My 2nd Babson Conference

It was great being there at the 37th Babson College Entrepreneurship Research Conference (BCERC) hosted at the Michael F Price School of Business, University of Oklahoma, Norman. This was my second Babson (as people there refer to it). While the last time I was a doctoral consortium participant (competitively selected), this time I presented my first paper based on the thesis work.BCERC2017_Raj

I enjoyed my first paper presentation (Corporate Accelerators: A grounded study of its motives, manifestations and measures) at this prestigious conference. It was also my first paper co-authored with my mentor. I met a few of my fellow doctoral consortium participants – Mona, Jerone, Moyra, Beldina, Ida, Wei (hope I’m not missing anyone) and it was heartening to see their achievements and progress. You guys inspire!

I met many stars (Aldrich, Busenitz, Lumpkin, Landstorm, Patzelt, and others) in entrepreneurship research including Prof Robert Baron who won the Lifetime Achievement Award this year. His book ‘Enhancing Entrepreneurial Excellence’ was one of the first academic texts I read as a doctoral student. It was exciting to see his energy and enthusiasm.

I made new friends from across the world. All of them are scholars (some budding) with a keen interest in the phenomenon of entrepreneurship. We spent a lot of time laughing and chatting over trivia between sessions and during the social events.

The BCERC is a cool conference where you get to hear emerging ideas which will probably appear in journals a year or two down the line. It is also highly developmental with people giving each other feedback for improvement. Senior scholars are willing to give time and listen to our ideas and questions without any criticism.

As I told Georgia who is the most important person behind the conference – ‘I’m now a BCERC fan’ and hope to keep coming back to the conference every year (of course to present my research papers) and return ‘recharged and inspired’.

Thanks to the organising team of BCERC and Price School, Oklahoma for making this conference yet another memorable experience.

Seminar for Entrepreneurial Leaders

Seminars and Workshops are dime a dozen. Occasionally there does arise an opportunity arises to listen to a wise teacher. Here is one such opportunity at Chennai.

Swami Parthasarathy is going to be Chennai on 04th July 2017 (Tuesday) speaking on the topic “Venture with Prudence”. This will be a chance to listen to his wise words on a topic that has taken India by storm over the last few years – entrepreneurship. There is also a Q&A session.

Here is the brochure to the program. Table Seminar evite The contacts are in the brochure. Reach out if it interests you.

Best wishes

If you are an entrepreneur

You will not be reaching out to people and programs to find out if you are one. You will simply begin acting on opportunities. Once you realise you need to grind your axe, you will then find the right people and programs to support you.

The one who searches for programs to attempt becoming one will probably never become one. The one who becomes will naturally gravitate towards the right people he or she needs to become even more successful.

Entrepreneurship education must look at contributing at all levels:

  • Providing inspiration
  • Providing tools and techniques to start
  • Providing methods to sustain
  • Providing approaches to scale

Entrepreneurship research is growing leaps and bounds. Sadly, much of this research remains hidden from entrepreneurs. This I believe is due to the entrepreneurship educators who do not soak themselves in the literature before delivering their classes.

If you are an entrepreneur and wish to hone your entrepreneurial skills, then search for the right program and constantly evaluate the value of your skills – are you improving and in effect, is your enterprise growing? If yes, continue, else quit and find the next person or program.

Good Luck with your entrepreneuring!

How are you finding opportunities?

Having been involved in ‘entrepreneurship education’ for close to a decade, I can tell you one thing — the weakest part of any entrepreneurship program is the ‘opportunity’ piece. Let me illustrate with a recent experience.

I met up with a few students who had undergone a complete year of entrepreneurship education. They had to do a two month market research on a product / service and write up a report. Based on the discussions with their faculty, they narrowed upon two ideas: (i) food distribution and (ii) nutrition bars. After worrying about how to go about doing a market research, they walked up to me (not sure why!), and asked ‘Sir, can you help us choose one of the two ideas?’ I did what I normally do – asked how they arrived at these two ideas / opportunities? They said many things but ultimately accepted that it was through ‘imagination’. So what they basically now wanted to do was ‘validate’ (which meant) ‘prove’ that their idea / opportunity was worth creating a business on. I spent the next 30 minutes explaining to them why this was wholly wrong. The surprising part – the two kids quickly latched on the idea of searching for opportunities, rather than spending two months validating one. My belief that students are really smart was proven once again.

How do you (aspiring entrepreneurs) find opportunities?

Opportunities can be either created or discovered. Discovery means going out to the world and identifying gaps. Creation means coming up with a need/want that is not yet felt. As an entrepreneur you got to choose which route you wish to take to finding opportunities. My rule of thumb is – if you are trying to figure out which route, take ‘discovery’.

Discovering opportunities means finding out gaps. The easiest ways to begin is to start out by identifying gaps in the industry side or the market side. On the industry side one can quickly draw out the value chain and start looking at ways to fill / improve / disrupt / etc what exists. On the market side, one can identify which needs are not fulfilled, which are underserved, and what can be better delivered. While none of these are exhaustive ways to locating opportunities, it is a good beginning.

My advice to these students was – identify a sector of your choice (interest); look at it deeply from either the industry side and/or market side; use all available secondary information first; identify and speak to at least 30 people involved in the sector; analyse all the information; and create a list of 25 hot opportunities in the sector. Create the report.

Do you think they will have spent their summer usefully?

Do you think they will have located more opportunities than they knew off before?

Do you think this is a better way to deliver entrepreneurship education than quickly fixing the idea and evaluating / validating it?

Share you thoughts! It matters!

16 Startups Metrics

Startups discover and/or create new metrics everyday to showcase their potential. It becomes pretty difficult for those interested in startups to track them. Anna Vital produced a nice infographic with 16 widely used startup metrics. I thought it will be useful to readers of this blog to know about it.

Link: https://inc42.com/resources/16-startup-metrics/

One may feel how individuals (entrepreneurs) creatively camouflage information; but I believe it reflects the fast changing landscape of business creation (entrepreneurship) and the difficulty of measuring early stage ventures.  I am sure you will find some amusing, but be sure to know all of them – for you might see one being used in the next startup pitch for funding or mentoring!!

Happy Reading!

Creative and/or Innovative

I was recently invited to attend a seminar on Intellectual Property Rights. It was illuminating to hear the views of so many people especially on the core aspects of intellectual property (patents, copyrights, trade marks, geographic indicators, and others).

But there seemed to be a fundamental aspect that remained muddled in many of the presentations – the difference between ‘creativity’ and ‘innovation’. It seemed to me that many speakers used the term interchangeably. Being a student of entrepreneurship it hit me hard – since the difference between the two terms makes pretty much all the difference between being an artist and an entrepreneur.

Creative – is an adjective to describe one who can come up with original and imaginative ideas to create something

AND

Innovative – is an adjective used to describe one who introduces new ideas, original and useful

The above is important to understand (easier said than done). But if one wants to understand why there is a strong argument for action in entrepreneurship – the above difference in meaning becomes critical. It is by being innovative that one turns ideas into reality. Hence entrepreneurs need to be innovative.

But – Innovative does not subsume Creative!

Many entrepreneurs (innovative) build on the ideas of others (creative) and in some cases successfully institutionalise them. We remember them for a long time through their products / services / organizations.

If you are one who teaches entrepreneurship, it is important to clearly highlight the difference between the two; help aspiring entrepreneurs appreciate the importance of the latter; and teach them the skills to identify the former. This is not the only thing that makes one an entrepreneur, but definitely eases the pressure on them to be creative at any cost.

Think about it!

2 Things Startups NEED TO DO

  1. Build something that ‘someone’ wants / needs
  2. Talk to a lot of people who look like that ‘someone’

Startups ought to do this, but most don’t! I am not the first person to say this. Every worthwhile investor says this. Every successful startup seems to have done it. Every unsuccessful startup says they should have done more of it. At times failed startups thank ‘step 2’ to have failed quickly and learned a lot from it.

But even these days when I talk to founders, I find that they simply get distracted by the variety of inputs they get and lose focus on the above two actions. They make assumptions and build on imaginations. These kill startups.

So, if you are an entrepreneur – ensure you and your co-founders do the above two things religiously. It will help you and your startup in more ways than what a mentor or investor can do for you.

Don’t Think! Just Act now on the above two things.