Sean Griffin, founder of Startup Cup, is a Silicon Valley born and raised serial entrepreneur. Always thinking out of the box, he dropped out of high school, and has come a long way since he started his first business at age 12.
“I have not looked back since,” he told the Dhaka Tribune in an exclusive interview, when he was in town last week as the chief guest of the first ever Bangladesh Startup Cup (BSC).
Griffin, a visual thinker, uses visual thinking tools to help process ideas, and he uses those on a large scale to facilitate groups and teams. He considers it one of his great differentiators.
“I consider myself a serial entrepreneur who has turned into a community builder,” he says.
Last week, as BSC celebrated the end of its first ever Startup competition, the Dhaka Tribune caught up with Griffin for a quick interview:
Tell us a bit about yourself and your work.
Startup Cup has a collection of entrepreneurial programmes, of which our acceleration programme is being run here. The Startup Cup programme is designed to support anyone with any idea, any background, any educational background, in order to design, test and build a business. What’s important is that Startup Cup is a seven month process that focuses on tools and resources knowledge required to build a successful business.
Why do you believe this work is important today?
We believe entrepreneurship is a key to self-empowerment, creating one’s own career path, job creation, and solving some of the greatest problems we have today. Entrepreneurs will be part of the journey of that process – ultimately resulting in a better quality of life and increased wealth.
As a high-school dropout who became so successful, what role would you say education pays in entrepreneurial success?
I am a strong believer that a PhD and MBA means you’re lot less likely to be a successful entrepreneur – because your creativity has been taught out of you, and you've been taught judgment and fear and less risk-taking.
Universities, colleges and traditional education system do not work with people who see the world differently, and I believe those are teaching creativity out of people. Statistically, people are less creative when they come out of institutions than if they were to follow their own path.
My goal right now is to change the world through entrepreneurship, one startup at a time. In order to do that, we need to be sharing the technical know-how and knowledge with everyone. Not just a select few, but everyone.
And that’s where we put our energy in at Startup Cup – empowering anyone, from any background, any level of education.
How can BSC address needs in Bangladesh?
When you’re comfortably uncomfortable, things don’t concern you so much and you’re more willing to take risks. At the award celebration, we encouraged family members to come to this celebration so that they can see what real entrepreneurs are. So they realize it is not as risky. That way we hope to change the culture from a family perspective and a community perspective where instead of being frowned upon, the entrepreneurs realize it is a viable option for a career.
Focus on women is critical here. Our research shows women are more successful entrepreneurs because they are more collaborative and team-oriented. And Bangladesh is ahead in this now. There’s clearly willingness to honour women who are being successful in starting and building businesses.
Entrepreneurship is the path to showcase what’s possible. It’s where dreamers will achieve their dreams, and it’s where we solve some of our biggest challenges. It’s where people are powered to create their own weight.