Why does serial entrepreneur Dave Copps start so many companies? His answer: He’s unemployable.
Copps and partner Chris Rohde founded Worlds, a Dallas-based spatial artificial intelligence company that is reinventing how organizations see and understand their worlds through live AI-powered models.
Last year, the co-founders announced Worlds—a spinout of Hypergiant Sensory Sciences—was coming out of stealth with a $10 million Series A round. And, big plans in tow: The duo wants to build AI-models that gives businesses a new way to view their physical world.
At Dallas Startup Week, Copps took the stage to discuss the importance of company culture and his seven mindsets for creating abundance in startups.
The conversation opened with the time he took a personality test.
“The guy said, ‘Well I have good news and bad news,’” Copps says. “And that’s not exactly what you want to hear from a personality test. He said, ‘The good news is, you’re really smart. The bad news is, you’re unemployable.’ I asked why and he goes, ‘You won’t take direction well.’
“I didn’t realize until years later that he was right.”
But Copps considers being unemployable as a sort of “badge of courage” for entrepreneurs. To him, that’s where he’s genetically blessed.
Copps’ guide to creating a culture
Copps describes culture as “what you feel when you walk into an office.” To him, it’s the only thing that everyone in the entire company can create together.
He places an emphasis on the importance of paying attention to the culture you are building in your company. By developing a strong culture, a startup is regularly growing regularly. Mainly because it involves interacting with people who are committed to lifting their leader up and challenging them in the limits of what is possible.
Copps compares the idea of company culture to a murmuration of birds flying together. He notes that startup culture is to react together, recreate together, and ping off one another.
In his own company, he creates a culture based on the word Ubuntu: a Swahili word loosely translated to mean ‘I am who I am because of who we are together.’
“Growing as a person is not achieved by focusing on yourself but by seeing yourself through the lens of who you are for other people,” he said.
Building a fearless workplace
By recasting failure as iteration, Copps believe there can be a shift from focusing on judgment and a push to a culture of persistent learning and improvement.
“Sometimes you win; sometimes you learn. But failure is a myth and dramatizing failure in a culture places a negative aspect on learning,” he says. “So, remove judgment and move the focus more to learning from your experience and what is now possible.”
In a line of work that requires risk, Copps thinks that entrepreneurs should want to create a culture of people who do not focus on being safe but on constant learning and trying new things.
He believes that “fearless environments create teams that are unstoppable.”
Freedom and responsibility
According to Copps, in startups, each person is seen as a contribution to their team, their coworkers, and their company. By giving employees freedom, the company can earn contributions through responsibility.
Copps emphasizes that responsibility is a gift you give yourself and others, where each person owns who they are as a contribution to everyone else.
For instance: As more employees work from home throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, entrepreneurs must put more focus on how they can provide freedom to these employees.
Responsibility has to be a core part of startup culture—”there is no freedom without responsibility,” Copps says.
As the world continues to evolve and the social rules of the past become outdated, Copps introduces the concept of co-elevation.
Co-elevation is the idea of growing together; it replaces the idea of progressing by stepping over one another to get to the top.
“With co-elevation, rising together with others increases acceleration, reduces friction, and produces multiple winners,” Copps says.
By encouraging co-elevation and removing the possibility of failure, entrepreneurs will reach new unrecognizable levels in their startups.
Creating diverse teams
“Magic happens when different cultures, races, and sexes come together as an act of creation,” said Copps.
When it comes to building teams in the workplace, Copps believes smaller diverse teams create more quality products in contrast to large teams with people of similar backgrounds.
“The more we expose ourselves to thinking differently and being with other people who think differently, the better we are together.”
The 7 Mindsets for creating abundance in startups
1. Live life as a creation
“Live in a way that’s not empowered by the past or empowered by circumstances,” Copps says. As an entrepreneur, you can choose to live life as a creation and take hold of your situation. When you take charge, everything and everyone in your life will change.
2. Perfection is the enemy
Copps equates the pursuit of perfection to teaching a bear karate: It is difficult to do and if you succeed, it kills you.
“The only place perfection exists today is right now,” Copps says.
Entrepreneurs must realize that no matter if you like the product or not, it is perfect as it is. When you understand this, you are free to change it or move on from it.
3. You’re always winning the game you’re playing
Stating this mindset as the one thing he hopes the audience leaves with today, Copps calls this the ultimate leveling thought: The people and things you attract to your life and the things that are happening in your life and business are because of a game you’re playing.
Although one can not control everything that happens in their life, this mindset allows someone to understand what game they are playing that influences their lives. That way, they can make the decision to change the game and generate a different result.
4. Stand for the greatness of others
Try to see the people within your company not for who they are today but for who they could be.
“Expect greatness in people and watch what manifests in them and stand for their greatness,” Copps says.
5. Your situation is not your fate
In building a startup, bad things are likely to happen. In these situations, it is important to understand that the situation is not your fate. Rather, Copps says it is your actions that determine your fate.
When fear takes over, Copps emphasizes taking action and understanding that you get to choose your own ending.
“Whatever situation you’re in, know it is temporary,” Copps says.
6. It’s not about you
When you understand your life is not all about you, Copps believes it will change forever. He emphasizes the idea of seeing yourself through the lens of others.
He wants entrepreneurs to find ways to lift others within their team.
7. Come from “it’s possible”
“Impossible today is just a future low bar,” Copps says. “It’s up to us as entrepreneurs to choose how far in the future that bar is, but something is only impossible until it isn’t.”
If an individual is not progressing, it is not because they’re aiming too high and missing. They’re aiming too low and not hitting, according to Copps. Therefore, Copps urges entrepreneurs to operate from the mindset that “it’s possible” in their companies and lives.
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