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Startups Outlook: Dan Cobb

Entrepreneur, and Member of Springfield Innovation Inc. and Missouri Technology Corp. boards

Posted online

2022 Projection: Someone in southwest Missouri will launch a company in 2022 that grows into a unicorn – a company with a valuation of over $1 billion. It will of course take years for a company to grow to that point, but the talent is here, and the infrastructure to support entrepreneurs is getting more robust.

According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, new businesses are being created in record numbers during COVID-19. Why is that?
I’m not surprised that more businesses are launching. It’s fair to say that COVID caused a lot of people to re-evaluate their lives and careers and decide to pursue long-held dreams.

What do you see as the biggest trend in startups these days?
I see a lot of startups leveraging technology to develop their product or as a backbone of their business.

How is the current funding environment for startups?
It’s getting better. I think the primary challenge is matching investors with entrepreneurs. There is no all-inclusive “hub” where an investor can see all opportunities or where an entrepreneur can see all sources of capital. There are several groups working on that, including the Missouri Technology Corp. statewide and the Efactory here locally. And MTC is a great source for funding young companies.

What does it take for an entrepreneur to make it?
I believe it takes four things – and you must have all four to succeed.

  1. Hard work. First and foremost, you must be willing to work hard and do whatever it takes to advance your company. I know everyone works hard to a degree, but starting a business requires a lot of energy and focus. It’s a 24/7/365 commitment. There will be times when you need to be put the needs of your company ahead of the needs of your family and friends.
  2. Talent. You need to have the skills to do what is needed for the company to succeed. Let’s say I decided to be a pro baseball player. I could have trained night and day for the rest of my life and never succeeded. I simply don’t have sufficient talent for that pursuit. So, it’s important to find something you’re very good at. Entrepreneurs wear a lot of hats. Operations, strategic planning, product engineering, finance, sales, marketing and customer service are just some of the functional areas that are necessary for a company to grow. Entrepreneurs will need to be very good at a lot of things to succeed.
  3. Luck. We all know people and companies that are talented and work hard but don’t succeed. Unfortunately, skill and hard work alone are no guarantee, so luck is a critical factor in success. It’s a bit hard to reconcile that we don’t control our destinies. Some of my lucky breaks included great employees who came to work for the company, an industry that started to peak as we were looking to sell and having partners who had common goals, great skill sets and respect for each other.
  4. Risk. Sometimes luck manifests itself as opportunity, and it can be a bit scary to take the plunge. Starting a company is risky. Sometimes entrepreneurs quit great jobs to pursue their dreams by launching a startup. Young companies can build debt that the entrepreneurs must carry if the companies don’t succeed. If I were starting a company today and didn’t have a lot of experience or expertise, I would start with an entrepreneurial support organization. The Efactory is an excellent resource right here in Springfield. I truly believe that entrepreneurial support in this area is the best it’s ever been.

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