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How Accountability Can Turn Your Startup Into the Next Unicorn

You should never take accountability for granted when working to build the world’s next great business. I like Jürgen Klinsmann, the head coach of the U.S. Men’s National Team, a lot. I recently met Klinsmann and asked him why the U.S. hasn’t produced any world-class players — entrepreneurs’ footballing equivalent of a “unicorn,” as coined by Aileen Lee of Cowboy Ventures back in 2013.

And his answer wasn’t the one you’d expect. Casual sports fans often claim, “Our best athletes choose American football or basketball.” Even hardcore soccer supporters usually say, “The youth academies and infrastructure in the U.S. aren’t in place to compete with the factories producing talent in Europe or South America.”

Klinsmann’s answer was entirely different. He focused on one concept and one concept only: accountability. “There needs to be more accountability in the United States, and only then will we be able to produce world-class players. When soccer players in the U.S. are criticized, held accountable, or even recognized as much as the other major sports in the country, they’ll have that drive and an understanding to improve and reach those higher levels.” Without accountability, there is little drive or incentive to be great. People are a product of their environments.

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