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Thought Leadership & Your Startup


Ray Walia, co-founder of Launch Academy, shares his knowledge and experiences to help others succeed


No entrepreneur is self-made. Everyone gives and receives advice and resources while building a business. And the more you share, the better you’ll perform.

So says a 2014 study by Endeavor Insight, which found 33 per cent of tech founders mentored by a successful entrepreneur become top performers in their industry. Mentorship is a vital form of thought leadership. Ideas and inspiration can be exchanged in one-to-one meetings, at boot camp-style programs or events, or through online articles or videos.

“We now live in a knowledge-based economy. Knowledge is power,” says Ray Walia, serial entrepreneur and co-founder of Launch Academy, a startup incubator located in Vancouver, British Columbia.

“That’s why accelerators and incubators are so popular because it’s a way to surround yourself with like-minded individuals, people that are solving the same day-to-day challenges that you are. These people are maybe just six months ahead of you and you can learn from them.”

Seek out diversity

Exposing yourself to new ideas and conversations can be game changing. Talk to people of different genders, age, different ethnic backgrounds, corporate experiences and industries.

“Everybody has something to teach, everybody has something to learn,”

Walia says. “People are constantly looking for others to give them guidance and information but that’s practical and relevant.”

Often, nascent or pre-existing technologies, processes and ideas in one industry could be revolutionary in another.

“If you feel that you’re talking to somebody you can’t learn anything from, well that’s a failing on you, not them,” Walia says.

According to Futurpreneur Canada, learning from a mentor is the key to success. Mentors can help motivate and reassure you, enhance your community connections, and keep you focused on your short- and long-term goals.

Share your expertise

Positioning yourself as a thought leader isn’t about being a know-it-all, Walia says. And you don’t have to be a “success” to share what you know. Lessons learned from mis-steps and failures are often the most valuable bits of thought leadership for new entrepreneurs.

Be open to sparking conversation and engaging in genuine dialogue. What key advice can you share? Got an opinion on a hot topic or a vision for your industry? Write blogs, join twitter chats, publish a podcast. By taking your expertise online, you’ll reach a wider audience and build brand recognition.

“It opens up strategic opportunities, it opens up the pipeline to people who would never have been aware of what you’re doing,” Walia says.

Be cautious, practical, and efficient with your time, he notes. Mentorship sessions should benefit both the mentor and the mentee. Each of you should be prepared to share connections, tools and opportunities.