Attention, spoiler! A man is sitting at a table. He's playing poker. He's watching. This is the most important game of his life. The odds are even, the game is dragging on mercilessly. His adversary is sure of winning, he reaches for his favourite cake. And... it turns out that the boy was MILES ahead of his rival. What's with the MILES anyway? You'll have to watch the movie* at your earliest convenience, but you can read now what MILES stands for.
There's a famous saying of Benjamin Franklin „Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise”. This is true – except that it is not quite so. Hard work and enthusiasm are not enough to succeed. You have to have that „something” – your own „secret ingredient” – an unfair advantage. Something that cannot be copied, something that no one else has.
In the book „The Unfair Advantage”, startup entrepreneurs Ash Ali and Hasan Kubba share their insights on how behind every success story is an unfair advantage. Which is, in fact, what?
Each of us has our own set of unfair advantages that we may not even be aware of. When you become aware of them and start developing them, you amplify their effect. The framework called MILES, that Ash Ali and Hasan Kubba propose consists of 5 elements. Figuring them out is your recipe for success.
The best things in life are free, but if you have money at the start – you have a significant advantage. On the other hand, if you don't have it, you will intensify your efforts to get it – learn, develop, test. Start-ups with financial resources therefore have a longer „runway”. Start-ups without resources will, of necessity, be the first to start acquiring paying customers.
Are you bright, do you grab things on the fly, and do you have no problems with learning? Or maybe you have a highly developed emotional intelligence and can sense moods, trends? Combine it with your academic background, work experience and personal insight. Whether it's book smarts, street smarts, innate skills or creativity, any of these elements can give you a competitive edge.
Being the right person, in the right place, at the right time, is luck. Location, of course, may provide you with access to ideas, talent and money. However, luck is not random and you can create your own luck by making the most of opportunities, e.g. by attending industry events, showing up to investors, being active during networking, on social media, etc. Also check if your geographical location gives you a unique opportunity (e.g. to network, or to take some product from another country to the local market; or maybe you have access to a specific group of employees – students, programmers etc. or technology). See if you might get lucky and catch on to some of the latest trends with your product / service.
Studying and specialising in a particular field of study gives you a more in-depth understanding of the field and a chance to gain access to interesting people and places (e.g. foreign scholarships, business incubators, etc.). A university degree of your choice, a certificate of a prestigious course will increase your credibility and help you build your personal brand. And if not studies, then what? Being an expert and having expertise. Being an expert means being very good in a particular field. This can be achieved through self-learning – acquiring knowledge mainly by doing. How do you build your expertise? By learning from books, online or from mentors. The wider the range of knowledge you have in different fields, the more creative you will be.
Status is not just a matter of origin, privilege or social network. Indeed – all of these certainly provide an unfair advantage, especially at the stage of contacting investors. Then there is the concept of internal status, or confidence and self-esteem. By improving yourself, by defining your inner goals, you increase your unfair advantage over others. So the equation goes like this: connections + knowledge + confidence = strong team = investor attention = success!
They say – no risk, no fun. Go ahead and review the M.I.L.E.S. framework yourself to find out what may become the „secret ingredient” of your success.
We know that you definitely have an unfair advantage over your competitors. You know you just need to find it. Tell yourself out loud – what makes me the best? What makes my startup the best?
If you're struggling with this, ask someone to help you. A bystander might see that what you call your common sense is actually your unfair advantage. Or they may notice that your start-up has an interesting content resource, such as a specialist blog, that you forgot about because writing is as obvious to you as breathing.
Only when you discover your „secret ingredient” will you know what success tastes like.
* The movie mentioned is „Rounders”, 1998, directed by John Dahl.