The profession of a start-up person: how to get into the trend?

During the past few years, Ukraine is seeing a tremendous growth of start-ups. Only in 2016 the largest platform ProductHub featured (made the main page) more than 20 Ukrainian projects. The major part of ideas traditionally relates to IT, however, the scope of their practical application is very wide, ranging from rigorous military technologies to “cool” devices that assist people in learning, relaxation and practicing their hobbies.

Undoubtedly, the Revolution of Dignity is one of the main reasons that led to the growth of innovative entrepreneurship. While evaluating the importance of “grassroots” initiatives, Ukrainian society decisively rejects Soviet economic practices and opens up new productive niches. The fact that Ukrainian start-ups can be attractive business activities is proved by the volume of investments attracted by them. For example, last year two services created by Ukrainian developers — Sixa and Allset, managed to accumulate approximately $ 3.5 million each.

Parallel to the development of start-ups, various business accelerators and incubators are launched in Ukraine, which are designed to help innovators to go a long road from idea to product successfully. In short, we have some positive developments. Nevertheless, they are much slower than we would like. Certainly, institutional simplification of rules for private business in the innovative (including but not limited to!) segment shall give the main impetus for the acceleration of this process.

But today I want to talk about something else. The fact is that start-ups remain for most Ukrainians quite an exotic sphere of application of their talents and knowledge. The outdated thinking about certain lone geniuses who create “a breakthrough technology” somewhere in the garage and then they look for a rich investor through a long and complicated procedure is still dominant in the public perception.

In fact, the current market of start-ups is extremely technological. As the venture investor Greg McAdoo from Sequoia Capital writes: “You can program the whole path of a good project from its birth to IPO and establish a strict timeline. And if to think that you can try to predict “black swans”, with the right approach start-up becomes a handicraft”.

The second tendency that needs attention is that there is an opportune time for start-ups of interpretations, not start-ups of ideas. The winner is the person who knows how to “catch” consumer demand and turn a ready-made idea into a technology or a business model. Do not get upset: it is the laws of the market. Moreover, neither “handicraft”, nor “assembly line” alters intuitive insights and revolutionary developments which guarantee further progress in any industry.

However, it is necessary to make conclusions.

If Ukraine wants to succeed in its innovative development (and there is a real chance for this!) it is necessary now to take into account that a start-up person becomes a profession. Certainly, it requires a specific business education and a graduate of a traditional MBA program may not meet the new requirements. However, it is quite possible to develop effective training programs and train the best specialists in this segment if we combine the efforts of all stakeholders: practitioners from incubators with their successful cases, business coaches and professors from Ukrainian MBA schools, “academic” scientists who can share their knowledge about the latest trends in the fundamental science, marketing experts and communication specialists who will “prepare” the market.

Each of the abovementioned parties can initiate discussion and joint work, but still, it seems to me that representatives of Ukrainian business who can support innovative practices and implement them in their companies shall lead such a project. Due to a number of circumstances, it is obvious that Ukraine will have to switch from selling raw materials to selling final products. It also applies to IT — it would be better for the country not to limit itself by an outsourcing labour force, but to sell complete solutions. The “professional” start-up persons would play the leading role in the development of a “full” circle in high tech clusters — from development to introduction of new products to the market.

The demand for “hybrid” professions grows in the modern world. The profession of a start-up person completely corresponds to this trend, which means that it is promising. I am convinced that international cooperation will assist active Ukrainians in achieving success in this way.