s Not About “The Boys’ Club” Anymore: 5 Lessons From Women’s Startup Lab by Ari Horie

This post, written by Startup Weekend Sacramento Women’s Edition’s Keynote Speaker, Ari Horie, originally appeared on Huff Post Blog on 5/15/14.

If you’re a woman in business, maybe you’re familiar with this story: You’re leading a meeting or driving a deal and when you’re face-to-face with a client, he approaches your male colleague as the decision-maker rather than you. Why is it that a business woman is often mistaken for the executive assistant, rather than the boss? It’s tough to admit that people still struggle with unconscious bias even during a time or industry many people consider to be progressive.

Guy Kawasaki, former Chief Evangelist of Apple, and now Canva, recently said at a recent Women’s Startup Lab Unconference, “The way to get Silicon Valley to this next paradigm on gender is to very simply realize it’s so difficult to create a successful company in general that you need to use all your weapons and to think that you are not using half your weapons because of gender really is ludicrous.”

I began Women’s Startup Lab because I believe in the power behind community, even when it comes to the competitive nature of early stage startups and new markets. Collective intelligence, designed in either an accelerator model or through one’s research, is the backbone to efficiency and learning the lessons without doing it the hard way, wasting valuable time, money, and may I add — emotion.

The innovative leader wants to be successful in his or her career and surround him or herself with other successful men and women. It’s no longer a zero-sum game because we’re all defining our own meaning of what success means to us and within our individual markets. While sexism still, unfortunately, persists in our culture, I don’t believe the general and open-minded thinker is “out to get” women.

Claire Cain Miller’s recent New York Times article “Technology’s Man Problem,” gave clear insight into the gendered outlook from the dark corners of the technocracy, whereas Claire Shipman and Katty Kay’s recent article, “The Confidence Gap,” in The Atlantic parses the difference between men and women’s competence verses confidence. Anecdotal and empirical studies survey that women generally score higher on competency across the board, whereas men are far more confident, therefore they get promoted and move ahead faster than women.

These trending articles make me ask: “Why are women trying to join the ‘Boys’ Club,’ when we can rebuild a culture where both women and men are at the bargaining table?” People hold an unconscious bias and as a society we need to wake up from our idle state and reinvigorate the workforce with new and inclusive standards to allow innovation to flourish, independent of gender.

Born in Hiroshima, Japan, I’ve built my professional career around the notion that your differences aren’t impediments, but powerful resources to bring to the table. At Women’s Startup Lab, we empower our business growth through community collaboration and here are some of the best lessons we’ve learned together:

1. Remember to collaborate even when you think business is about competition. Entrepreneurship is a lonely road, especially for women. Women founders face the same obstacles as all startups, such as fundraising, building a customer base, establishing business acumen, and communicating effectively. Women also deal with the added pressure of working with investors, customers and colleagues who address business differently. Women’s Startup Lab provides a place for women tech entrepreneurs to be members of a collaborative community, gain business and personal skills, emotional support, confidence, and build their network to develop the precise set of skills needed to start, run and grow a thriving startup. In all this, seek insight and community from those women who are experiencing the same struggles. By exchanging intelligence, you can learn solutions for future strategies, while also getting answers for your current problems.

2. It’s not just about “leaning in.” Sheryl Sandberg told business women to “lean in,” but it’s also important to remember that success in business has more to it than pushing yourself, but it’s about how you leverage opportunities, your skill set and your community. This is where The Hito Rule comes in, inspired by the Japanese character meaning “human.” Pictorially, the character is comprised of two arcs leaning against one another. Similar to collaborating, Hito reminds us it’s important to lean in, lean up, and lean on your community to better your business. There’s always an exchange; you’ll help someone out and they, in turn, will help you — which, brings me to the importance of networking:

3. Networking isn’t about quantity, but quality. Aim high to meet trusted and well-respected advisors and partners for future opportunities. Facetime is invaluable and strong connections are made by engaging with the same people more than once. Remember to be tactical with the events you attend. Don’t go to a free event because it’s free. Spend your time at specific events. For example, instead of going to a general tech startup event, attend a specific gathering like a Speakers Panel for Angel Investors in the gaming industry. By narrowing your scope, you’ll meet the right niche of people and begin to cement strong relationships.

4. There’s nothing like finding strength and accountability in a community that you’ve helped build. Community and understanding what a fellow founder is going through is invaluable, and Women’s Startup Lab has been critical in many women’s business development. All Cohort members contribute to the success, lessons, and culture to Women’s Startup Lab. As one founder noted, “Women’s Startup Lab makes you accountable, but it’s a different accountability than what you have with a Board of Directors.” Imbue meaning into your work by connecting with others as well as yourself. In business, it’s important to find your own color or song and you’ll resonate more with investors and your audiences.

5. There are always options. As a founder, you determine the path for your business success. Sometimes, the navigation takes a different route than what we see modeled in Silicon Valley, but that doesn’t mean it’s a wrong choice. Through mentors and hearing alternative ways of doing things, founders can learn how to incorporate new techniques to carve an alternative route to success.








How the Startup Bus Helps Entrepreneurs the World Over

Have you ever wanted to start a new business, but you don’t have a partner or that million-dollar idea fleshed out yet? Have you ever wanted to quit your job and become your own boss, but never had the courage? Whether you’re looking to get pushed out of the nest, are in need of a team to build a business on, or just want to start something awesome, hop on the startup bus.

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25 Buspreneurs, 3 Days, 5 Startups, 1 Bus

The startup bus divides 25 strangers into 5 teams and asks each team to forms its own business. Teams have two traveling days to come up with the next great idea, flesh out their business plan, and figure out as many logistics as possible.

Logistics are important. At the end of the trip, the teams present their ideas to a global consulting firm, and they can’t just sell them dreams. This firm will pick apart their business plans to determine which ones are the most feasible and well planned. The winning team receives mentoring and potentially funding from an experienced startup investor.

From SXSW to Mumbai

While the description above might conjure images of tech geeks hoping off a bus in Austin to pitch their ideas to a group from Silicon Valley, the Startup bus has operates all around the world. The startup bus has expanding to the Europe, India, and the South Pacific, providing resources and opportunities that the residents wouldn’t otherwise have had.

The four startups that don’t win the mentoring and investing still walk away with comprehensive business plans and consulting advice to continue with their execution. Buspreneurs that don’t move forward with their ideas still leave with strong business connections and the know-ho to create a cohesive business plan. Think of it as an entrepreneur boot camp, or business school in 36 hours.

The Navy SEALs of Entrepreneurship

The Navy SEALs perform special operations to protect the national security of our country. However, they also serve as symbols of America, and stand for loyalty to their team and teammates. It’s no wonder that buspreneurs are liked to the navy SEALs. They complete special operations to a short period of time, by highlighting the specialized talents of everyone involved, forming bonds of unity and training along the way.

Of course, you learn much more on the startup bus than loyalty and teamwork, you also learn about yourself. Will Mitchell of StartupBros listed out what he learned that went deeper than his business planning. For example: you are capable of more than you think, and it’s your doubt’s, rather than your abilities that hold you back. It’s important to surround yourself with people who inspire you both in your personal and professional life. And you create your own luck. These life lessons are things that Mitchell will carry with him long after he leaves the startup bus.

What to Know Before You Go

The excitement of making it big with your grand idea should come with an ounce of reality. Life on the road isn’t glamorous. Many Startup Bus alums recommend bringing motion-sickness tablets whether you’re prone to carsickness or not. Your excitement and moving around your table to brainstorm mixed with the turns and bumps of the bus are a recipe for nausea.

Also, board the bus knowing that there could be breakdowns, failures in the facilities, and even highway truck accidents. The StartupBros experienced this when the Internet and heat for wide lengths of time. They also camped out on the chairs of a Taco Bell one night because the bus was stranded and in need of repairs. Like all travel, there are always potholes waiting on the road to success.

It’s Worth It

We could end this article with something cliché, like how it’s not about the destination, but the journey itself, but that wouldn’t do the Startup Bus justice. Instead let’s end with a call to action for entrepreneurs who want to help their community, or the global community, to function better and more efficiently.

The more times the startup bus leaves the station, the more great ideas can help the world.