July 6, 2015

One Year Later: Say This Not That Start-up

Start-up diagramFor this month’s Connect theme, we are highlighting some of the speakers, facilitators, keynotes, attendees, sponsors, and scholarship recipients of the 2015 Leading Change Summit in Washington, DC September 13-16.

Starting a start-up was the last thing on my mind when I pitched the Say This Not That (STNT) idea at the 2014 Leading Change Summit’s Idea Accelerator. But taking home the top prize and the Community Choice Award, as well as the continual positive feedback after the 14LCS, were strong indicators that it’s an idea worth pursuing!

So here I am: I’ve jumped on the start-up bandwagon. The path of this bandwagon has a lot of twists, turns, and potholes! Here are some of the ways I’m learning to ride this bumpy path.

Put the Idea Accelerator Prizes to Work

The Idea Accelerator offers amazing prizes, so take advantage of them. I have gone as far as where I am today because of LimeRed Studio’s “Fixie Dust” consultation package. Demetrio Cardona-Maguigad of LimeRed Studio guided me right from the get-go with his expertise in strategic communication, technology, and community engagement. Other prizes have also helped kick start STNT, from the web services by Pongos Interactive, to the Microsoft Surface tablet.

Embrace the Potholes

LimeRed Studio and I worked on a competition proposal for six weeks. We felt hopeful, so we were disappointed when we didn’t get into the competition. While this pothole may seem like a failure, in the scheme of things, it wasn’t. The exercise of proposal writing within a due date helped us to refine STNT concepts, develop talking points, and create content for the website.

It was also a humbling experience. All the start-up people I’ve spoken to took months, if not years, to develop their concepts and to pitch and get funding for their ideas.

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Work Your Network

I continue to lean on several people that I met at the Leading Change Summit for moral support. I also set weekly networking goals—reach out to at least one person I haven’t connected for a while and ask someone in my network to introduce me to someone else totally new. Working my network has paid off in several ways—from receiving invitations to speak to having a prototype made.

This month, a group of diverse people in my network helped design engagement activities at an upcoming activists’ conference in Portland. Through our collaborative process, we developed the “STNT Pursuit” (based on Trivial Pursuit) game to spark conversations with conference participants that will help expand the STNT lexicon.

Get Out There

Opportunities to speak about STNT not only generates interest, it is also a good feedback loop that strengthens the STNT concepts and talking points. I’ve sought out opportunities through conference open calls for proposals and by asking friends who are teachers to speak to their students.

Set Aside Ego

Getting out there involves being vulnerable, since I’m bound to come across people who may think STNT is a bad idea. Just like the potholes, I’ve learned to embrace negative feedback with open arms. The start-up sweet spot diagram has become a constant reminder to not only tolerate negative comments, but to welcome them. Setting aside my ego isn’t easy, of course. It takes practice. However, every time I let go of a specific view, I am surprised by the new things I learn from someone else.

Image credit: Sam Altman

Yee Won Chong
Yee Won Chong is Principal of Yee Won Chong Consulting. Yee Won is committed to addressing racial justice, economic equality, environmental sustainability, and gender/LGBTQ inclusion as a trainer, strategist, speaker, and catalyst for change. Follow Yee Won on Twitter @yeewon.