Introduction from Alana:
Speaking for myself, there are people in my life who have provided more championship than is comprehensible. To say I am grateful beyond measure is an understatement. I’ve always believed we make our own luck in life, but with the help of certain others, our luck can improve dramatically. Lesa Mitchell is one such champion in my life. She is also the most well networked person I know… on the planet.
Lesa has more than 25 years of executive experience in enterprise technology, product management, product licensing and mergers and acquisitions in the health care industry and as an entrepreneur. Lesa most recently spent 10 years as Vice President of Innovation & Networks at the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation (where she was the Chairman of the Board of Kauffman FastTrac during my tenure as President) prior to her work with Instigating + Co, joining various boards and becoming a Senior Fellow at the Milken Institute.
She’s a generous and ingenius networker and we can all learn a thing or two from her. And, it’s fitting that as Global Entrepreneurship Week kicks off today, it’s Lesa’s guidance we look to. With that, I give you my friend, mentor and champion, Lesa Mitchell…
Guest post from Lesa Mitchell
Ten years ago, companies were starting in Nairobi, Africa that would never scale beyond Africa; or, at a micro level, starting in Copenhagen that would never scale beyond Denmark. The mindset and the network of the startup founders was locally focused on solving a problem and they usually didn’t have the expertise or the network to tap into other markets. That problem of a narrow mindset was one of the reasons we started the Global Scholars Program and Global Entrepreneurship Week at the Kauffman Foundation. In the case of the former, we knew we could give potential future founders both the network and the skills to become entrepreneurs should they choose that pathway (and, it wouldn’t cost them $70K a year!). In the latter case, we thought we could begin building a startup network – one city and one country at a time.
Individuals pay big bucks to attend Harvard Business School (HBS) in order to gain the global experience, a network of smart peers and a forever HBS email address that is a lifetime door opener. Of course, the ability to tap into global networks isn’t critical for all early stage companies, but for the companies that can now start up in Nairobi and from the outset build out partnerships across multiple countries to enable global scale – it is a game changer.
If you are starting or growing a company, understanding that your customers’ needs are critical and having a network of trusted business partners either located in other countries or with expertise from working in other markets becomes essential. This is the kind of network you should begin building when you are young and you must nurture those relationships your entire career.
In fact, the advice I give young people who are interested in building a global network is to participate in opportunities like Startup Weekend. And, if you are going to another city or country for a holiday, make sure you participate in a Startup Weekend in that city. There is no better way to begin building relationships than to have spent a weekend working with a group of people trying to solve a problem. And, lucky for us all, it’s November – the one month of year when there are more Startup Weekends held than any other time in the year. Check it out – http://startupweekend.org.