The Chivas Venture class of 2016 were already promising businesses before getting whittled down from a staggering 2,500 online applications, and all have gone on to even greater achievements since the end of that year’s competition.
Yet there is often a voice at the back of an entrepreneur’s mind - when contemplating their past with the benefit of hindsight - eagerly pointing out how they could have done things differently to avoid those mistakes that now seem obvious.
Sharing such learnings amongst fellow social entrepreneurs, is what Chivas Venture finalists often consider the most valuable benefit from the programme. Aside from attending seminars, workshops and one-to-one coaching sessions in Oxford, the simple fact of being assembled in the same room with like-minded entrepreneurs from all around the world, has value in itself. It builds confidence in the wider purpose of what they do and enables them to share learnings from past experiences.
So we asked some of last year’s finalists what one piece of advice - if they had a time machine and the requisite knowledge of physics to use it without destroying the universe - they might deliver to younger, marginally more inexperienced versions of themselves.
Failure isn’t fatal.
“I say that one thing is certain. You’ll fail, and more than once…” so says Jaco Gerrits, CEO of CrashDetech, the app providing real-time data that helps reduce roadside fatalities. “My first failures in business were really difficult, but also taught me some of my best life lessons. I’ve recognised the importance of failure in your journey towards success. Adopting a positive mindset is the key and failure - when viewed correctly - is nothing more than valuable feedback which can be used to your advantage. It’s been one of the hardest, most rewarding journeys.”
The founder of WeFarm, the knowledge sharing platform for farmers in remote areas without internet access, also advocates the idea that one should embrace the bumps in the road.
“I’d say nothing to my younger self!” Kenny Ewan explains. ”While I certainly needed plenty of advice, I think it’s the mistakes we made and the lessons we learnt along the way that got us to where we needed to be.”
If at first you don't succeed, try, try again.
“I tell myself not to be afraid of trying,” says Edison Santos, founder and CEO of ECO Mensajería, the completely sustainable courier service. “You’re better than you think you are, and the world needs you and your passion. It may not be easy, but that doesn’t mean it has to be boring, so have fun and enjoy becoming the very best version of you.”
Enjoy the journey.
Maria Pacheco, who reached the final five of the Chivas Venture in 2016 with Wakami, believes her younger self may have benefited from a little more business acumen, but concedes the journey is integral to shaping the entrepreneur.
“Do it all over again! It has been a hard journey but one worth everything. Sometimes I wish I had known more about businesses – but if I’d ever made a business plan I would never had started! It’s all good!”
While Or Retzkin, CEO of EyeControl, said: “Try to enjoy the journey as much as possible…You will spend more time on your journey than you do at the final destination.”
Live life to the full.
The founder of the platform in the UAE that uses technology to make buildings more energy efficient believes it is important to experience life, enjoy it and learn from it along the way.
“Take some real time off between ventures to enjoy the world and your youth,” says Charles Blaschke, MD of Taka solutions. “Do more crazy things, work for a young company, work for a big consulting company, and learn as much as you can from those experiences. Because even when it’s bad, that’s when you learn.”
Roll the dice.
And finally, Pai Boonkam, founder of LocalAlike, the community-based tourism company in Thailand, would urge his younger self to throw caution to the wind.
“Take more risks,” says Pai. “The more risks you take the more rewards you will get at the end.”