Being the “little guy” sometimes gets a bad rep. Small, scrappy companies often get overshadowed by the big players in their market and generally don’t receive the same respect. There’s a real stigma against the underdog in business and startup life, and it’s almost never deserving. If you’ve ever been referred to as an underdog, listen up: you shouldn’t be ashamed or angry. Below we explore the reasons why the underdog association with poor skill is completely undeserving. Read on for reasons why you should embrace your status and turn that underdog mentality into a big success.

Why You Don’t Need a Business Degree to Run a Business

There’s a huge misconception that special degrees and certifications are necessary for successful careers as entrepreneurs. Specialized degrees can certainly have advantages, but as Economic Times points out, non-technology fields are making a comeback. “What is fueling this trend is a greater appreciation and awareness for non-tech fields.  All you need is intelligence and passion and that ends up adding value to the startup and society at large.” Feeling like less of a head honcho because of your literature degree? In fact, studying the arts can have a real value in critical thinking and empathy, two important skills to have in startups, and shouldn’t make any company feel less authentic.

Why Location Doesn’t Always Matter

Not every company needs to have a glamorous San Fran location, either. Though the city is renowned for hosting some of the most influential, successful startups, there are actually many benefits to hosting your startup in a lesser-known city. For one, a lesser-known city already has less direct competition and less startups vying for the same investors. It might take some digging, but according to Paul Orlando, the author of Startup Sacrilege for the Underdog Entrepreneur, startups should try to find their own local heroes who understand the local conditions and can actually spend time with companies. This gives the so-called “underdog” the chance to gain specialized knowledge of their local area and market. Plus, costs stay down, and growth doesn’t feel limited to a crowded market space – expansion is as grand as your dreams.

Why You Should Move Past the Underdog Mentality 

Most of the problem with the “underdog” label is exactly that – it’s a label. It really says nothing about the talents, drive, or abilities of a company. Even if your company is only moderately successful and doesn’t hit any home runs, that’s not a terrible thing: many entrepreneurs admit they prefer a moderate success over taking a big risk with no certain rewards, such as taking on a huge investment too soon. “Premature scaling, which you can only do with large funding, is the biggest reason behind startup failure,” Jay Gould at Mashable says.


So how should an “underdog” company stay viable without trying to scale too quickly? Stay in motion. It’s all about inertia: once something is in motion, it’s likely to stay in motion, so keep those small daily successes are actually triumphs. Another fundamental key to success – which is obvious, but bears mentioning – is to network your tail off. Smaller companies might feel like no one listens to their ideas (which is why finding local heroes can help), but the wider your network becomes, the more potential doors can open. And this wide network only comes with momentum – by staying in motion, a factor that you can control at this stage. Embrace that “underdog” nature, don’t listen to the naysayers, and never stop fighting. Underdogs are capable of anything.