In his book “Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future”, entrepreneur and investor Peter Thiel states, “competition is for losers”. His premise is based on a foundational belief that “if you want to create and capture lasting value, look to build a monopoly”. I don’t disagree that this would be an incredible feat to one day build a company that could match the greatness of Google, Facebook, Apple, or Thiel’s own Paypal, but should that notion stop us from entering a industry where there may be competition?
I think not. After what I have experienced since starting my company Usspire about 6 months ago, I have come to believe that the true losers are not those who embrace and surround themselves with competition, but rather those who cannot, or do not, collaborate with the competition.
At the start of August I attended brand new conference called the Next Gen Summit, which I will discuss later on, and on one of the last days, I was involved in a situation with three other founders. Each founder running their own media companies, centered around producing great content, and attempting to inspire the same demographic — millennials. These founders consisted of myself and two friends Tayo Rockson, and Roberto Blake, each of us needing to produce video interviews with attendees and speakers alike, each of us with very similar skill sets. It would have been very easy for us to work on our own, but to make the best product for our audiences, we knew we needed each other. This experience was one of the main highlights for me personnally at the summit, because it was at this time, I finally understood the true power of the “Real Collaboration Economy”.
Learning and understanding the power of the Real Collaborative Economy has transformed my world, and it has the power to do that for really anyone if they understand it.
In business, and specifically the startup industry, we have all heard about the “Sharing Economy”.
Definition of The Sharing Economy:
An economic model in which individuals are able to borrow or rent assets owned by someone else. The sharing economy model is most likely to be used when the price of a particular asset is high and the asset is not fully utilized all the time.
The concept of the sharing economy is not new, as sharing itself is essentially as old as humanity itself. We went from creating every product from scratch, to sharing almost any kind of service we can offer, in the name of innovation and efficiency. When you look closer on this concept though, what are people truly trying to achieve when taking part of the sharing economy?
In essence, they are trying to buy back time. When I call an Uber before leaving, I just bought back 10 mins trying to hail a cab. When I airbnb my next stay, I just saved my time looking up hotels, possibly cooking my own food for a weekend, and most times, have saved a decent amount of money. The value of this sharing economy is very evident, and while many people use the word sharing and collaboration interchangeably, I believe that a “Real Collaboration Economy” can be all-the-more effective and powerful.
The Real Collaboration Economy: is a mix between sharing, and genuine relationship building. Going far beyond an exchange of services, or a beneficial one-time transaction, to establish a relationship that is forged through time and effort, which leads to a loyal following and an even greater startup foundation.
Imagine building a home by throwing different style bricks in a circle, rather then making sure each brick fits together and are all part of making the foundation of the home. Sharing is modeled by these varied bricks that are hurriedly piece together, but really are a collective poor mix that is unable to create a solid foundation. Collaboration is a mix of similarly shaped and sized bricks that when pieced together, become a cohesive unit. When collaboration happens, every member understands the others need’s, and responds accordingly; the same is almost never true when it’s sharing alone that’s involved.
As stated previously, I have been to a multitude of events (at least over 70) over the past 8 months, while also attending the Next Gen Summit in Austin, TX, all of which has helped me forge friendships with some of the most innovative young minds in the world. A common theme that has come up time and time again, is the idea of the collaboration effect, which has become a tenant of the millennial revolution I have become a part of.
Time and again, I have seen like-minded, gifted individuals sharing their experiences, resources, networks, and advice with those whom need and seek it. We see a perfect example of “Real Collaboration” in the book 2 Billion Under 20, where my good friends Stacy and Jared have compiled and documented the experiences, success secrets, and inspirational stories of 75 young individuals. These people did not have to share their stories of what made them great or how they were able to do what they’ve done, so why share, and give away the secret?
The secret is simple. What the future leaders of the world have realized early on, is that this world has a lot of issues. Not only have the problems of this world become more complicated, but time moves faster in everything that we do, be it economics, politics, technology, really anything. Thus what we millennials have found, is to meet the demand of an ever changing world, we grow and learn faster when we do it alongside one another.
As my friend Justin Lafazan eloquently breaks down in his Ted X talk “Disruption through Collaboration” — “Collaboration is disrupting competition. The reason is the exponentially growing rate of technological evolution. things are moving faster, the economy is changing faster, faster. So business owners are forced to innovate at faster rates. A competitive model is to isolated and thus to slow to adapt to the changing needs.”
The time and effort dedicated into maintaining and forging these relationships have led me to introductions with investors, fellow CEO’s, and loyal community members. Above all, it has surrounded me with like minded individuals who raise my mind and my aspirations to a whole new level. Being surrounded by greatness has become more valuable to me than any introduction to “Legendary” business figures. It has raised not only the bar I have set for myself, but the bar I know I am meant to reach.
Why try something new without first getting of the advice or experience of a friend who has just walked in your shoes one month prior. Why bring a
“knife to a gun fight” when a friend can help provide you with the right resources to prepare you properly. To make things practical why do hours of research and cold emailing specific investors when you can build a friendship which leads to a warm introduction with exactly who you need to meet.
What I’ve learned is when a group of like minded individuals build genuine relationships, built on mutual interests, desires, and personality traits, networking and exploitation stops, leaving only collaboration and support. When you stop at nothing to offer your skills, resources, and time, people tend to reciprocate, because as human beings no matter what you see on the news, we both love and desire to be loved. What I’ve found in the Real Collaboration Economy is a bunch of friends building each others houses, brick by evenly placed brick.
In theory Thiel is not wrong, competition really is for losers; but real winners do not have competitors, they have partners.
By: Mina Salib
CEO of Usspire
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Special thanks to Jolijt Tamanaha for her impeccable feedback, and offering her genius to this piece. Michael Salib (CCO @Usspire) for being the editor behind all the great work on Usspire. And to all those I’ve meet over the past 8 months for strengthening my love for humanity.