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The middle is where entrepreneurial magic happens

  • Published Thursday, August 23, 2012, at 12 a.m.

Everyone is enamored with beginnings, be it a new relationship, a new town, a new job – anything that marks the precipice of change. It’s romantic and exciting. It’s the first chapter in a great story that we can’t put down.

As with any great story, we need great characters to get us hooked early on. Entrepreneurs make wonderful characters in these compelling storylines. Their stories are rife with potential. They have innovative solutions, cures and devices. They are passionate, hard-working, smart and ambitious. We want them to win in the end. We need them to win in the end.

Our region is doing a tremendous job of focusing attention and efforts on the beginning chapter of these entrepreneurial stories – the potential phase. We have great startup events, new initiatives to find even more entrepreneurs, business plan competitions for all ages, new incubators and programs – all helping at the beginning phase of these journeys. The energy around it is palpable. It’s difficult not to get caught up in the excitement of potential. And we should. We need fresh, entrepreneurial endeavors.

But after the shine and excitement of the beginning phase comes the really hard – and often lonely – work. Entrepreneurs at this place in the story deal with the real-life ups and downs, the long nights wondering if this is the right thing, the uncertainty and the work of it all. The middle.

The middle is where you find the meat of the story. The repeated “no” from investors. The day you realize you have the wrong business model. The realization that your company is only going to be a $1 million company, not a $100 million company, so you have choices to make and quickly. The day your clinical trial data come back less than hoped. The middle is rough. This is why you rarely see these entrepreneurs out and about. They can’t go out. They are in the middle.

And that’s my call to you today. Fall in love with the middle. It’s where the magic happens.

Why should you worry about the middle? I mean, you could always put the book down, or skip to the last chapter to see how it ends.

But if we truly believe the future of our region depends heavily on innovative entrepreneurs creating new solutions and new companies, then we should care about the middle of the stories – the pitfalls, needs and realizations along the way.

Pipeline has been doing “middle work” with our region’s most talented entrepreneurs for more than six years. We are all about the middle. We join entrepreneurs together in an often lonely process; we bring in experts and advisers from around the country to help these business leaders address the tough issues and choices that come with growth.

We knit them together, deal in real time with challenges and disappointments – and give them rare opportunities to celebrate success. Pipeline assistance is as varied and complex as the middle journey is for entrepreneurs.

We call on our region to continue to engage with Pipeline entrepreneurs as they work to foster an entrepreneurial culture. These talented women and men want to grow right here at home, employing neighbors, keeping their kids in area schools, giving back to their communities. But it isn’t always that easy. And if we want the final chapter of these stories to be played out in our backyard, we need to care about the middle.

Pipeline operates in many “middles” right now. We are helping entrepreneurs in the middle of the country, in the middle of their journeys – and we are in the middle of our Regional expansion pilot. We have so many middles to share with the right partners who want to join us in this important endeavor.

So we call you to join Pipeline and get in the middle of it all. Because we believe the storybook ending for these talented entrepreneurs just happens to be a storybook ending for our region as well.

I think it’s going to be a bestseller.

Joni Cobb is president and CEO of Pipeline, a community of entrepreneurial leaders building high-growth companies.

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