written by
Tarek Ghobar

Growth Mindset: Why is it vital for startups to apply it?

4 min read
Growth Mindset

Growth mindset is a real thing.

However, startup growth is a tricky concept that can be measured in many different ways depending on the company’s business model and strategy.

Yet, the plan to get there almost always requires:

  1. Commitment
  2. Coordination
  3. Experience

To give a bit of a background, I have been working with startups for the better part of 14 years now and got plenty to tell of my own failure and success stories. Launching a startup is a very difficult task, and especially when done while validating a new business model.

The only guarantee is that the ride is going to be long and at times very lonely, yet the belief keeps most of the founders pushing on towards the reward of success."

Growth Mindset Myth Debunked: There is no formula, there is no science, and there is no perfect outcome either

Assuming that the business model has been validated by the founders or is already successful somewhere else (think Uber knockoffs for example), preparing and achieving growth is a total different ballgame.

It starts first and foremost with the team— their experience, and their hunger to run and not walk.

Early stage founders have the difficult task of getting everything created from scratch, and the commitment to the cause is very important to have engraved in your brain.

In the early days of my first startup, there was little pressure to "close that sale earlier" or to "push that client" or to "finish that development roadmap quicker." So we grew very average.

Every time I looked back I knew I could have done better.

1. Commitment to the vision helps

The key to the growth mindset is imagining what success looks like in deep detail—to know how far it still is.

I was certainly committed, but I didn't know enough about what success felt like to be able to chase it wildly. It is imperative (when aiming for high growth) to get this invisible genie pushing you to achieve.

Every day there needs to be success and every day there needs to be a step forward. And everyday you achieve, you need to feel like you are still behind.

2. Coordination makes the team

Any car going 100 miles an hour down a highway with its wheels misaligned will fall apart, and startups are no different. Everyone from the top management-down must know the target, the goal, and know what needs to be done to get there.

This requires developing a growth mindset. Harvard Business Review has written about this, and how companies can profit from it.

If any of the team members are not running at the same pace, then they need to be removed. This is especially important for sales.

When targets are met, or even doubled overnight, the entire organization must gear up towards that new goal. With a new fundraising round coming up, it's the leadership's role to orchestrate the sprint.

And this is where experience comes to play.

3. Experience from all sources fuel the growth

Looking back at my experience with one of Rocket Internet’s hyper growth ventures, it'd be an understatement to say that leadership was and is most critical during fast growth. Sales Development knew they needed to double their efforts in lead generations. But we had to let good team members go—not because they were bad at their job, but because they were not in sync with the new pace.

When your team is not in sync, pinpoint the weak link and work on getting them in line with the rest of the pack. Otherwise, the train will derail faster than you can fix it.

Often times in the growth phase, the funding is available or has been committed to. So there is less pressure on "growing to survive" than there is on growing to prove that the business is scalable and the team is the right fit for that.

Founders might have the flexibility to make mistakes and learn along the way, however, they should be willing to step aside when results are just not there.

Steve Blank
"Entrepreneurship is a calling."

Steve Blank has repeatedly advocated in his teachings, that the growth phase needs a different breed than the early validation entrepreneurs.

This is certainly true.

I have seen entrepreneurs time and time again taking things slow when the business is ready to run, or worse yet, hindering growth because of the lack of sufficient self-imposed pressure. It takes experience to keep that up and in many cases, a mean investor too.

When the startup is at that stage, turn to those with more experience if you need to.

It is okay if they bypass you to get the right growth trajectory.


Written by: Tarek Ghobar, Regional Director at Union VC

Tarek is a Founder, Advisor, and Investor—currently the Regional Director of UNION.

Entrepreneurial at heart, ambitious, and always thinking outside the box. Loves the world of startups and passionate about developing new businesses, solving problems within the business world, and working on a team to move a market or idea forward.

Experienced working in the Gulf markets (Saudi Arabic, Qatar, UAE) and across 3 different countries within the EU.

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