Building Lighthouses

Startups are a bet that the future will be radically different from the present, and they are valuable on the way up because they are, effectively, setting out to discover whether a project, deliberately fraught with uncertainty, may one day become a scalable and repeatable business.

According to Alex Danco, as he described in one of his newsletters:


In a fledgling startup community such as Malta, success stories have three really important feedback effects on the next generation of startups.

First, they create new angels, and motivate the existing investors with FOMO (nothing motivates you to invest more than having passed on eventual winners).

I believe this is yet to happen in Malta. The success stories that have taken place, namely Altaro and Hotjar were bootstrapped startups. However as the new class of entrepreneurs emerges, as hopefully one or some of these will transform into a success, it may be that some investors who may have passed may one day rue the missed chance to invest.

Second, they inspire startups with the infinite mindset, as role models.

The more important piece of this passage is the creation of lighthouses. Marc Von Brockdorff, co founder of [now acquired] Hotjar in his personal blog shares “It would be great to be able to connect with anyone trying to build an online business and talk through all the daily challenges they may be facing”. Lighthouses shine a guiding light to those entrepreneurs that form the next generation. Whether it’s through mentorship, angel investing or otherwise by connecting up and coming entrepreneurs with the right tools and most importantly, the right people, Lighthouses take founders through the milestones that they themselves experienced in their own successful journey.

In my opinion, it is not startup grants, or tax incentives or other externalities that will be the catalyst for building an entrepreneurial ecosystem. It is the existence of people passing on knowledge of the battle scars endured from their personal journeys that will have the most profound impact.

Third, they set a high bar for what is possible, forcing the community to think about growth all the time, and releasing all of these operators back into the ecosystem who know what unbounded, indefinite growth feels like.

One of the foremost cultural challenges localized startups face is a climate of mediocre outcomes. In a world of borderless technology and connectivity, being the best startup in Malta in a given sector cannot be the final goal. The market is too small and too limited for an entrepreneur with true ambition to affect change.

Lighthouses help newcomers stand on the shoulders of giants, and help founders maintain focus on what truly matters in order to achieve extraordinary outcomes. Without the presence of lighthouses providing mentorship, knowledge and connections, the rising tide cannot raise all boats as no collective momentum will be exhibited if a culture of excellence is not passed onwards from those who came before.

In the last few months of managing Malta Startup Space we suddenly had a flow of strikingly promising PR from startups progressing through milestones. Whether this was Weavr raising another mammoth investment round, or Matthew Zammit lending his skillset to a startup doing exciting things in the mobility space, or the increased presence of Go Ventures in setting the pace for Corporate Venturing locally, or the quirky adventures of Metaverse Architects, we are starting to see a diverse talent pool emerge.

We continue to follow this progress and hope that each reporting period continues to out-do the previous one in relation to storylines and ambitious projects.

You can access the MSS April 2022 newsletter here:


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