Celebrating Success – Written by Doug Neal

This is the final blog post of the Acceleration Project.

See last week’s post for the Acceleration Phase and the first post in this series for an overview of what I’m rambling on about here.

On the evening of Thursday, April 21, 2011, 40 student startup ventures met in the basement of the parking garage on 500 E. Washington to celebrate a successful completion of the University of Michigan TechArb Student Venture Accelerator winter session.

During this event, each of the student teams presented the results of their efforts over the last six months to go from an idea to a fully launched business.  Some had customers; a few were evaluating term sheets from investors; and some had concluded that their idea was not as good as they had originally thought.  All, however, were celebrating success!

Success for these student teams was not about the five-minute presentations to a panel of experts, sexy pitch decks, or mind-blowing financial projections.

Success was the acknowledgement of the hard won knowledge they all had achieved in attempting to move their businesses forward.  It was in sharing the insights they had learned about the market, technology, and customers.  And, it was the camaraderie the group felt having shared the experiences and struggles that entrepreneurs face when trying to create something out of nothing.

TechArb is an ongoing acceleration project for University of Michigan student entrepreneurial companies and teams located in downtown Ann Arbor.  These teams go through the same acceleration project elements that I’ve outlined in this multi-part blog post.  TechArb student companies are focused on having an impact on the world, the economy, and the environment.

The key objective in an Acceleration Project isn’t about selecting a winner.  It’s about moving a cohort of teams through a process that yields a more likely set of long-term successful entrepreneurs and startups.  Fundamentally, it’s about embracing the entrepreneurial mindset and learning new skills.

Ultimately, what I have found is that entrepreneurs view success differently than most people.  Success is not something we dwell on for extended periods.  Yes, there is acknowledgement of a completion of a milestone, a deal won and problem solved.  But at a higher level, success is thought of as something you are always building towards yet never achieving.

Success, for entrepreneurs, is process not outcome.

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