How to Find a Vision and Why Should You

If there was only one thing you can get right before starting your startup: Choose the vision over anything else. Here is why.

Starting a company is hard. Heck! Even focusing on a side project for a long period of time is hard, life just happens to get in the way and we drop the ball.

For example, Brian Chesky Founder of Airbnb explains over a recent startup lecture how his team had to endure crippling user growth the first year. Part of enduring this year was necessity, the remaining part was purpose. For them, purpose, pulled them through difficult times.

Image via AirBnb. Reads: Slow user growth the first year, 4M users in 2013.

Others advise to only start something you are truly passionate about. For instance, Facebook and Google, were started by founders who found something they were excited to build. At the very beginning, their projects were not looking like a really successful business, but nevertheless, the excitement in their founders kept moving them forward.

Both, purpose or passion, can be communicated to others in concise terms that we usually refer to as, the vision. Steve Jobs got this combination of passion, purpose and vision right in this quote:

“If you are working on something exciting that you really care about, you don’t have to be pushed. The vision pulls you.” ~ Steve Jobs

So far, this is a good argument on why you should have a vision for yourself and your team. But how about the rest of the world? Why would the vision be important to others?

Simon Sineks TED talk in “How great leaders inspire action”, it’s a must watch for founders. On this talk, Simon argues that in order to have anyone care about what you are doing, customers included, you need to explain why you are doing it. The why is nothing more than a short and well articulated vision. Customers, investors, reporters, suppliers and so on, will sense those important subtleties impressed from your vision, before they ever consider interacting with it. Therefore, your vision becomes not only the motivation for you and your team, but also the motivation for everyone else and a huge factor in its success.

Erlich (from HBO’s Silicon Valley series) would argue that finding this vision, is a mythical quest involving higher states of the mind, you can find details on his attempt here. Now, I wouldn’t got that far, but I do agree that finding a vision is a journey, and a journey takes time.

For us, our journey started about a year ago, when we were looking for interesting technology problems to solve. Our first exploration was for an internet business, while exploring solutions to their specific problems, it became clear an industry trend that is happening everywhere: automation.

Automation can be seen in everyday life; from vending and coffee machines, automated parking payments, automated security systems or legions of iRobot Roombas vacuuming our homes. We can also peek into the future and see upcoming trends like Hointer, a retail store where you can buying jeans without any human intervention. Or foresee drive-less cars in the future, which several companies have promised within a 5 year horizon.

With automation trends in mind, we asked ourselves: How would the world look if everything was to become automated? It would be efficient, but perhaps, not that hospitable to humans. Therefore, we thought of an alternate approach. Instead of increasing productivity by replacing employees with automated processes; we realized it would be better to increase productivity by making employees more productive. Ultimately, this is also the socially responsible thing to do.

This was a turning point for us. Our goal transformed from increasing efficiency, to increasing employee efficiency. Or in more general terms, we decided to increase people productivity, not just productivity.

But how? In a world full of digital information, we believe that there is a tremendous opportunity in changing the way we live by making our environment more digital, more connected. We believe that providing relevant information, in plain sight, will help us get there. For instance, we are surrounded by walls, but no single wall is intelligent to connect us to all the relevant information that exists in the digital world. The lines between the digital world and our world are meant to blur together, and we are in a mission to accomplish this. This gave us a compelling start for our vision: To increase productivity, through digitally-augmented environments.

We believe in this statement, but it misses to explain why we want to increase productivity and how productivity will be increased. We reflected back on the huge amount of digital information that it’s not surfaced in the physical world around us, connecting with this information more efficiently is how our solutions will help us be more productive. To explain why we would want to be more productive, we have to look at the things that really matter in life: people. Specially, the people you care the most and to be connected with them. So far, we have embraced this vision:

“Connecting us, in the real world”

With this last iteration, productivity becomes a by-product of being more connected with people and information, but more importantly, it gives purpose and meaning to our work.

Thanks for reading.

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