Martin Basiri, CEO and Co-Founder of ApplyBoard. ApplyBoard is on a mission to educate the world.
Immigrants are natural risk-takers. They take the bold step of leaving what is familiar and safe and venture to a new country, new community and often a new language in search of new possibilities. These are strong entrepreneurial characteristics.
Some of the most successful companies were founded by people who first set foot in the United States as students. A study by the National Foundation for American Policy found that almost one-quarter of U.S. billion-dollar startups had a founder who was once an international student. The impact that international students and immigrants bring forward shouldn’t be overlooked.
When I immigrated to Canada, I started out with $6,000 to my name. I had a high risk tolerance when I decided to build a tech startup. The strength and courage I gained from starting a business from scratch alongside my brothers are undeniable and well worth the risk. No matter what happens in the beginning stages of your new startup, it’s important not to let the fear of starting get in the way. Taking the first step is the hardest step.
The Power Of Asking For Help
There will always be multiple unknowns that any entrepreneur will have when they run a tech startup. This can be even trickier for immigrants who are taking a leap of faith as an entrepreneur.
Every new entrepreneur creating a startup has no choice but to embrace mistakes early on in their career because each misstep is a learning opportunity. Tap into your student mindset, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Many people love to help and see others succeed.
In the early days, entrepreneurs have to figure out what a product or service does and how it can make a sustainable revenue while also figuring out the infrastructure, finances and how the business will work. In order to do this, entrepreneurs must stay curious and become more comfortable with asking for help. Also, aspiring immigrant entrepreneurs can leverage their contacts and connections back home to give them an advantage in talent introductions or critical first clients.
Venture Outside Your Comfort Zone
Being an entrepreneur can be lonely, especially in the beginning stages of building a startup. Being both an entrepreneur and an immigrant can be even more isolating. One of the best things about entrepreneurship is the community and relationships that you build when you’re in the process of forming your business. It’s important for entrepreneurs to join an incubator or accelerator. Your unique experience and insights are valuable, but you cannot accomplish everything alone. Lean on resources and mentorship, and embrace the people who want to help you. An aspiring immigrant entrepreneur can find refuge in the tech industry and can increase their network tenfold in the first year of launching and scaling their startup.
One might think that creating a startup is too ambitious with the language, cultural and community barriers that come with moving to a new country. However, I think it’s best to jump right into creating a startup if that’s your passion. Building a tech startup can help you to learn the language and culture at a rapid pace. The experience will speed up your integration by years.
Learning about a new culture in a new country is important, but it’s also important to embrace being an outsider, the feeling of uncertainty and your fresh perspective. Typically in this headspace, you’ll be able to challenge yourself and dive headfirst into an exciting project.
Focus On A Mission-Oriented Mindset
To be triumphant in a startup, it’s critical to be passionate about the project. Find a problem or issue that’s close to your heart, and then find a way to solve it. All entrepreneurs should challenge themselves to try to solve it even better than their original idea and set new goals on how to improve.
Being a mission-oriented organization can help attract passionate and dedicated team members. There are some things money cannot buy, and an impactful mission to work and strive for every day isn’t something every company can boast about. Find that mission that goes beyond you and goes beyond simply profit but is something that drives an entire startup forward.
There are so many problems that are worth solving. Ensure the impact from the solution you’re creating will not only lead to a thriving business but, more importantly, will bring you and other team members who grow the startup the intense fulfillment and gratification that will keep the startup sustainable.
Persistence Is Key When Raising Funds
Raising capital for a startup is one of the hardest things entrepreneurs face. Gather intel from other tech entrepreneurs and ask them how they crafted their pitch to ensure it makes sense from all business angles. Remember that investors have heard thousands of pitches. It’s also important to remember to connect with the right investors who will be the most motivated and captivated by your potential business idea.
Aspiring immigrant entrepreneurs might face some sort of language barrier, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be good storytellers. The enthusiasm, passion and love for what you do should always be evident in your pitch. Any aspiring entrepreneur will hear “no” frequently. It’s a fact of doing business, but do not let that dissuade you. Keep a positive outlook and look for those who resonate with your mission.
Being an entrepreneur has helped me progress and pushed my life forward in so many ways. The impact entrepreneurship offers, and the learning experience it has provided me with is invaluable.
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