A Helping Hand: Why Entrepreneurs Need to Think Like A Brownlee Brother

If you haven’t seen the footage of the Brownlee brothers competing in Sunday night’s World Triathlon Series, you must be living under a rock.

In the final metres of the race, younger sibling Jonny was suffering from exhaustion and heat stroke, looking likely to pass out at any moment. Brother Alistair came from behind, witnessed the scene and immediately scooped his brother up, supporting him to the finish line. And if that was enough for our hearts — as the pair reached the end of the race, Alistair flung his brother ahead of himself ensuring Jonny would win silver while he would be placed third.

The commentators realised straight away that they were witnessing unprecedented scenes of greatness, loyalty, sportsmanship and not just brotherly love — but human kindness.

Later Alistair admitted that he would have done the same for anyone in that position, that they were in the race together and no one should be left behind — but also admitting he thought his brother was an idiot for not pacing himself for the treacherous conditions.

While I may not be as fit as the Brownlee brothers, I know a thing or two about competing in an enduring race, across many disciplines in hot and humid conditions. Yes — the technology industry has a lot of similarities to an overheated triathlon!

Every tech entrepreneur, like myself, spends time juggling multiple disciplines having to excel in the transition between each of them. From innovation, product development and marketing to finances and HR. Issues may arise in any area of the business, and entrepreneurs have to deal with all of them at one time or another.

This is easier said than done when entrepreneurs classically are an impatient bunch who like to have everything done yesterday. Often an innate trait but also partly borne out of a perceived business need. ‘Second place is the first loser’ or so the saying goes.

The tech space in particular can seem like a constant need to be first, much like a competitive triathlon. The first country into space, the first tech brand to develop a personal computer, the next iPhone killer, driverless cars… the list goes on.

The race to be first is real and entrepreneurs will push themselves hard to be the next in line of technological firsts and gain significant market share or commercial success as a result. This can be a costly gamble. Like Jonny Brownlee, when they fail to pace themselves according to business conditions, they risk losing everything in the process.

The Brownlee Brothers have shown that winning at all cost isn’t always the right path to take. We mustn’t collapse from exhaustion just metres away from the finishing line, but equally a ‘slow and steady’ approach can leave us trailing behind faster and nimbler competitors. Sometimes all we need is some outside support to get us to the next level and sometimes we are the ones pushing someone else ahead, like Alistair Brownlee.

This isn’t just about human kindness — but it also makes good business sense.

This week’s Tech Nation 2016 report, which profiles 27 key digital tech clusters across to the UK, demonstrates a concentration of talent and networks accelerating the growth of digital tech businesses.

4th Office is located in one of London’s most innovative and creative hubs, Second Home. Lucky for me, here I’m surrounded by entrepreneurs all excelling in their own field. Not only that, we all support each other — from a late night chat when we’re burning the midnight oil to attending each other’s focus groups for yet another product redesign. It’s a collaborative environment where we help each other excel.

Let’s face it, if Steve Jobs hadn’t designed the first iPhone, Samsung wouldn’t have been trying to design the iPhone killer. If Hoover hadn’t been the first to create the vacuum cleaner — who knows where James Dyson would be. One tech company excelling will not stifle others, more so it will open the flood gates to allow more entrepreneurs through. Social networks didn’t stop at Facebook — Mark Zuckerberg opened the doors to a new way of thinking.

Never has there been a more exciting time to be in this industry. The pace of change is unprecedented. We, as technologists, must support each other through the heat. Even pushing others ahead when required.

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