I have this innate fascination of observing people and seeing what makes them tick! In my innumerable interactions with Startup entrepreneurs over the years, I have observed some compelling things that make an entrepreneur stand out vis a vis another. Honestly, it’s nothing to do with any skill in particular. I have been thinking hard on what are those traits (for lack of a better word), that make an entrepreneur stand out? (ofcourse entrepreneur as a breed in itself stands out, but even in this breed of people what makes one differentiate even further?)
This might come as contrarian to popular perception but I strongly believe that most successful entrepreneurs are really not gifted with any special skill set. Really. They are ordinary people with one and only one extra ordinary trait, they are Street Smart!
Honestly, while I was growing up, being street smart was looked down upon, infact street smart was more or less akin to being clever, shrewd and manipulative! Did you ever hear a mother say, “My son/daughter is street smart”? and take complete pride in it? I never did. And I can say with 100 percent guarantee, that if anyone would have complemented me in my college days as street smart, my mother would have been thoroughly embarassed and worried about my future.
Coming back to the entrepreneurial trait that matters the most and given least due and acknowledgement in our society, is the priceless street smartness.
So what is Street Smartness? I believe it is the ability to think on your toes, deal with entirely different situations/people at the same time, and constantly identify and seize opportunities. To put it in other words, as an entrepreneur you are on the street and you learn to navigate it smartly.
Tell me a startup that survived in this highly competitive world and I will show you the one most important trait that enabled that. Cliched it might seem but history is replete with examples, be it Bill Gates or our own entrepreneurial legend, Dhirubhai Ambani.
I think the time has come that this skill gets its due under the sun. While I have heard many VCs say time and again, we invest not in the idea but in the entrepreneur (which has led me to analyse their portfolio entrepreneurs), I sincerely hope they come out clear and say, “we love street smart entrepreneurs and invest in them”.
B Plan competitions should have a percentage allocated to street smartness. Entrepreneurship mentors, speakers and events should have more conversation around this. Why not highlight something which will play a critical factor in your success?
The good news is – nobody is born street smart, it is an acquired skill. Yes, no denying the fact that this learning comes invariably the hard way. But once you get it, it will be truly your best companion and bet in your entrepreneurial journey. Don’t believe me, try it out yourself and start observing!
Ok, the acknowledgement begins here – I am a street smart entrepreneur and I am proud to be one.