Building Something From Nothing Starts With Curiosity, and Ends with Generosity

Building a business from the ground up requires an unquenchablecuriosity, passion and the ability to bring in top talent and investors.

Posted on
April 20, 2022
Laura Gaviria Halaby

Building Something From Nothing Starts With Curiosity, and Ends with Generosity

Building a business from the ground up requires an unquenchablecuriosity, passion and the ability to bring in top talent and investors.

If spending Friday nights researching unfamiliar topics sounds like fun, you might have what ittakes to help build a trillion-dollar startup.

That’s how Paul Judge – managing partner at Panoramic VC, investment committee member ofSoftBank’s SB Opportunity Fund, and instructor at the SoftBank Group OperatorSchool (SBOS) – used to spend weekend nights in college. Judge has co-foundedthree companies and invested in scores of tech startups. Like every successfulentrepreneur I know, he has an unquenchable thirst for knowledge, grit forsolving hard problems and the passion to pay it forward. These threefundamental qualities, combined with gratitude, make unstoppable entrepreneurs.Here are some tips on how they go about building something from nothing.

Win Yourself Over First

A big mistake I’ve seen entrepreneurs make is trying to woo investors beforebeing 100 percent committed to their startup idea themselves. Founders must dotheir due diligence and know that the problem they are trying to solve is bigenough. The bigger the target market, the easier it is to succeed, says SergioFurio, founder and CEO of Creditas, one of today’s unicorns in Latin America.If you have less than a trillion-dollar market, he says, one mistake can killyou. A bigger market offers more room for error.  Founders also must be certain they careenough about the problem to dedicate the time, passion and sweat it requires tobuild a unicorn while knowing that most startups fail.

Once convinced, teambuilding begins. Startup teams are not mere employees. “They’re a tribe,” saysShu Nyatta, managing partner of the SoftBank Latin America Fund. When youstart, you need an Olympic team of generalists; as you scale you need the bestteam of specialists. Going after huge markets means others will be chasing asimilar solution. To stay ahead of the fierce competition, founders need tohire the very best.

Next, you need toconvince the first customers. Only after you have committed customers do youtry to convince investors that your solution is worth scaling and worthy of investment. 

Think Like a Fireman

Getting ahead instartups demands perpetual curiosity and grit. “Whenever you see the toughestthing the company is facing, if you run toward that like a fireman, that’swhere the best learning is,” Judge says.

So as a leader, ask yourteam what problems they are trying to solve and offer to help whereverpossible. Don’t shy away from the toughest problems — that’s where one can addthe most value. “If you’re going to put the effort and days of your life intosolving a problem, you may as well go solve the biggest one you can find,”Judge says.

Use Your Air Supply Wisely

Scuba tanks have only somuch air, and divers know to not go further than their tank allows. It’s thesame for startups: Founders must set a goal for each funding round and maximizethe size and scale of their desired outcomes. “Funding buys you time to get youto where you’re going,” Judge explains. But it’s just the gas, not thedestination.

Focusing solely on thegoal for each round prevents entrepreneurs from getting distracted and runningout of cash. It’s also a helpful approach for later when startups move beyondthe survival stage to focus on growth.

Whether you’re workingfor a startup or launching the seed funding round for your own, remember that“the hustle will outperform intelligence,” Judge says. This means you cancontrol your hustle, and you can build intelligence around you as long as youhave ambition and drive. At the end of the day, an idea is worth nothingwithout execution.

So don’t be intimidatedif you don’t know something. You can hire the right person to address thatneeded skill set. But only you can control how much effort you put into theenterprise.

Grow Givers

The best entrepreneurs are go-getters as much as they are grow-givers. Their companies and impactincrease by learning from others, investing in other entrepreneurs (usuallythose who at one point were part of their companies), mentoring others andsharing their challenges and solutions. The more you grow as an entrepreneur,the more you should give, the more you get back, and the greater yourmultiplier effect.

Laura Gaviria Halaby
Head of Knowledge, Strategic Partnerships and Crypto Value Creation, SoftBank Latin America Fund