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No matter where you live, these are particularly interesting times from an economic, social, and political perspective. Just ask our Santiago Founder Institute - who are now postponing some recruitment events as a result of the widespread student protests sweeping their nation.  

This got me thinking, and I came to a realization: There are a lot of similarities between protesters and startups. 

Both usually start with several ‘strikes’ against them - small resources, entrenched competitors/ incumbents, high barrier to attention... the list goes on. However, despite all of this, protestors and startups do hold one distinct strategic advantage – naivety. They are usually a ‘newbie’ (so to speak), so they aren’t scared away by the challenges of fixing a problem. They dispute views of the world that others accept as gospel. They are unfazed by tradition, norms, and the “that’s just the way things are done” mentality that can bog down the huge, slow moving incumbents. To put it simply – protestors and startups see a problem, and as a result, they seek a solution no matter what the cost. To them, fighting for change is better than accepting an unpleasant status quo.

All of this, of course, is commendable in it’s own right. But in a game of winners and losers, it is usually not enough. 

When our Chile chapter notified me of the aformentioned event delays, they included this New York Times article describing the methods of the student protests - and man, was I impressed. To be clear, I know nothing of the political issues at hand, and the violence involved is clearly unfortunate. I am just blown away by the creativity and boldness of these protesters in their quest to be heard.

Instead of a typical picketing line featuring a chorus of “No, no, we won’t go," these students held hunger strikes, “Kiss-ins” (thousands of couples simultaneously kissing in major public squares), and even massive, zombie dance routines in the streets to Michael Jackson's "Thriller."  And for their efforts – as evidenced by the prominent NYT article - they gained worldwide awareness. 

There's a lesson to be learned here for protestors and startups alike:

The idea is usually not enough. In order to win, you also need to be heard.


In order to win, you need to be bold. 

Like a protester, you will likely lose the fight whether your ideas are good or not. The incumbents have all the power, or they may simply be right all along. But being bold gives you the best chance to be heard, and ultimately, to be succesful.

Go forth then, and protest for your startup! Metaphorically and literally – hit the streets! But don't just march in circles with cardboard signs attached to wooden sticks. Be bold.


The post was written by Jonathan Greechan - Partner at the Founder Institute, and Producer of the Founder Showcase. Follow him on Twitter at @jonnystartup.

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