This is part two of a Guest Blog from Tom Weaver, previous Member Committee President of AIESEC United Kingdom 2002-2003, Founder of Flypay.
On Monday, I introduced you to my AIESEC experience and how the skills I learned supported me in becoming an entrepreneur and founding my startup Flypay. Here are the other two reasons for why AIESEC provides the perfect education for the future entrepreneur:
Reason 3: Entrepreneurs need to have passion and belief in what you do
AIESEC is amazing at building passion. It’s what makes AIESEC so successful and sustained over so many decades. When people join AIESEC they learn how to channel that passion into getting other people just as passionate about the concept and the product.
When you create a startup, you need to really believe in what you’re doing, and feel passionate about it. That passion will come through for your customers, partners and investors. I’ve met founders who seemed bored with their own creations, and I wouldn’t put my money into them.
Reason 4: Entrepreneurs need to be accountable in a totally different way than employees are accountable to their managers
One of the most fascinating aspects of AIESEC (speaking, perhaps now, with a UK slant) is how Local Committees have non-contractual accountability to the Member Committees (national teams), and how Member Committees have accountability to their Board of Directors.
In the case of the Member Committees (MC), there are very strong similarities with running a startup. The typical AIESEC Board does not “manage” the MC. They are non-executive. But the MCs are accountable to that board.
Having a startup that has gone through a funding round is the first experience I’ve had of being accountable to a board since leaving AIESEC. Every job I had, no matter how senior, I was simply reporting to a manager. The previous company I built, Flywheel, was a consultancy and did not need investment- the two directors were the board.
In Flypay, aside from the two founders (myself and my CTO, Chris), we have an amazing board to guide the organization, and to be accountable to. I have one Non-Exec who has vast experience running very large restaurant groups and is very well known in the industry. He gives us the “restaurant operator” insight. We have a Non-Exec, who is also an investor, who knows all the CIOs in the restaurant sector personally and advises us on our business development. And we have one Non-Exec, who represents two investors and has a lifetime of experience in technology investment and is steering us towards our second round.
My job as CEO in this regard is very similar to my role of Member Committee President. I ensure we are being transparent to the board and giving them a clear picture of the state of the organization. Monthly, I present how we’re doing, and get agreement on strategic items too important for us to decide just as founders, such as a funding strategy. We often come up with strategic input, but we ensure the board has a say. Working with them closely and building a good relationship is critical to get the best out of my company and my AIESEC experience with accountability structures has been very useful.
Being an entrepreneur and starting your own company is an amazing roller-coaster ride. But you don’t (necessarily) have to start a venture straight after AIESEC. Have other experiences that give you ideas. Often the best concepts for startups come from the frustration of spotting a problem in your current job, and knowing that your current employer or client is not geared towards solving it. Understand what it’s like to be an employee before you have employees.
That being said, joining small businesses that give you good exposure to a range of problems can be a beneficial path to take. They may have nothing to do with where you eventually start your own business (I was in educational consulting, then design consulting, then customer experience innovation consulting… then Flypay!). I’ve known other alumni that joined very large businesses, and have done exceedingly well to get in senior roles, but they are now used to working at a macro level and would struggle to deal with the minutiae you have to deal with as a founder in a startup.
Whatever you do, make the most of your time in AIESEC. It is a wonderful incubator for your entire career, and I’m thankful every day I discovered it.
Flypay is running for the SMARTA 100 mobile business of the year and we would really appreciate your support. Vote for us by clicking the following link: www.flypay.co.uk/vote. You can follow the guys on Twitter at @flypayuk, or Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/flypayuk
For more information on how to get involved with AIESEC, please visit our website www.aiesec.org