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This article was published on December 14, 2016

Why it pays to be a parallel entrepreneur

Why it pays to be a parallel entrepreneur
Robin Bade
Story by

Robin Bade

Robin Bade, Regional Director Europe and Founding Partner, Mirum Robin Bade, Regional Director Europe and Founding Partner, Mirum

Unlike the Rosetta mission – which saw its mission end when the European Space Agency decided its life cycle was up and purposefully crash landed the satellite – entrepreneurs these days don’t have to see a prospect through from start to finish.

Instead, they can boldly go into multiple ventures simultaneously. It’s this style of entrepreneurship I’m a proponent of.

But first, an explanation as to the different types of entrepreneur and their respective shortfalls… in my own, humble opinion.

The types

As a traditional entrepreneur, you can only really be the driver of one business. And in that realm you have to put your heart and soul into everything. It’s a bit like a marriage with all the ups and downs that entails.

I’m not a cheerleader for the polygamous among us, per se – I’m married myself and value that – but focusing all your efforts in one place doesn’t really do it for me and things can start to stagnate.

Another foray is the serial entrepreneur. In this guise, you try and kick-start as many projects as possible and hope for the best.

Some people have been lucky and succeeded in this model including the light bulb inventor, Thomas Alva Edison. However, in my experience as an entrepreneur, I have learned that a startup is seldom directly successful as success is not a linear process.

It takes time to find a business model that sticks and suits your personality.

The worst case scenario is you end up with several projects on the go that cannibalize one another. You simply don’t have enough time in the day (and night) to dedicate the TLC required to all your kids, when you are expected to be at the helm all the time.

With this first hand knowledge, I have come to realize I function best as a parallel entrepreneur. This is, in my opinion, the most mature form of entrepreneurship.

You’ve assessed your own strengths and weaknesses. As businesses have their limits, you know your limits too.

Operating as a parallel entrepreneur, you can devote time and effort to many parallel projects with optimal focus and knowledge. For want of a better analogy, you craft the pizza dough and rely on others to provide the toppings.

Your forte might be something niche or you’ve found you’re great at supporting others’ vision, With this in mind you can then hand over the wheel for others to drive, because they are the Nico Rosberg’s of this world, while he relies on you to provide him with the best possible car.

The most common entrepreneurial mistake

Usually, people are far too optimistic when it comes to time scales. The reality is time is like startup investing. You might commit 20k and tell yourself this is all the money you are willing to put into the venture.

Suddenly, you find yourself two years down the line having ploughed in 100k.

Building any business is hard work and needs to have ‘adaptivity’ built into it. You’ll continually need to respond to the market and that will take time and/or money.

As a parallel entrepreneur, you can mitigate against this by specialising in a core area and sticking to it.

How to be a successful parallel entrepreneur

Get a single business under your wing

I don’t believe you can become this breed of entrepreneur unless you have at least succeed or failed as a traditional entrepreneur first. By doing this, it means you’d have had go through the difficult process of learning about yourself, who you are, and your weaknesses and strengths.

Suck it up

The whole essence of parallel entrepreneurship is about supporting other entrepreneurs by strengthening the parts of the operation where they are weaker. This is a two-way street. Make sure you know where you suck and avoid doing any tasks related to that part of the operation.

Entrepreneurship today is all about partnerships. Expectations are high and team work is what counts.

Very few successful companies are owned and operated by one individual. We have moved on from the owner/founder model to a time where the recipe for success is based on a team or co-founded lead.

Final thought

We live in a world where technology allows many of us to work as digital nomads. This is at the crux of the freelance economy and on some level the parallel entrepreneur is the digital nomad of the investor scene. That said, I don’t think of this type of entrepreneur as someone who wants to live the playboy lifestyle investing and not engaging in the business.

We’re best described as the ‘partner’ in several businesses but the driving force in none. We ride the pool car but don’t handle the wheel.

The European Space Agency commanded Rosetta, but it was the data the satellite was gathering that they were interested in. They were unable to collect this information themselves without their mechanised friend.

As a parallel entrepreneur you get to choose whether to be the agency or the instrument. You play to your strengths and it’s the combination of the partners that yield the benefits of the future.

Partner with other parallel entrepreneurs and that’s the true recipe for future success.

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