Why Every Entrepreneur Needs To Tap Into A Network of Peers
I founded my organization on a single idea: that the world’s furthest-flung farmers deserved the same access to finance that we have in the United States and other wealthy countries. From there came the bootstrapping and start-up magic. For over a decade, it felt like my colleagues and I ran Root Capital on a combination of intuition, inspiration, and force of will. Everyone did everything, we figured it out as we went along, and somehow it worked.
But as our organization entered its teenage years, with responsibilities and structure falling into place, it began to resemble a teenager itself—growing in fits and starts, with gangly limbs that I suddenly didn’t quite know how to control. I had grown comfortable in the perpetual state of uncertainty that starting a new business entails—but as our organization matured, I was beginning to leave my comfort zone. This apprehension and anxiety, sometimes accompanied by serious stress and sleeplessness, didn’t always feel like something I could share with my family, friends, or staff. While they could listen and lend their support, they couldn’t offer guidance from a place of shared experience. I was living my dream, but feeling more isolated every day.
But, of course, I wasn’t alone. Through networks like Ashoka and the Skoll Foundation, I was able to meet dozens of social entrepreneurs from all around the world. When I brought up these challenges, I realized that nearly everyone I met was grappling with the same “growing pains.” Nearly everyone was experiencing, to some degree, what my colleague Rodrigo Baggio of Recode called “a sense of loneliness and isolation, without peers with whom to exchange the most important information in their lives.” When combined with long hours, lots of travel, and general overstretch, that lack of community could seriously affect personal care and organizational health. And nearly everyone was unsure where to turn for answers.