Is Your Startup Missing Out on Optimism?

This column is authored by Raj Mohan Tella, Founding Partner at Brandlogues

startup optimismStartups, ideas and brands need optimism. In fact, they thrive on it.

And if optimism is packaged well, it can be contagious across a range of stakeholders. Customers, employees, media, supply partners and more- all recognise optimism as a signal of hope and an undying will to win. It is in most cases seen as a ‘can do’ attitude that the startup/brand possesses as an asset. Optimism signals that will to survive, thrive and stay relevant.

Optimism is also a message that threads the journey in a seamless way. Ask me how and you have examples from a variety of instances and situations. From wars, to crisis to politics, it is that sense of optimism which drives everything.

Turn back to the 60s to the America of the JFK era where the space race with the then Soviet Union was on. Sputniks taking the lead. His directive was not only for putting America ahead, but for the whole world- it was to put man on the moon. Measured optimism that put mankind into an overdrive and Apollo 11 happened.

IBM is another example when Louis Vincent Gerstner Jr. took over as the Chairman and CEO in April 1993 and transformed the company thereafter – from a box making company to an IT consulting company. Even the boxes(IBM Thinkpads) wreaked of optimism when the tag lines were built around the slogan ‘Solutions for a small planet’. IBM’s attempt at appropriating the platform of solutions.

Another one is in the recent relaunch( 2017) of the legendary Nokia phone. While it is trying to dig deep into the residual memory of mobile phone users, I think a strong sense of optimism guides Nokia to help it monetise the past.

Optimism funnily enough is not a feeling in hindsight. It is about cultivating that quality at work – here and now. Especially when the odds are stacked against you and your company, or for that matter you have to do a relaunch of an idea that failed in your first round.

How to identify startups endowed with optimism

  • Steadfastness in their commitment to move on
  • Do not complain about the odds
  • Solution seeking in mindset
  • Teams speak the same language of wanting to achieve
  • An energetic and transparent leadership
  • Willingness to listen to opinions but have the wisdom to do their own thing
  • Hope is their elixir
  • Readiness to course correct wherever and whenever necessary
  • Uncompromising on the larger dream

Just imagine if there were no optimism or all the traits related to it? You wouldn’t have had a Twitter, which was initially a podcasting business. There are umpteen examples of such course corrections. In the startup world they call it pivoting and a company could be setting up new pivots till the winds are in it favour.

I quote Adam L. Penenberg from

“Pivoting” has become part of the business and technology lexicon, the Moore’s Law of startupology. Despite its slippery definition, the term has gone through the usual cycle of acceptance. First it was absorbed into the entrepreneur-startup world with gimlet-eyed embrace, which quickly swelled into widespread acceptance. Now there’s the predictable backlash. It’s “the most overused word” in the startup community and it really means “your start-up plan sucks, but we’ll figure out a better plan later.” It’s “prototyping without vision.” Or it’s “exactly the wrong approach to launching a new company.”

So where are you with your startup? On a high, struggling to get it up, or just plain stuck and ready for the pivoting? Where you are now matters, but what will count even more and give you that ‘1 added to a 99 edge for the 100’ is optimism. It is that undying ability to stay hope-focused and purpose-driven.

Optimism we all know if overstretched remains only as a good companion to pipe dreams. When the same quality is tempered with a firm appreciation of the setting, the situation your startup and you are in, chances are it will become a handmaiden for course corrections. In fact, your insurance against failure and possibly, even the very reason for people to come and work for you.

Optimism is the ether that makes the best minds and ideas thrive. Keep it flowing…

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