When 1+1=3: How founders need their supporters in order to achieve maximum velocity

When They Win, You Win by Vlad Cazacu, book cover

Quick, when was the last time you visited a Blockbuster to rent a movie?

Unless you live in Bend, Oregon — home to the last Blockbuster on the planet — the answer is probably too long ago for you to remember.

Most of us probably know the story. Blockbuster was taken out by a little upstart DVD-by-mail business called Netflix, which has continued to innovate into streaming and now its own production studios.

Founder Reed Hastings had rented the movie Apollo 13 and returned it well past its due date: “I had misplaced it and it was six weeks late, so it was a $40 late fee,” he told 60 Minutes. “I remember ’cause I didn’t want to tell my wife… I knew what she would say.”

On the way to the gym, he wondered why video stores didn’t operate like health clubs, charging a flat membership fee. The light-bulb moment prompted Hastings to buy a bunch of DVDs and mail them to himself to see if they would travel safely through the mail.

“I opened them up, and they were fine,” he said in the interview. “I thought, ‘Oh my God. This is gonna work! This is gonna work!’” Hastings founded Netflix in 1997.

But this didn’t have to be the outcome. In the year 2000, Netflix approached Blockbuster for a buyout deal, priced at fifty million dollars. Blockbuster refused.

If that decision had been reversed, you may not have to go to Bend to get your Blockbuster.

Stories like this fascinate me!

As I am trying to understand how the world of business really works, I have sought to discover the stories of trailblazing entrepreneurs around the globe and the people supporting them. I have been in the innovation space for all of my adult life, and a little bit before that if you ask my mom. I have been a founder, twice. The first time, we had to close shop after my business partner left for Japan and the work became too much for a one-person team. The second time, we launched two products, gathered a team of twelve wonderful people, had a fair share of success and are continuing to grow.

I have worked eleven jobs, all before the age of twenty, in industries ranging from food, entertainment, higher education, to strategy consulting and ed-tech. All of this was on a quest to discover what I am passionate about and answer the big question: Who am I? I’m an entrepreneur, an accountant, and a social psychologist who decided to pursue his spark for innovation management.

In the fall of 2017, my team and I approached one of my mentors seeking some guidance on whether we should join a start-up support program or not. It was surprising to have a person, who had been previously incredibly helpful, be very blunt and cold with their advice. I remember them telling us about how we are very young and would not be able to join the start-up full-time and how those programs are for people who can dedicate all of their time to their businesses. That was the moment it struck me that there might be something wrong with this system.

After doing research on the effectiveness of entrepreneurial resources in the educational space, I began to wonder what the larger picture looked like. Armed with a backpack of energy and a full Series A worth of motivation, I began to deeply study and learn more about this subject.

I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to converse with some incredible innovators and conduct over forty research interviews with individuals ranging from the vice president of WeWork, the founder of HAX Accelerator, to the co-founder of JFDI.Asia, and the executives of some of the world’s biggest start-up studios such as Betaworks, Pioneer Square Labs, Madrona Venture Labs, and Saturn V.

This journey is narrated from a more journalistic point of view, collecting information from existing research literature in the fields of business, sociology and psychology and intertwining it all with my interviews, my expertise, and my personal experience.

“When They Win, You Win” is written for both founders and managers of entrepreneurial support programs, both stand alone and intra-corporate, as well as for founders interested in joining one such unit and investors interested in backing them. If you fall in none of those categories, don’t worry because no matter if you are an angel investor, a business executive, leader, or start-up adviser, you will be able to find a new perspective on the development of the entrepreneurship support ecosystem.

This book is for creative people who believe diversity sits at the core of innovation, who are not afraid to dream big, who are able to bet on humans, not businesses, who build on the ideas of others, and who cannot wait for the product launches to start dreaming about the next one. Throughout my writing, I hope to instill in readers the same sort of passion and excitement that I have for supporting innovation.

At its core, this book is designed to offer a look at the past, present, and future of supporting the next generation of the world’s greatest start-ups and new ventures. And like anything that is uncertain, the future that we’ll explore is simultaneously exciting and scary.

Over the next weeks, I’m going to be sharing excerpts and stories from my book in this blog series. When They Win, You Win launched on July 27th on Amazon, here is the link to buy it! If you want to connect, you can reach me here via email vlad@vladcazacu.com or connect with me at www.vladcazacu.com and social.

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