How Entrepreneurs Can Benefit from a Hacker Mindset

What it takes to turn ideas into reality

“A hacker is not what you’re thinking when you imagine that black terminal screen with a green font and somebody breaking into stuff.”

So says Christian Pelaez-Espinosa (one of the founding members of Florida Hackers) during our Startup Capital interview in which we talk about what hacking is and isn’t. “Hacking,” in the 2016 sense of the word, is less about illicit activity and more about an innovative mindset.

Hacking is a subculture focused on taking a piece of technology and using it in an innovative or novel way, usually with fun or interesting results. It’s about resourcefulness, exploration, and experimentation. And ultimately, it’s about turning an idea into reality. Isn’t that the whole idea behind entrepreneurship?

Looking past fundraising, networking, “growth-hacking,” and other aspects of starting up, entrepreneurship is about having an idea and turning it into a business. So, what can entrepreneurs learn from the hacker mindset?

Use all the tools at your disposal

One facet of hacker culture is being able to look around you and use everything at your disposal to help build whatever it is that you’re building. What tools, digital or physical, will help you achieve this goal?

The same goes for a startup. Beyond technical tools, what are the connections, the opportunities, and the organizations in your community that you can leverage to help spread the word, acquire funding, recruit talent, find mentors, and so forth?

If you’re thinking about a startup, take a look and figure out how you can best leverage your assets and the ecosystem around you. You may just ‘hack’ your way towards a sustainable and scalable business.

“What tools, digital or physical, will help you achieve this goal?” Via hackNY

Make things

Builder, maker, designer, founder – the world of startups is flush with words describing people who make something out of nothing. Hacking is about doing the very same thing. It’s having an idea that you think is worth pursuing and going after it. Whether that’s a wacky AI chatbot you plan on building in a weekend, an app to disrupt an entire industry, or even a small business, “making things” is a fulfilling and positive way to view entrepreneurship and startups.

Learn through experimentation

One reason that hackathons are so popular among young technophiles is that it provides a chance to test out new ideas as well as test themselves in a new environment. Challenging yourself and stepping out of your comfort zone is a cornerstone of hacker culture. Ask any entrepreneur, and they’ll tell you all about “comfort zone.”

Entrepreneurship provides ample opportunity for experimentation and growth that everyone should take advantage of. Whether it’s pitching to important strangers, trying a new market strategy, testing out a new UI/UX design, or just getting yourself out there, make sure that you’re pushing the boundaries of what you as a person are capable of.

Focus on growth (not success or failure)

Ask any hackathon attendee whether they succeeded or failed, they’ll probably just tell you how much fun they had. Because in the end, it isn’t about success or failure — it’s about learning and personal growth. You could say the exact same thing about entrepreneurship. While obviously you want your business to succeed, whether or not it wins big, you should be focused on personal growth.

That way, even if you fail, you’ll be able to become better at what you do. You’ll become a better builder and you’ll have a higher chance of success next time. If you focus on learning, growth, and skills, you can’t fail (even if your startup does).

Ultimately, many hackers are entrepreneurs, just as many entrepreneurs are hackers. The intersection of these two cultures has produced fascinating results in the past few years, and we can’t wait to see what the next generation of young hackers and startups will build.

But even if you’re not young and technically skilled, there’s room for a hacker mindset. Just because you’re forty years old with an MBA doesn’t mean you can’t put on the hacking gloves every once in a while and try to build something great.

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